Psalm 147; Ecclesiasticus 38:1-4,6-10,12-14; 2 Timothy 4:5-13; Luke 4:14-21
Did you know Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14)? That is why so many hospitals and nursing homes, especially Episcopalian ones, are named in his honor. Based on the traditional ascription of Luke-Acts to his pen, a lot of scholars believe that he first met Paul in the Troad, that narrow strip of land in northwestern Turkey where the action of the Trojan War took place (that’s because all of a sudden, the narrator of Acts switches from “he” when talking about Paul to “we,” implying that the next section is eye-witness). If that’s the case, Luke might well have studied medicine at the famous healing shrine of Aesculapius in Pergmaum, one of the ancient world’s greatest hospitals. That, of course, assumes that Luke isn’t a Jew, as no Jew would ever go to a pagan temple for education. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that Luke was Jewish. So, let’s assume that he’s a pagan later attracted to Judaism and so listening to Paul and other rabbis in the synagogue (a “god-fearer” as the Scripture often calls such people). What would he have learned in Pergamum?
Lots of herbal remedies, some of which we still use–aspirin to relieve pain, for instance, is just more sophisticated use of willow bark, well known to the ancients. Hot and cold spring baths, both good for relieving aches and pains. Massage, which I for one attest is often as good as a pill when it comes to managing pain. All were part of the doctor’s bag. Another item, one which shows up a lot in Luke and Acts, is dream interpretation. The Asklepion, the temple of healing there in Pergamum, had a large area dedicated to naps in a steamy underground setting and doctors who job it was to unwind the dreams one had there. Note, as said before, how often the Gospel of Luke and Acts have dreams and dreamers at the center of their action…
What do we do with dreams? I for one have almost zero that I remember. But the ones I do, I tend to forget. Toss them out like waste paper. Maybe I should pay more attention, write them down still remember them, ponder whether God might need to put my shouting superego down for a snooze in order to be heard by my spiritually dull ears? I’m not talking schemes and hopes and aspirations, the dream of the day light hours that we script, but the dreams that are sent to us, maybe by God, maybe by our own quieter (and therefore, perhaps, more important to listen to) spiritual portions. We live in a loud and busy world, friends: a good Greek physician like Luke might well urge us to tune out a bit and listen behind the shouting for truths that don’t a have a megaphone and a billboard.