FOR SOMEONE WHO COULD STOP THE WIND with the word, it sure seems odd that Jesus needed to use a spit and mud poultice to heal blind people.
When Mother Nature dipped her blender into the Sea of Galilee, whipping up quite the storm, Jesus pulled the plug with just a few words: “Silence! Be still!” (Mark 4:39).
And when something pulled the plug on Lazarus, leaving him no more able to suck air than my old Hoover (rest in peace), Jesus fired him right back up with just a few more words: “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43).
So when Jesus came across a man born blind, why resort to this odd treatment:
“He [Jesus] spit on the ground. He made some mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes. Then he said, ‘Go and wash off the mud in Siloam Pool,’” (John 9:6-7).
Here’s the Friday Fun Fact.
Doctors used spit and mud in Roman times to treat various diseases.
The treatments show up in a collection of 37 science books called Natural History, written by a Roman science writer named Pliny (A.D. 23-79).
Here are two of those ancient Roman treatments for eye problems:
- “To cure inflammation of the eyes, wash the eyes each morning with spit from your overnight fast.”
- “To protect your eyes from developing eye diseases….Each time you wash dust off your feet, touch your eyes three times with the muddy water.”
My son-in-law, Dr. Jonathan Eck, who is an optometrist at Vision Professionals of Leawood (yeah, a family promo), tells me that saliva does contain some antibacterial and antiviral properties.
But he is quick to add that it’s probably not a great idea to lick our wounds or rub spit in our eyes. He says we have safer and more effective options than the Romans had.
Bible experts trying to explain why Jesus bothered with this technique usually say he was trying to help build the man’s faith for what was about to happen by applying medical methods popular at the time.
But it’s just a guess. Bible writers don’t often answer the “why” questions – perhaps because they don’t know why.
For a little more background on this topic, see my earlier post: Jesus used a Roman Rx for blindness. Or for lots of info about how Jesus’ miracles sometimes tracked with Roman medical practices, buy my book: Understanding Jesus: A Guide to His Life and Times.
It is intriguing to note, however, that this man despite the common cure for this symptom never spit in his own eyes, had a friend do it, or even saw a medical professional who most likely would have done the same.
Similarly, in the account in John, we discover that the man was born blind, which doesn’t quite seem to be the cause of a bacterial infection but a birth defect.