A Time Machine With Hand Controls, Episode V: Let’s Get Biblical…Biblical: Jerusalem, 30 A.D.
The four-wheeled rambler and his time machine with hand controls has just landed in the year 30 A.D. in the town of Jerusalem. And man are things different here! And okay, things are not altogether as bad as I said they would be before I came – “a time before there were any comforts whatsoever for the afflicted” I believe is what I said. That is not completely true. In fact, one of the first things I found on my journey of discovery through Jerusalem in 30 A.D. was a colonnade (series of stone pillars holding up a roof, with rows of stalls with beds where people with various afflictions and disabilities convalesced. I guess you could say it was somewhere in between a hospital (which, yeah, they should have had) and a “home” (which in today’s Western world is only for the “criminally insane”, not the physically disabled.)
So it wasn’t all bad of course. In fact, when I went to speak to the inhabitants of the colonnades (fluent in first century Aramaic as I am) I found that the common belief system regarding disabilities is totally different in the 21st century from what it was then. For example, the belief that the disability was given to the person by God. This seems to have been prevalent among the disabled including the blind and deaf,f and others in the first century, and still is today, but the theory behind it has changed drastically.
Today you hear a lot of different stories on this issue. Some believe it, some think they were given their disability as a gift, some say God allowed the devil to work on them, as retribution for something their parents did, or they were injured as retribution for something they did themselves. They had drifted that far away from God that the devil had that power over them.
Around this time, 30 A.D., Jesus was preaching that “It was not that (the disabled person) has sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Some people still believe in this. Some people think it is too cheery, and overly “inspirational”, an image which disabled people often despise. Take it for what it is.
I met a man in the colonnades with wilted and twisted limbs, who said to me “my power is made perfect in weakness, therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses”. I think that same phrase would later make it into the Bible somewhere, and it’s a good piece of wisdom. What does it mean? I think it means that physical strength and “beauty” will not get you everything. Those who do not have it may find other modes of strength which are more valuable.
But this is not a Bible study. So I rolled onward, into the streets, where I met 1st century equivalent of the disabled homeless Vietnam veteran and his “will work for food” sign. The leper. Lepers were a different case altogether. When I went anywhere near one of these unfortunate people, hordes of townfolk would shout at me to stay away. Why? Because everyone in the 1st century knows that people get leprosy for disobeying God, and wherever roams a leper, roams also the devil. Duh!, right?
Ah, but we’ve found a contradiction, and the four-wheeled rambler loves digging up historical and ideological contradictions! You never heard of anyone getting spina bifida for disobeying God back in the first century. Just the lepers! It’s less of a disability and more of a malady, but it is a disabling affliction, nonetheless. Now its the disabled who the new age Christians will tell you are disabled as a result of some sin somewhere along the line. That’s what I’ve heard anyway. There aren’t too many lepers running around today, except in Africa, and Southern Asia. But even though they had their share of compassionate advocates in Jerusalem in 30 A.D., they encounter less discrimination and fear overall than they did 2000 years ago.
My, how things have come full circle.