Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Did Jesus Predict Present Heart Disease Epidemic?
James F. Kurfees, M.D.
Louisville Bible College and The University of Louisville,
School of Medicine
Louisville, Kentucky 40204

From: JASA 29 (September 1977): 138-139.

(Luke 21.34 - A Medical Language Word Study)

"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be weighed down (barunth8sin) with., dissipation (kraipblei) and drunkenness (m9thei) and cares (merimnais) of this life. . .

1. barfino: to weigh down, overcharge.
bargo: to burden, weigh down, depress. (Thayer)

Same in Hobart: Medical Language of Luke, "bariinein. This word is very frequently employed in medical language..." Quotes Hippocrates five times, Dioscorides one time, Galen four times. ("Baro" - Baroreceptors - Hyperbaric, etc.)

Comment: J.B. Phillips - "heavy heart" - cardiomegaly. Could refer to the enlarging of a diseased heart so very, very common. "Baro" refers to pressure and perhaps hypertension which is epidemic and causes: (a) a burdened heart and enlargement and (b) death like a "snare" suddenly as people are unaware of its gravity and at present most often drop out of treatment even if begun. This is a major epidemic as is congestive heart failure ("overcharged"), and a "depressed" myocardium is epidemic. Heart disease, as Jesus foretold, is the number one killer in the western world.

High blood pressure "weighs down" the heart. The cardiologist speaks of a high afterload which leads to a large end diastolic volume and pressure in left ventricle ("overcharged").

2. kraipd1ei. "to toss the head about" due to wine, giddiness and headache, caused by excess wine. (Thayer)

Hobart - -kraipWei is peculiar to Luke, and is employed by the medical writers to denote "drunken nausea." Quotes Hippocrates four times, Aretaneus one time, Diosorides one time, Galen two times.

3. mithei. "drunkenness" (Thayer) - Ever increasing in society.

Comment: Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a well established fact. "Beer drinkers," heart is not uncommon in Europe. The high caloric intake of all drinkers causes obesity, an established factor in the etiology of myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure.

4. Root, mirimna: drawn in different directions, distracted, care, worry, anxiety, especialy about things of this life, troubled (Thayer). With biotikats, pertaining to worry about the affairs of this life.

Comment. Little comment is needed about the devastating effect of worry on the heart and its role in the present epidemic where heart disease is the number one killer as Jesus foretold: a sign of the end.

Addendum: Verse 26 men's hearts failing them for fear, ... 11 Hobart: "apopsj~chein is peculiar to Luke, and found here only." "psfichein and its derivatives were widely employed in medical language. Luke uses four of them, which are peculiar to him." apopsticho: to breathe out, faint away, die. (After Green)

Comment: Hobart quotes heavily from Hippocrates and Galen. My interpretation, medically, "syncope" or "cardiac standstill" are caused by sudden rhythm disturbances induced by fear that would be untoward for the organism.

"to expire" rarely used by any except medical writers - Luke uses it.

Conclusion: The Great Physician made a pronouncement most readily understood by Luke, "The Beloved Physician," i.e., in the Fnd-days a cardiac disease epidemic would carry multitudes away in death.

Green, T.S.: A Greek-English Lexicon to The New Testament. Bagster & Sons. London.

Hobart, Wm. K.: The Medical Language of Saint Luke. Baker Book House. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Phillips, J.B.: The New Testament In Modern English. MacMillan, N.Y.

Thayer, J.H.: Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. American Book Co., New York.