(Hansen's Disease). Bacterial disease that causes nodules to appear on body surface; nerves become involved; eventually paralysis results.
In the NT (except Lk 17:15) removal of leprosy is spoken of as cleansing. The Gk. word lepra (found in LXX and NT) was used also for psoriasis or similar ailment. Leprosy was known in India ca. 1400 BC. It is apparently mentioned in the Egyptian papyrus Ebers ca. 1550 BC Leprosy of the body, and its symptoms, are alluded to Ex 4:6; Lv 13; Nm 12:10; 2 Sm 3:29; 2 K 5; 15:5; 2 Ch 26:23; leprosy in garments is mentioned Lv 13:4759, in houses Lv 14:3457.
Leprosariums were est. early. Sometimes lepers were banished into desert and outlying districts. Jesus' attitude toward lepers (Mk 1:4045) led to humane treatment of them by Christians.
1983 est.: 11 million lepers, most in equatorial parts of Afr., Asia, and S. Am. and in China and India; more than 4,000 in the US. Since the early 1940s dapsone, a sulfone drug, has been used effectively against leprosy, but in the early 1980s leprosy seemed to be building around it.
Socs. which have worked among lepers include Am. Leprosy Missions, Inc. (organized 1906 as Am. Committee of the Mission to Lepers, inc. 1917 as Am. Mission to Lepers; headquarters NYC); Internat. Christian Leprosy Missions (organized 1944; Internat. Council formed 1961; headquarters Portland, Oregon); The Leprosy Mission (organized 1874; headquarters London, Eng. Also known as The Mission to Lepers in India; The Mission to Lepers in India and the East; Mission to Lepers).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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