Pharaoh's Bloodbath: Medieval European Jewish Thoughts About Leprosy, Disease, and Blood Therapy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Leprosy was, and probably still is, one of the most feared diseases known to mankind.2 Like other feared diseases it is not only the illness itself but its external manifestations, the physical corruption of the body alongside vivid facial and limb disfigurement, that both inhibit and paradoxically draw public reaction. Throughout the centuries, the disease received much attention by both intellectuals as well as medical practitioners, leaving behind a long paper trail and an extensive body of writing. This corpus of knowledge dealt with the causes of leprosy; the social, religious, and moral status of those afflicted; and the medical, magical, and theological means to cure it. Almost 35 years ago N. S. Brody published a seminal study on the legacy of leprosy in the medieval European world. In this study Brody pointed out that due to its harmful nature and acute graphic bodily manifestation, authors from late antiquity, the early medieval period, and the high Middle Ages related to leprosy as an embodiment of sin itself, a manifestation of immorality as well as punishment for sin.3 On the other hand, more recent research, like that by Bernard Hamilton in his study on the leprous king of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV, has shown that according to some Christian theologians in the Middle Ages “if viewed in the right manner, leprosy serves as an avenue to a meta-corporeal way of spiritual existence.”4

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJewish Blood
Subtitle of host publicationReality and Metaphor in History, Religion and Culture
EditorsMitchell Hart
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)0203876407, 9780203876404
StatePublished - 26 May 2009

Publication series

NameRoutledge Jewish Studies Series

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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