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March 1955

Psychosomatic Dermatology Circa 400 B. C.

Author Affiliations


AMA Arch Derm. 1955;71(3):354-356. doi:10.1001/archderm.1955.01540270066008

With apologies to Allison,1 a paraphrase of the title to his article is used to introduce an example of humanism in medicine which was gleaned from the Bible.

The practice of medicine in Old Testament times was largely an ecclesiastical function. Ancient Hebrew priests were the physicians of the day. Illness was considered to be the result of derangement of the soul, due to past iniquities or to possession by demons. Not only health, but good fortune generally, was considered a token of righteousness.

This proposition is questioned many times in the Old Testament, however. It is most profoundly challenged in the book of Job. There the reason for human suffering, why afflictions fasten not only on the guilty but also on the innocent, is treated in a most brilliant manner. Because the principal person in the book, Job, is beset, among other things, by a skin disease,

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