The word comes from the Greek "lepra", meaning "scale" or "flake". It is also known as Hansen's disease, named after its discoverer Gerhard Hansen.
Leprosy is transmitted via the respiratory tract or skin contact and mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, afflicting all ages and both sexes. The incubation period can last anywhere between three months and 40 years, with the average being three to five years. Leprosy is chronic, but much less contagious than has been commonly supposed. It is curable and if detected early and treated with a prescribed duration of drug therapy, it will not cause any permanent disability.
Leprosy is one of the world's oldest known diseases, known to the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt and India. Leprosy was also rampant during the 13th century in Europe. Historically, it is one of the most stigmatized diseases with a reputation of being highly contagious, disfiguring and incurable. In the past leprosy sufferers were banished to leper colonies. Unfortunately, this practice still exists is some countries today, even though leprosy is now curable and is not considered highly contagious.
Worldwide there are 290,000 leprosy cases being treated as of January 2005; according to the World Health Organization, 75 percent of leprosy cases arise in nine countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Significant illegal immigration occurs from of these countries to the United States, potentially circumventing public health measures concerning leprosy as well as other contagious diseases.
"According to Dr. Barbara Stryjdwska, Clinician at the National Hansen’s Disease Programs in Louisiana, there are only approximately 150 new leprosy cases each year in the United States, and most of these are in immigrants coming from countries where Hansen’s Disease is endemic. In 2002, 96 cases were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence may be greater however, because many patients do not want to be reported because of their immigrant status. Additionally, if patients do not seek or purchase treatment, they are hard to be tracked. ... Because leprosy is such a small problem in the United States, and since 90% of cases are imported (immigrants from countries where leprosy is endemic), there is little reason for a leprosy vaccine to actually be utilized in the United States ...."
Jesus and leprosy
"And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him." Luke 5:13
The Law of Moses prohibited touching anything or anyone unclean, and whoever did so deliberately was unclean and cursed.
- Leviticus 13:44-46
"he is a leprous man, he is unclean"
- Numbers 19:22
"whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and any one who touches it shall be unclean"
- Leviticus 5:3,
"if he touches human uncleanness...he shall be guilty"
- Leviticus 11:43-45
"you shall not make yourselves abominable"
- Numbers 19:20
"the man who is unclean and does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly"
- Deuteronomy 29:20-21 KJV
"The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man".
- Leviticus 13 and 14
- Numbers 5:1-4
"The LORD said to Moses, 'command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper...putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell"
- Deuteronomy 24:8
"in an attack of leprosy, to be very careful to do according to all that the Levitical priests shall direct you"
- Numbers 35:34
"you shall not defile the land in which you live"
- Leviticus 15:31
"keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die...by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst",
- Leviticus 20:7-8
"consecrate yourselves and be holy",
- Leviticus 20:26
"for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you"
- Deuteronomy 27:26
"Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them".
- If Jesus were only a man he could have done nothing (John 9:33). Any ordinary Jew who deliberately touched any unclean leper defiantly broke the law of Moses, deliberately made himself abominable, unclean, and thus showed that he was a man who sinfully defied God, ipso facto immediately cutting himself off from the assembly of the people of God (Latin latae sententiae), and thus demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he was under the curse of God. Compare Deuteronomy 29:10-15, 19-21.
- Jesus deliberately touched people who were unclean, with unclean diseases, who had unclean spirits, and he was touched by people who were unclean—he even touched dead corpses.
- According to the law of Moses this made him unclean, and cursed. (The fact that Jesus was crucified "on the tree" also made him unclean, and a curse, according to the law. Galatians 3:10-14.)
- Throughout the Tanakh and the Talmud only the LORD God made anyone clean and holy. (The reader is invited to carefully search this, to see if this is so. Acts 17:11-12; John 5:39-47.)
- By actually making the unclean leper clean, Jesus demonstrates that he is God and man, the LORD "who makes you clean" (Leviticus 16:30; 20:8; Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 36:25-26, 29, 33; Exodus 15:26 "...for I am the LORD that healeth thee").
- See also the article
Sanctification In The Old Testament (internetbiblecollege.net) pdf.
- The prophet Elisha only told Naaman the Syrian, a leper, to wash in the Jordan River, but he did not claim to have cleansed him of leprosy (2 Kings 5).
- The Levitical priests, upon examination of anyone who had become clean of leprosy, were authorized to declare that anyone formerly afflicted with leprosy was now clean, but they themselves did not cleanse anyone of leprosy. In the ritual sacrifices they offered for cleansing it is the LORD God of Israel who cleanses and forgives them in accepting their ritual sacrifices and offerings—the ritual offerings themselves did not cleanse them within, and certainly not from the uncleanness of leprosy (Hebrews 10:11; Psalm 51; Leviticus 1:4; 19:5; 19:21-22; 22:19-25; 22:29). See
- In the Gospel, Jesus is the one who personally and directly makes lepers clean (see also Luke 17:11-19). This is evidentiary testimony from eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-2), based on the Jewish scriptures, that Jesus Himself is the LORD God of Israel Who alone cleanses from disease and sin. See Psalm 103:2-3; Jeremiah 33:8; John 12:40; Matthew 10:8; Mark 16:17-18; James 5:14-16.
- Online searches for explicit accounts of miraculous cures of leprosy (including Hansen's Disease) after the time of Jesus have to date yielded no results or findings, either legendary or documented, by any Christian church, sect, or denomination, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or Independent, through miraculous touch or answer to prayer or intercessions or relic or blessed cloths or going to any miraculous site or shrine. (attempts made 5/29/2019).
- Compare the following:
- Answers In Genesis. Answers Magazine.
Biblical Leprosy: Shedding Light on the Disease that Shuns, by Dr. Alan L. Gillen (answersingenesis.org)
- The Influence of Christianity on Medicine Up to the Renaissance, SMOCH Sacred Medical Order - Church of Hope (smoch.org)
- Pilgims may have spread leprosy across medieval Europe - Amy Middleton reports (cosmosmagazine.com)
"Throughout the medieval period the act of pilgrimage was viewed as a particularly efficacious spiritual and devotional practice and many of the medieval saints' shrines were associated with miraculous cures and healing, including leprosy." Researchers Simon Roffey and Katie Tucker, University of Winchester, and Michael Taylor, University of Surrey. No specific details are given.
- A relation of the miraculous cure of Susannah Arch: of a leprosy and ptysick, wherewith for years past she had been sorely afflicted, Susannah Arch, Robert Hume (Apothecary), Thomas Fortey and b. 1627. Charles Nichols (core.ac.uk)
See Full Text, 1695 (quod.lib.umich.edu)
- Amma Cures Dattan the Leper - YouTube.
Author Ethan Walker III (youtube.com) accessed 5/29/2019. (Video featuring healing accompanied by audio Indian musical chant of names of Hindu gods, with brief descriptive printed text below the picture.)
Compare Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50; 11:23; Matthew 12:30; Numbers 11:27-29; Matthew 24:24; Deuteronomy 13.
- Answers In Genesis. Answers Magazine.
- Online Etymology - leper (n.) (etymonline.com)
- Where Do Leper Colonies Still Exist? by Jules Suzdaltsev (seeker.com)
- "Doctor says he treated woman with leprosy," The Macon Telegraph (Georgia), June 7, 2007.
- A Vaccine for Leprosy, Kiyana Harris, Stanford University (stanford.edu)