Scientist Says AIDS-Type Disease Prevalent in Biblical Times
Dec. 11, 1985
LONDON (AP) _ A British chemist working in New York City says that a disease similar to AIDS is mentioned in the Bible - and Moses contained it by killing all potential carriers.
''The book of Numbers in the Old Testament records that a plague struck the Israelites in the plains of Moab after they consorted with prostitutes,'' said John Gwilt, vice president of the New York-based Sterling Drug Inc.
''The disease does seem to have been virulent and sexually transmitted, although we can't prove it was AIDS unless we had the antibodies of that time, and I think it's too long ago.'' He said the story of the plague and its eradication is contained in Numbers 25:1-9.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which destroy's the body's natural immunity to disease, is caused by a virus and was first identified in male homosexuals, hemophiliacs and intravenous drug abusers.
Gwilt, who is visiting London and spoke in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, said he has made a lifelong study of medical references in the Bible and found ''striking parallels'' to modern diseases.
In a lecture Tuesday night on ''Biblical Ills and Remedies'' to the Society of Apothecaries in London, Gwilt noted that Moses' remedy of widespread killing would be ''unacceptable today.''
Other old religious remedies would also meet present-day resistance, he said. For jaundice, the Talmud prescribed alum with garden crocus and beetroot soaked in donkey urine.
''The treatment was claimed to be effective, but it left the patient impotent,'' said Gwilt, 65, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Health. He said he teaches Bible class in New York.
He compared the Bible to a medical dictionary and said the ancient Israelites suffered the equivalents of most modern diseases, from epilepsy to crib death.
The chemist believes that David was able to kill Goliath because the giant probably suffered from a disease which destroys peripheral vision.
''Goliath, being over 9 foot tall, probably suffered from acromegaly, caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland, producing growth hormone,'' said Gwilt.
''The tumor compresses the optic nerves, resulting in loss of peripheral vision, so David was able to sneak up on the giant's blind side.''
Gwilt said the Israelites developed the first recorded health service when they were wandering in the wilderness.
They banned the drinking of animal blood because it could transmit parasitic infection, specified a diet low in animal fats, imposed quarantine precautions, set rules for camp sanitation and pure water, and isolated soldiers for disinfection after battle.
Gwilt said a case of crib death is reported in the time of Solomon, and a description of epilepsy appears in Mark's gospel.
There also are two examples of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, now widely taught as an emergency treatment for heart stoppage.
Gwilt said the Old Testament prophet Elijah gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the widow's son at Zarephath in Sidon, and Elisha did the same for a boy who suffered from sunstroke.
A biblical cure for hypothermia, or sub-normal body temperature, occurred when King David was cold in his old age, said Gwilt. He was saved by having a young woman tucked into bed with him.