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Mt Sinai J Med. 2007 Apr;74(1):36-9.

Job of the Bible: leprosy or scabies?

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Division of Rheumatology and Physical Medicine, Hôpital Erasme, Université libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


Proposing a medical diagnosis a posteriori of a person who died a long time ago is not as impossible as it sounds if sufficient medical history is available.A whole book of the Bible is devoted to Job and his trials. The diagnosis of leprosy has been generally accepted by medieval commentators because the verses of the Book speak of ulcers disseminated over the skin, and also because leprosy is an exemplary sanction imposed by way of example by God to punish those who have committed a sin. In this paper, we have taken the different verses with a medical content from the Book of Job, and reconstructed the clinical picture as if the patient had turned up in the 21st century in order to see if the diagnosis of leprosy may be called into question, and to discuss the limits of the medico-historic approach. The clinical picture of the disease consists of deterioration in the general condition, with widespread pain, confusion, skin eruptions, bilious vomiting, and so on. Under these conditions, if Job did exist, and if the retrospective medical history is reliable, the most likely diagnosis is that of scabies rather than leprosy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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