by Christine Farenhorst
The Amplified Bible explains the word “pestilences” in Luke 21:11 as plagues: malignant and contagious or infectious epidemic diseases which are deadly and devastating.
North Americans tend to take doctors for granted and we consider plagues as things of the past. In a way, that is to be expected. When we are sick, or feel slightly under the weather, we take an aspirin, double up on vitamins or dial the number of the doctor’s office to, if not get an appointment, at least get some advice on what to do.
A number of years ago an old friend told me that he was afraid he had appendicitis. Recurring bouts of stomach discomfort finally made him contact the nurse of the home in which he was a resident. She immediately came to his room and after a thorough checkup, advised him that his trouble was not physical but synthetic. The elastic in his underpants was apparently too tight.
The truth is that we are fairly secure as far as health care goes. It was, (and is), not always so.
Toward the last week of January 2020, the five- syllable word coronavirus became part of our vocabulary. New cases of infection with this novel corona virus (nCoV 2019) are presently being broadcasted on every news station on a daily basis. People are becoming increasingly concerned about this possibly deadly new virus which has already infected thousands of people. It originated in China.
It is strange to reflect on the origins of the Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague. It can also be traced to Asia. From the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, this plague spread eastward to China where it erupted in the early 1330s. European traders, especially Italian ones, traveled back and forth to China on a regular basis. In 1347, a Genoese ship returning from China, landed in Sicily. Unknown to the captain, the ship had become a sailing death trap during a recent battle with some Mongol tribes. One of the Mongol chieftains had catapulted diseased corpses into their camp. The sailors in the camp, reboarding the ship, were well used to rats below deck, and did not stop to consider that the fleas traveling on the rats were carrying bacteria. How could they know!? They thought nothing of the squeaking, hissing and chattering sounds among the cargo, unaware that the flea bites they suffered from these rats carried lethal implications for themselves and for all of Europe.
The Plague spread from Sicily, to London, to Vienna, to Florence and Avignon. In Florence alone, 100,000 died within four months. In some cities, 90% of the population was wiped out. It has been calculated that the Black Death killed fifty million in the 14th century, or 60% of Europe’s entire population.
People today tend to scoff at the fact that disease could possibly be a form of punishment for sin. In the Middle Ages people did not. In 1399 the Plague struck Italy so severely that 30,000 Italians traveled out of Florence to a neighboring city and back again, doing penance all the way. They scourged themselves with rods, constantly accusing themselves of sin. They ate no meat for days on end, neither did they take off their clothes or sleep in beds. Possibly the harshness of their travel itinerary added to physical weakness, as they freely passed on the Plague to the folks in the towns through which they progressed.
There were no fenced off cemeteries during the Plague. Panic and confusion reigned. The dead were hurled pellmell into huge pits, hastily dug for the purpose, and putrefying bodies lay in every house and street. The sexton and the physician were cast into the same deep and wide grave; the testator and his heirs and executors were buried from the same cart into the same hole together.
Disease control measures on how to stop the Plague during these years differed from place to place. Curses were sold and pronounced to ward off evil; bloodletting, deliberately bleeding a vein, was advertised as a way to reduce “hot” blood; and blowing your nose, it was said, would get rid of too much “cold” phlegm. Some advised rubbing onions, herbs or chopped up snake on the boils; others said that cutting up a pigeon and rubbing it on an ill body would do the trick; and then there were those who advocated eating arsenic, mercury or ten-year old treacle. One thing was certain – quacks were making money quickly and easily.
The historian Froissart, who lived during this time, was as skeptical of Medieval doctoring as we often are of Big Pharma. He wrote: “Doctors need three qualifications: to be able to lie and not get caught; to pretend to be honest; and to cause death without guilt.”
Interestingly enough, another historian, George Rosen, (in his book The History of Public Health), has argued that another major plague during that same 14th century, that of leprosy, was brought under control by following Biblical Old Testament injunctions: “Leadership was taken by the church, as the physicians had nothing to offer. The church took as its guiding principle the concept of contagion as embodied in the Old Testament.... This idea and its practical consequences are defined with great clarity in the book of Leviticus. Once the condition of leprosy had been established, the patient was to be segregated and excluded from the community. Following the precepts laid down in Leviticus the church undertook the task of combatting leprosy .... It accomplished the first great feat ... methodical eradication of disease.”
Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, agrees that the applicaton of Scriptural quarantine brought leprosy under control, and that the same method aided in the control of the Black Plague. As a result, millions of lives were saved. Are we facing an epidemic of something similar to the Black Death?
During the last week of January 2020 and the first part of February, the Chinese government quarantined roughly fifty million people in over a dozen cities. It is the largest quarantine in human history. At the end of that same month, January 2020, US President Trump declared that the novel coronavirus presented a public health emergency in America. Consequently, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced a 14 day quarantine for Americans who had recently visited Wuhan, seemingly the epicenter of the outbreak.
World economy is affected by the coronavirus. Major manufacturers, such as Apple and Adidas, have shut down their stores and plants in China. Airlines have stopped flights to China, as well as to other countries, and have placed over 30,000 employees on unpaid leave. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the Wuhan area. Cruise passengers with infected people on board have been denied entry into Japan and people on such ships are being forced to stay on board for at least two weeks.
Facebook, strangely enough, has aggressively ad opted a policy saying that it would remove any material about the coronavirus in which “false claims or conspiracy theories have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities.” Google has followed suit. Youtube, owned by Google, makes it hard for users to find independent information about the virus, and both sites push video updates from WHO. Twitter directs users to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using the bold headline “Know the facts.”
NaturalNews reports that China is actually keeping two sets of numbers on contaminated people and that the actual numbers are higher than the so called “official numbers.” These actual numbers indicate that over 154,000 are infected and that almost 25,000 people have died (as of this writing).
Could all these occurrences have been prevented? Was the epidemic anticipated? Are there matters of which people have not been apprised? The truth is that Chinese officials arrested eight medical doctors who tried to warn people of the impending disaster back in December of 2019. They were all part of a medical school’s alumni group on WeChat (a popular social network in China). These men were seriously worried that SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and a type of coronavirus) had resurfaced. The Daily Beast, an American news and opinion website focusing on news and pop culture, wrote this about these doctors:
“It wasn’t long before police detained them. The authorities said these eight doctors and medical technicians were ‘misinforming’ the public, that there was no SARS, that the information was obviously wrong, and that everyone in the city must remain calm. On the first day of 2020, Wuhan police said they had ‘taken legal measures’ against the eight individuals who had ‘spread rumors’.”
Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old doctor and one of the eight to be arrested, raised the alarm about the novel coronavirus as early as December 20, 2019. Accused of rumor mongering by the police, he was later diagnosed with the virus and subsequently died of this disease.
A judge on the China Supreme People’s Court wrote online on February 4, 2020: “It might have been fortunate if the public had believed the ‘rumor’ and had started to wear masks, had carried out sanitation measures, and had avoided the wild animal market.”
An extremely interesting sideline to all this is the fact that the Pirbright Institute, (a research institute in Surrey, England, which studies infectious diseases of farm animals, and forms part of the UK government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and employs scientists, vets, PhD students and operations staff), filed a patent for the live, attenuated coronavirus in 2015. Bear in mind that this was more than four years prior to the present outbreak. They said the new virus could be used to create a vaccine for treating or preventing respiratory viruses. The patent was awarded to the Pirbright Institute in 2018. The Pirbright Institute is funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the WHO, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These organizations are very vocal about mandatory vaccinations and government control based on “health concerns.” On February 5, 2020, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they would be donating $100 million to coronavirus vaccine research and treatment efforts. It seems probable that this vaccine is a money-making proposition and that it will be heavily pushed on the public.
It has been proposed that the coronavirus was caused by an animal in the Wuhan Market. However, The Lancet, a weekly peer reviewed medical journal, published a paper during the first week of February 2020. This paper was written by a group of Chinese researchers who studied the first 41 hospitalized patients who had been confirmed as having the coronavirus. Thirteen of these had not been near to, or had any link with, the market in Wuhan. Even as the flea jumped from rats to humans during the Black Death era, the case has been made by many that the novel coronavirus jumps from an animal host to humans. Here is a linking thought.
There is an institute in Wuhan, China which is called Wuhan’s Institute of Virology. It has, among other departments, a level 4 biohazard lab, a lab which studies the world’s most dangerous pathogens. (A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.) The Institute is about 13 miles from the Wuhan market – the market which China says is the source of the outbreak. Was it?
Without a doubt we are very privileged to be living in the 21st century in North America. Modern advances in technology have increased our ability to overcome various kinds of diseases. The medical care and knowledge we have is so much better than that of several centuries ago. This is a blessing! Yet we do well to remember in face of all this fearful information that our ultimate Physician is Jesus Christ. We also do well to acknowledge that the best reference book on the worst epidemic in existence, sin, is the Bible. When we believe this then, though we die, we will surely live forever.
A regular contributor for Christian Renewal, Christine’s latest book is Hidden: Stories of War and Peace (Nsmpress, 2020), available globally on Amazon and many other distribution outlets.