No one need take any religious holy book seriously because they may all be completely human in origin and so faulty and untrustworthy. From my study of comparative religions I find 2 transhuman aspects of the Bible, biochemical prescience and prophetic accuracy. Prescience (pronounced – hressihence with the ‘h’ being silent) is the presence of information in an old document which no one at the time of writing could know.
PRESCIENCE (BIOMEDICAL) ]See William Cairney in John Warwick Montgomery (ed.) Evidence For Faith: Deciding The God Question, 2004, 127-152]
Puzzling Old Testament health practices
In the study of microscopic organisms that cause diseases in animals and plants, having the right instruments is critical to research and discovery and the basic instrument is the light microscope.This was invented only in the 17th century AD and even though early researchers saw fungi and bacteria, no links were made between these organisms and disease.
Not until the 20th century (after the invention of x-ray technology and the electron microscope) did humankind develop the technological base for understanding the relationship between microscopic organisms and disease, including how and by what means diseases are transmitted.
In light of that historical reality, THERE IS SOMETHING DIVINELY SUGGESTIVE (I put it no stronger) IN CERTAIN COMMANDED HEALTH PRACTICES IN SECTIONS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, WRITTEN ABOUT 1500 – 1400 BC!!
Clean & Unclean Animals (Leviticus 11.26-46)
If people did not readily die after eating any animal that they found easily available and edible why the need for a taboo on certain animals? A puzzle unless…
Swine, available, tasty but forbidden
They harbour several disease-producing microorganisms, like tapeworm cysts, which are easily transmissible to humans, especially in inadequately cooked pork.
Aquatic & marine animals without fins & scales, available, tasty but forbidden
Almost all of the prohibited ones are scavengers or bottom feeders (feed low in the food chain) often found in relatively shallow waters, historically used for disposal of garbage and raw sewage. Historically these animals have been linked with the spread of typhoid.
Rodents (rats, mice, etc.), forbidden
Natural reservoirs for some of the worst diseases known, transmitted by touch, by rodent bite or via an insect that has bitten the rodent or is harboured by it (cf. Bubonic plague, rabies virus, tapeworms)
Health practices re dead bodies (Numbers 19.11-22; Leviticus 11.32-35)
Note the issue of ‘unclean till evening’ (vv.7-8, 19, 21) as a suggestion of the need for washing plus exposure to sun as a health precaution.
Open vessels near a dead body, regarded as unclean, and if made of clay (porous) were to be smashed (Lev. 11. 32ff). All of this avoids the building up of culture media for microorganisms.
This may seem like common-sense ideas until you reckon with medical history re disease prevention. All would be or actual nurses/doctors should know about the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, of the 1840s in Vienna.
In the maternity wards of the celebrated hospital Allegemeine Krankenhaus 1 out of every 6 women died, [common stats. around the world]. Dead women were wheeled into autopsy rooms, examined by physicians and med. students who wore no gloves. Afterward, without washing their hands they proceeded to the maternity wards to do pelvic examinations of the living maternity patients.
Semmelweis made the connection between the women who became ill and died and the team doing the autopsies and instituted hand-washing. As the practice caught on 1 out of every 42 died, then 1 out of every 84. Then one day, after performing autopsies and washing their hands, the physicians and students entered a maternity ward and examined 12 women. 11 of them developed high temperatures and died.
Semmelweis surmised that something mysterious and deadly was being carried from live patient to live patient and he demanded handwashing after each patient was examined, dead or alive.
Howls of protest resulted despite the decrease in mortality rates. Semmelweis was eventually fired for the nuisance he became by demanding handwashing and his successor dispensed with the practice of handwashing.
The dismal death stats, went up again but nobody made the connection. Meanwhile Semmelweis could not get a job and so went back home to Budapest (Hungary) to a maternity hospital with high mortality rates and repeated history, including getting fired again. To cut a long story short, he died in a mental institution, a broken and rejected man.
Almost 4000 years before Semmelweis, God gave similar instructions to Moses re the necessity of washing after handling the dead or the infected living.
But is all of this really divinely suggestive or revealed by God to Moses as Moses claims or are there other plausible and natural explanations for these admittedly surprising phenomena in ancient prescientific Jewish culture.
There are at least 3 possibilities apart from the God hypothesis.
Moses, who grew up and was educated in Egypt to the highest level, no doubt, as a son of the Palace, simply copied these disease control practices from Egypt. On my usual scale of possible, probable, likely, certain, this suggestion is at least possible. But is it probable?
Consider this, the available medical literature of Egypt, especially the Papyrus Ebers, written about 1552 BC, recommends such remedies for diseases as lizard’s blood, swine’s teeth, put rid meat, excreta from animals including human beings, donkeys, antelopes, dogs, cats, and even flies!! Nothing resembling the Mosaic prescriptions re disease control appear in the available Egyptian texts!
Well, Moses got the knowledge from some other culture. Possible, but the medical records of no other Ancient Near Eastern culture predating or contemporary with Moses reflects anything like what is found in the Mosaic texts re disease control.
Moses originated the disease control practices. This is not even barely possible since he would have had to know something about the germ theory of disease minus the knowledge of germs. He would also have needed to know something about the nutritional requirements of infectious microorganisms to know that open clay pots with food particles could maintain such organisms; he would also have needed to know about food chains to know that pathogens can be carried in that manner for him to know which animals should be regarded as clean or unclean.
The evidence points toward a Divine Source behind the Mosaic documents. A look at circumcision, its timing and value back then is mindboggling.