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May 16, 1966

Paradoxes and Misconceptions in Leprosy

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Dermatology, Straub Clinic, Honolulu.

JAMA. 1966;196(7):647-650. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100200087026

One of the oldest generalizations about leprosy, and one of the few which has not been generally accepted as fallacious, is the hoary cliche which says that its origin is "lost in the mists of antiquity." What disease's origin isn't? And how old is antiquity? At any rate, the fact is that no descriptions of anything like leprosy can be found before the fifth or sixth century before Christ, around which time the Susruta Samhita described leprosy in India and Suwen described it in China. Herodotus and Plutarch thought it was described in Persia at about this time, as well.

Biblical "Leprosy" Was Not Leprosy.—  Everyone knows, of course, that leprosy is mentioned frequently and in considerable detail in the Bible. It is, indeed. The detail is sufficient to suggest strongly that the disease or diseases so named in the Bible were not leprosy at all. In fact, there is

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