Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/820

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ment. However uncertain we may be as to the precise nature of the Mosaic disease, it appears to me to be almost certain that the leprosy cured by our Saviour, after his sermon on the mount, was not the leprosy of the present day, but a far more common disease which is now known as psoriasis. The earliest Greek writers on medicine were unacquainted with Egyptian leprosy, except by hearsay. Hippocrates, writing over four hundred years before Christ, speaks of it as "the Phœnician disease," and even at the time of the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch this leprosy was practically unknown to the Greeks. The Hebrew word tsaraath was translated by the Greek word lepra, which was the name of a disease characterized by white scaly patches upon the skin. This differed totally in its nature from the disease which is now called leprosy, and which prevailed at that time in Egypt and Palestine. This disease, being subsequently introduced into Greece, was designated by a different name, elephantiasis. At the time when the Gospels were written, the Greek medical writers recognized two distinct diseases under these names, lepra and elephantiasis. The former was the psoriasis, or white, scaly disease of the present day; the latter was the modern leprosy. The description of each of these diseases by Greek writers is explicit and readily recognizable, and the Gospels of Matthew and Mark agree in the statement that it was lepra and not elephantiasis which was cured by our Saviour. In other words, it was psoriasis, and not the modern leprosy.




ANÆSTHETICS.—The inductive study of Nature has often proved the shortest way to discoveries which other methods can reach only by a circuitous route. The ancient Greeks, recognizing the significance of the fact that malarial complaints vanish at the approach of winter, cured their fever-patients by refrigeration, and this century of research will perhaps close before some experimenting Pasteur stumbles upon the fact that the proximate cause of ague and yellow fever can be traced to the agency of microscopic parasites whose development may be arrested by the influence of a low temperature. More than two thousand years ago the movement-cure, the fasting-cure, and other reactions against the baneful tendencies of the drug-delusion, were anticipated by the school of the natural philosopher Asclepiades.

The principle of the best natural anæsthetic, too, was practically applied, if not theoretically understood, by our rude ancestors. No one who has watched the contest of a pair of rough-and-tumble fighters—