Were Priests the First Dermatologists?


The role of a dermatologist can be confusing these days.

Some people think dermatologists are experts on skincare products and facials.  Some think they formulate cosmetic products.  Others think they use lasers and other machines to perform skincare treatments.  And others think they are doctors who write prescriptions and perform surgery.  What role do you think dermatologists play in your skin’s health?

Dermatologist vs Estheticians

First, dermatologists do not go to medical school to learn about skincare products. Estheticians go to school specifically to study skin and skincare products and treatments.

What about formulating products?  Cosmetic chemists are the ones who formulate products.  While I am sure dermatologists understand the chemistry of ingredients, they do not formulate products.  Formulating products is different than a dermatologist recommending or endorsing a product.

Lots of products are what is called “private labeled”.  This means the product is not specially formulated for the person selling them, but they have a personalized label applied to a product already formulated.

In most states, laser technicians do not need any special education.  The laser machine is supposed to be under the guidance of a medical professional.  These treatments are probably the least regulated skin care treatments available.

If you said a dermatologist is a doctor with additional education on skin diseases, you would be right.  Dermatology began in the mid-1800s.  The Bible has a lot of interesting things to say about skin diseases.  Let’s take a look.

Dermatologist and the Bible

Leviticus 13 devotes an entire chapter to the diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases.  Priests were the ones God assigned to diagnose and treat these diseases of the skin.


Leviticus 13:2-3 When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest.  The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce them ceremonially unclean.

The priests determined whether the skin rash was more than skin deep.  Treatment differed if the disease was more than skin deep.  I propose that is exactly what we need to determine today.

It is widely accepted that most issues of the skin start inside the body.  Think about Shingles, Measles, Chicken Pox, and Psoriasis.  While there are creams and topical recommendations, these are treated with oral medications and changes in diet.  Scrapes and surface skin conditions do not need more than topical treatment.

Leprosy, the most common skin disease of the Bible, is most often thought to be what we call today as Psoriasis.  Psoriasis affects over 3 million people.  There is no cure, no lab test, and is a chronic condition and spreads.  It starts red and then turns to white scabs.

Red in the body reflects inflammation.  Inflammation comes from lifestyle choices – more than skin deep.  Inflammation in the body is produced from four major areas:

Physical Activity – less than 30 minutes 5 times a week.

Diet – non-plant based, processed foods and sugar

Thought Management – stress and unhealthy thoughts

Sleep – quality and quantity

Considering people living in Biblical times where they did not have a problem with physical activity or diet, it makes perfect sense that people went to a priest to help them with skin diseases.  Skin diseases seemed to show a problem in the spiritual or thought problem – more than skin deep.


You can read the rest of chapter Leviticus 13 to learn all the detail God gives the Israelite priests for the treatment of skin diseases.  It is fascinating, but let me summarize.

The priests would place the person outside the camp for 7 day time periods.  The priest would check on them after those 7 day periods to determine whether they were okay to go back to the camp.  The priest would determine whether they were “clean” or “unclean”.

I think they were separated to get their thought life in order.  You need to separate to do that.  Bad spirits or attitudes can spread.  You need to isolate and be in silence to get your life in order.  If you never stop and separate long enough to address those issues, you continue to be chronically ill.

Today we can add the issues of fast food and non-activity to add to the spiritual issues of inflammation.   The lesson of Leviticus 13 is that we must look for answers internally instead of externally for causes of our skin conditions.

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