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Author: Boris S. Ostrer


This article discusses chapters 15 and 16 of the ancient midrash (allegorical commentary) Leviticus Rabba (IV-V AD) and its view of leprosy. The phenomenon of Biblical leprosy is here not investigated from a paleopathological point of view. The focus lies on its physiological, actiological, pathological and therapeutic aspects as represented in Leviticus Rabba. It is argued that the medical views of Leviticus Rabba show a certain resemblance to some of the view of the Hippocratic School, notably with respect to humoral theory, the belief in the correspondence between the macrocosm and the individual microcosm, and the notion of paideia as a way of healing. Finally, it is shown that the ancient myth of the two floods (of water and of fire) is connected to the understanding of leprosy in Leviticus Rabba.

In: Early Science and Medicine
In: Review of Rabbinic Judaism