Via Bob O’H and Cath Ennis comes this truly bizarre article from the Virology Journal: “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time”.
Now, regular readers will know that I normally love this type of thing; digging back through history to look at Lincoln’s smallpox; Cholera in Victorian London; potential causes of the Plague of Athens, the origin of syphilis, or whether Yersinia pestis really caused the Black Plague. I’ve even written a bit about the history of influenza. So analysis of a 2000-year old potential flu case? Bring it on.
But. For Christ’s sake (really), *bring the evidence with you.* From the article’s abstract:
The Bible describes the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. Based on the information provided by the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, the diagnosis and the possible etiology of the febrile illness is discussed. Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. If the postulation is indeed correct, the woman with fever in the Bible is among one of the very early description of human influenza disease.
Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. We analysed a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time and discussed possible etiologies.
(more after the jump…)
OK, so they set up their premise. Fine, I’m on board with that, though it’s obviously always a bit of a problem when using English translations of the Bible. Still, I’m all about checking out the descriptions, which include a high fever, being bed-ridden, and, oh yeah, that Jesus cured her, upon which time she “rose up and ministered unto them.”
That’s the extent of the information.
From this, the authors conclude that the fever must have been influenza. Their rationale? Well, they exclude bacterial septicemia because “the fever retreated instantaneously. This implies that the disease was probably not a severe acute bacterial infection (such as septicemia) or subacute endocarditis that would not resolved [sic] instantaneously.”
Seriously. I’m not even sure what to do with this. From the wording of the abstract, it very much appears that the authors are Christians–so are they saying that Jesus could not have miraculously cured a bacterial infection, but he could have done so for flu? Or that the flu, on its own, resolved the instant Jesus stood over/touched the ill woman, without any divine intervention?
They go on to dismiss a significant number of other viral pathogens, as well as demonic influence (phew! Those are so hard to get rid of):
One final consideration that one might have is whether the illness was inflicted by a demon or devil. The Bible always tells if an illness is caused by a demon or devil (Matthew 9:18-25, 12:22, 9:32-33; Mark 1:23-26, 5:1-15, 9:17-29; Luke 4:33-35, 8:27-35, 9:38-43, 11:14) . The victims often had what sounded like a convulsion when the demon was cast out. In our index case, demonic influence is not stated, and the woman had no apparent convulsion or residual symptomatology.
(Bonus: this was the first post I’ve ever gotten to tag with “demonology”.)
Seriously, how did this article get published? I’m not a virologist, but if the standards for this journal are this lax, I wouldn’t be wasting my time sending any of my papers there.