Yesterday’s Mystery is Tomorrow’s History: Pathologies Then and Now
Ancient Jewish sources, including the Biblical Tanach and the Talmud, supply the fundamental basis of Jewish religious law to this very day. Within these texts there is mention of certain medical pathologies experienced by Biblical or Talmudic personalities. The etiologies of these health ailments are finite. The lack of in-depth descriptions of the medical pathologies suffered by prominent characters featured in these works is appropriate, for neither the Tanach nor the Talmud were meant to serve as medical textbooks. Although scant background information is provided for these health ailments, it is appealing to use modern medical knowledge to attempt to explain the causes behind these pathologies. The goal of this discussion is to go beyond the original text and to suggest current medical analyses of ancient conditions. The approach followed herein was initially to denote a particular health risk noted in either the Tanach or in the Talmud and thereafter, to identify a reference in the scientific literature that provided a potential diagnosis in an attempt to better understand the malady. It should be emphasized that the diagnosis cited within the scientific literature is merely an educated guess, as it was formulated without usage of current medical technologies e.g., MRIs, CAT scans, x-rays, blood chemistry, etc. Thus, with certain diagnoses there was room to critique the educated guess, which was provided after citing the case. Discussions are limited to pathologies of the endocrine system. Justification of analyzing ancient passages on health issues by utilizing modern medicine was presented in an interview with Rabbi Rafi Rosenblum.
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