Historical setting: 561 C.E. Gaul
“Eve you have asked me to tell you the details of the story of the ‘pagan’ with the ‘dreaded skin disease.’ It did happen in Bethany, so I know the telling of it better than did the other gospels where it was written in different ways. It was a story my family told in early Christian times and it was known so well by all of us.
“The story is of a Pharisee said to have some version of leprosy, a term often used then to mean any kind of scars or disease of the skin. Jesus and his friends ate often at the table of this Pharisee, Simon. I can see why you would think he was a pagan as it was told. Gospel speaks of the Pharisees as enemies of Jesus so in our times maybe the Christian foe would be the pagans. But the Pharisees were sort of the opposite of pagans. They were Jews who kept careful obedience to every letter of the law as written in the Torah. They were also the usual ones doing the business in the market place.”
“So, I was wrong about that, Papa, calling Pharisees pagans. Does it even matter? What I really want to know is about the healing.”
“I only mention that error because my own father was a Pharisee and maybe that makes me a bit too picky about the details also.
“So Eve, the way healing worked then for the Jews was that the priests of the temple determined when someone was healed and cleansed of disease. When someone had been contagious or ill and then they recovered they went to show themselves to the priest to be declared clean again. The priests were a different political group than my Pharisee father who worked in the open markets in the porticos of the temple. So when my father was afflicted with a disease that probably came to him from the trade caravans he dealt with in his work he recovered and was well again. But when he went to the priests to be declared clean they wouldn’t do that because my father had scars from the pox that never faded.”
(The story continues tomorrow)