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Still a Leper?

Q. In Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, we read that Jesus was eating at the home of “Simon the leper” when Jesus was anointed with costly perfumed oil. Did Jesus heal Simon of his leprosy? If not, was Simon still a leper at the time of this incident? If so, how could he be hosting a dinner?

A. For us, leprosy is a very specific bacteriological condition (Hansen’s disease) that can be treated but not reversed. In biblical times, leprosy meant a wide variety of skin disorders, some of which could be cured. For this reason, priests were designated as the people to declare someone now free of leprosy and thus able to rejoin the normal functions of society. Chapters 13 and 14 of Leviticus describe how anyone suffering from a leprous disease was to be treated. When Jesus cured 10 lepers (Lk 17:11-19), he told them to show themselves to the priests.

“Simon the leper” may be a nickname that persisted even if that skin condition ceased. It is not clear that Jesus cured him of this disease.


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