By Dr. Willie Ong
People assume that medical science and religion are in conflict with each other. Medicine, they say, is based on fact while religion is based on faith. After reading the Bible from a doctor’s point of view. I’m amazed that medical knowledge can be found in the Book.
Allow me to discuss three examples, written before Christ’s birth, that may convince you of the practical wisdom of the Bible.
The first health advice can be found in the book of Daniel.
The prophet is famous for being thrown in the lion’s den and escaping unharmed. But little do readers know that Daniel also conducted the first scientific study when he proved to the King that a vegetarian diet is healthier that a meaty diet. Daniel presents his research proposal to the king:
“Please allow your servants a ten days’ trial. During which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king’s food; go by what you see…When the ten days were over. (Daniel and company) looked better and fatter than any of the boys who had eaten (the meaty food)” (Daniel 1: 12-15). Thus, Daniel convinced the king to adopt the vegetarian diet.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that people who consume more vegetables are healthier and have lower blood pressures compared to predominantly carnivorous people.
The second Bible advice concerns the avoidance of fat and pork.
Despite no knowledge on how cholesterol plugs our arteries, Moses emphatically states: “Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goat… You must not eat (pork) or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you” (Leviticus 7:23, 11: 8).
For doctors, it was only in the 1950’s when the ravages of cholesterol came to light. If you browse through medical journals, the latest warning is remarkably familiar: Avoid fatty foods, especially pork and beef fat.
If the first two examples can be attributed to a prophet’s luck, then the third advice is simply incredible.
Is it possible that Moses already knew about disease-causing bacteria two millenniums before any human eye has seen it with a microscope? This appears to be the case as Moses warns that anyone with a skin sore should be isolated for seven days. The sick person is to burn his clothes and clean himself thoroughly. Moses gives a lengthy discussion (like a dermatologist) on what type of rash is clean or unclean. Then the high priest, acting like a doctor, will see the isolated patient every week until the sore disappears (See Leviticus 13).
What makes Moses’ pronouncements so astonishing is the fact that it was only in the 1880’s, when scientists began to accept the germ theory – that bacteria cause disease. Before this time, doctors could not explain the numerous infections and deaths they encountered after operating with their bare hands. How could Moses have known that invisible particles cause disease and that burning and isolation prevent its spread? Unless, of course, he had some heavenly inspiration.
These are just three of numerous health tips I will leave for you to discover in your readings. But here are a few to get you started: (1) a little wine is beneficial but not too much (1 Timothy 5:23, Psalm 23:20-21), (2) don’t put infection-prone tattoo marks on your bodies (Leviticus 19:28), and (3) reduce stress by not worrying (Matthew 6:25-34) and resting on the Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:3).
There is one advice, unheeded yet by science. That is the essence of the Bible:
The power of faith and prayer.
God asks us to trust Him completely, and He will take care of all our needs (health, money, and career). Could this be the secret to a long and fruitful life?
In a classic case, the elderly King Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. Despite his frail health, Hezekiah prayed earnestly and God granted him a life extension. “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38: 5). And just like that, the king lived fifteen more years.
Patients must also seek the benefits of modern science and follow their doctor’s advice. Doctors are an extension of God’s healing hand. As the Lord Himself tells us to seek a good doctor and to trust him. “Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; and their gift of healing comes from the Most High” (Sirach 38: 1-2).
As you can see, religion and medical science are not really at odds with each other. It is just that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Let those who have eyes, see. God has given us the blueprint for a healthy life in the scientific pages of the Bible.