5) Medicine

The bible abounds with still actual medical rules. Some subjects seem to be very modern because they involve contemporary ethical subjects such as “the carrying mother”. Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who is infertile, brings about this subject. Her maid Bilhah will carry the child for her and will deliver between her legs in order to give away the child symbolically to Rachel, mimicking the delivery of the first of Jacob’s 12 sons: Dan. Sex related subjects are very modern and humane in this episode.Without knowing the origin of infections, Hebraic terminology introduced a word to define every contaminated thing. This word is “touma” which is derived from the word “meth” or death. Touma means something that leads to death.The liquid pouring out of a lesion is “touma”, so everything that has been touched by these liquids is touma and cannot be used anymore.

This notion of “touma” does not only apply to men but also to houses. A cohen (priest) has to check a patch on a wall with an interval of one week. If he notices growing of the patch he can ask for the demolishing of that house. The stones of that house are not allowed to be reused but have to be thrown away at a “touma” place.

It is only with the invention of the microscope and the work of Pasteur and Koch that the abstract meaning of “touma” acquired a visible reality explaining all the notions of washing, quarantine, ritual bathing, etc… (more…)

Published in: on 24/10/2006 at 09:34  Comments (1)