An Angel Smites the Assyrians
Eadwine Psalter; England (Canterbury), c. 1150; Trinity College Cambridge
by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson July 11-17; 2 Kings 17-25
We read in 2 Kings 19:35-36, “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.”
We can see in the illustration at the beginning of this essay, taken from the Eadwine Psalter; Canterbury, around 1150; now at Trinity College, Cambridge; that God is directing five of His angels to fire arrows at one group of soldiers, while another group of soldiers looks on. It is likely that this illustration is depicting this story in 2 Kings 19:35-36.
Image from history.com, they do not cite a source
In this painting, for which I cannot identify the artist, but appears to come from the high renaissance, angels shoot arrows indiscriminately, not sparing women, children, kings, and monks; but apparently passing over only those who pray fervently.
Image from history.com, they do not cite a source.
In another, late medieval or early renaissance, painting, death is depicted as cadaveric-looking demons stabbing people in the back with spears.
In his 2019 book, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present (Yale University Press, New Haven, CT), Frank Snowden described two models for ascribing supernatural origins to disease. First was the belief that disease as sent by God, and therefore divine in origin, as depicted in the Eadwine Psalter at the beginning of this essay. 2 Kings 19:35-36 is an excellent example of such a belief. The second, alternative belief in accounting for the origin of disease is to regard the ailment as caused by a demon, but with God’s permission.
In many religious traditions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the Bible was taken literally and, with no other explanation available, passages such as 2 Kings 19:35-36 were taken at face value, and were read to support the ideas depicted in the pictures I have chosen to illustrate this essay. However, not too much should be read into the third picture, because death is often depicted metaphorically in such illustrations as cadaveric humans or skeletons.
timetoast.com, unidentified artist
The Black Plague or Black Death of 1347-1352 CE is the most infamous plague outbreak of the medieval world, unprecedented and unequaled until the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. The cause of the plague was unknown in the fourteenth century and, in accordance with the general understanding of the Middle Ages, was attributed to supernatural forces and, primarily, the will or wrath of God. In the above renaissance woodcut, an angel flies over a city, pouring out the plague as a black cloud.
2 Kings 19:35-36 is placed in the context of war. During the Napoleonic wars, eight times more people in the British army died from disease than from battle wounds. In the American civil war, two-thirds of the estimated 660,000 deaths of soldiers were caused by pneumonia, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria, and this death toll led to a 2-year extension of the war. These diseases became known as the “third army.” (Máire A Connolly, David L Heymann Deadly comrades: war and infectious diseases, The Lancet, Supplement, vol. 360, December 2002, thelancet.com)
As early as the sixth century BC, in the ancient Sanskrit text Sushruta Samhita, the Indian physician Sushruta theorized: “Leprosy, fever, consumption, diseases of the eye, and other infectious diseases spread from one person to another by sexual union, physical contact, eating together, sleeping together, sitting together, and the use of same clothes, garlands and pastes.” In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Thucydides also proposed, in his account of the plague of Athens, that diseases could spread from an infected person to others. In his poem, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things, c. 56 BC), the Roman poet Lucretius stated that the world contains a variety of “seeds,” some of which can cause disease if inhaled or ingested. Isidore of Seville also mentioned “plague-bearing seeds” (pestifera semina) in his On the Nature of Things (c. 613 AD). The Islamic, Persian physician, Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in Europe), wrote The Canon of Medicine in 1025 AD, which became the most authoritative medical textbook in Europe until the 16th century. Sina discussed epidemics in his Book IV, and attempted to blend the classical miasma theory (“bad air”) with his own early contagion theory. He stated that people can transmit disease to others by breath and also discussed the transmission of disease through water and dirt.
The Italian physician, poet, mathematician, geographer and astronomer, Girolamo Fracastoro proposed in his 1546 book De Contagione et Contagiosis Morbis that epidemic diseases are caused by transferable “seed-like” entities (seminaria morbi) that transmit infection by direct or indirect contact, or even without contact, over long distances. He categorized diseases based on their mode of transmission, and how long they could stay dormant. Fracastoro was an atomist, who held that the physical universe is composed of fundamental indivisible components known as atoms, and he rejected appeals to hidden or supernatural causes in scientific investigation.
One hundred years later, in 1646, the German Jesuit priest and scholar Athanasius Kircher wrote a chapter entitled, “Concerning the wonderful structure of things in nature, investigated by Microscope.” He stated therein, “who would believe that vinegar and milk abound with an innumerable multitude of worms.” His microscopic studies led him to be the first person to conclude that disease and decay were caused by “invisible” living things. He also wrote that, “a number of things might be discovered in the blood of fever patients.” When Rome was hit by the Black Plague in 1656, Kircher investigated the blood of plague victims under the microscope. He observed the presence of “little worms” or “animalcules” in the blood and concluded that the disease was caused by microorganisms. Kircher thus became the first to attribute infectious disease to microscopic pathogens, inventing the germ theory of disease, which he outlined in his Scrutinium Physico-Medicum (Rome 1658). Although Kircher's conclusion that disease was caused by microorganisms was correct, it is very likely that what he saw under the microscope were red corpuscles or, perhaps, white blood cells and not the plague agent itself. Kircher also proposed specific hygienic measures to prevent the spread of disease, such as isolation, quarantine, burning clothes worn by the infected, and wearing facemasks to prevent the inhalation of germs.
In 1796, the British scientist and physician, Edward Jenner, created the world's first vaccine. Jenner introduced the terms vaccine and vaccination, which are derived from Variolae vaccinae (“smallpox of the cow” or “cowpox”). In 1798, in his paper, Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, Jenner described how vaccination with the pus from cowpox blisters could protect people against deadly smallpox. (Riedel, Stefan, Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination, Proceedings, Baylor University Medical Center, 18: 21–25, 2005)
Fear of Edward Jenner’s cowpox vaccine was so widespread that it prompted British artist and satirist James Gillray to create this spoof in 1802. It shows cows hatching from cowpox blisters in vaccinated people. (H. Humphrey/Henry Barton Jacobs Collection, Institute of the History of Medicine, JHU)
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2019-2022 is now considered the worst plague since the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. The virus has resulted in over 553 million cases and 6.34 million confirmed deaths worldwide, making it one of the deadliest plagues in history. The sad irony is that a large number of the people who have died from this disease didn’t need to. We are no longer blaming angels shooting arrows as causing disease; it is not that we don’t have the germ theory to allow us to understand the underlying microbiological cause of disease; it is not that we don’t have access to adequate vaccinations (at least here in the United States – that’s a whole ‘nother issue); it’s that people would rather believe stupid conspiracy theories propagated by the internet than modern science.
It is as though humankind has regressed over four hundred years, back to a time before the germ theory and vaccination. People would rather die than be vaccinated – talk about an unbelievable dystopia – and this isn’t even science fiction! It is now estimated that nearly one third of the some on million deaths in the United States could have been prevented by vaccination. Of course not 100% of the deaths could have been avoided, that’s the nature of science and medicine – many people died before an effective vaccine became available – but an estimated 319,000 American lives were lost to pure foolishness is appalling.
A list of COVID-19 myths was published 22 June 2021 on Healthline. The list included at least three myths that predated COVID-19: vaccines don’t work, vaccines cause autism, and vaccines make you infertile. If vaccines don’t work then how is it that vaccination has resulted in the eradication of smallpox, a formerly deadly disease worldwide? Look it up. The statement that “vaccines cause autism” is probably the most infamous conspiracy theory of all time. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper in the prestigious British journal, The Lancet. In the article, Wakefield falsely claimed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism (Lancet, 351:637-641, 1998). Then, in 2004, Sunday Times investigative reporter Brian Deer broke the story that Wakefield stood to earn as much as $43 million a year selling his own “replacement” vaccines and diagnostic test kits, which could be a huge financial success if public confidence in MMR was damaged. After the revelation of Wakefield’s misconduct, his co-authors withdrew their support of the paper and the British General Medical Council (GMC) conducted an inquiry into allegations of misconduct against Wakefield and two former colleagues. The GMC found that Wakefield had been dishonest in his research, had acted against his patients’ best interests, had mistreated developmentally delayed children, and had ‘failed in his duties as a responsible consultant.’ As a result, in 2010, Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register and was barred from ever again practicing medicine in the UK. The Lancet publish a formal recantation of the paper stating that elements of the manuscript had been falsified and that the journal had been “deceived” by Wakefield. In spite of his despicable conduct for which he was barred from future medical practice, Wakefield, who moved to the US, continues his completely fake claims against vaccinations. Numerous subsequent studies, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, which would not have been necessary but for Wakefield’s fraudulent claims, have found no connection between vaccines and autism (cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html). Read the material for yourselves. How many of the 6.34 million COVID deaths should be laid at the feet of “Dr.” Andrew Wakefield? He is still speaking and is still being paid to propagate his lies. The infertility myth you can look up for yourselves, but you may not want to bother, there are no data to support the claim.
The more recent and more unique six COVID vaccine myths claim that the J&J vaccine was created from fetal tissue, the COVID-19 vaccines are causing COVID-19 variants, the government put a microchip in COVID-19 vaccines to track you, the COVID-19 vaccines rewrite your DNA, the COVID-19 vaccine will cause long-term complications, and the COVID-19 vaccine makes you magnetic (Cassata, Cathy, Doctors Debunk 9 Popular COVID-19 Vaccine Myths and Conspiracy Theories, helathline.com, 22 June 2021).
Concerning fetal tissue use, no fetal tissue has been harvested for virus vaccine development since 1985. The fetal fibroblast cells used to grow many vaccine viruses are cell lines first obtained from elective termination of two pregnancies in the early 1960s. A huge amount of medical research and pharmaceutical production depend on the use of human cell lines – cells that are hundreds of generations descended from the original cells. These fetal cell lines first developed in the early 1960s have continued to grow in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world and are used to make vaccines today. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/fetal-tissues) One human cancer cell line, called HeLa, was first developed in 1951, and is the basis of much of the medical research conducted around the world. The continued culturing of HeLa cells did not contribute in any way to the donor’s cervical cancer.
I worked for four years (1977-1981) in the Central Laboratory for Human Embryology in the Pediatrics Department at the University of Washington. One of my jobs there was to distribute fetal tissues from elective abortions to laboratories all over the country. Distributing fetal tissues to research laboratories in no way influenced anyone’s decision to have an abortion, and the tissue distribution benefited a huge amount of medical research that would have been otherwise impossible. Opposing the use of fetal tissue for research is like saying that an organ donor is disqualified from tissue and organ donation because the death resulted from homicide, as opposed to say a traffic accident. The retinal cell line, PER.C6, used to make the J&J COVID-19 virus vaccine was first isolated from a terminated fetus in 1985 and has been used for growing human viruses in the laboratory ever since. The cell line was first adapted for use in growing adenovirus-based vaccines in the late 1990s. The cells employed today for virus manufacture are thousands of generations passed the original fetal tissue. (chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/fetal-tissues)
HeLa cells have been used to test polio vaccine since the first such tests by Jonas Salk in the 1950s. A huge volume of HeLa cells was needed to test polio vaccines, and a factory for mass-producing HeLa cells was established at Tuskegee University in 1953. HeLa cell lines are immortal, as they have a hyperactive version of the enzyme telomerase, which prevents the shortening of the chromosome telomeres, and so prevents cellular aging and cell death (further discussed in my books; see the listing on this website). Thanks to HeLa cells and the Salk vaccine, polio has been largely eradicated in many parts of the world. A world-wide effort to completely eradicate polio - the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which began in 1988, is underway and is led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation. Why not ask one of the five physicians (Drs. Joseph Mercola, Sherri Tenpenny, Rashid Buttar, Kelly Brogan, and Christiane Northrup), who are among the twelve worst anti-vaccination conspirators, accounting for 65% of the false information and earning huge amounts of money from their lies, if they would like to see the return of polio?
To date, the only known human disease eradicated by humankind is smallpox. Between 1958 and 1977, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a successful global vaccination campaign that eradicated smallpox. Even though routine smallpox vaccination is no longer conducted for the general public since the eradication of the disease, the vaccine is still being produced to guard against bioterrorism, biological warfare, and new diseases such as monkeypox. Oh yes, and the vaccine is still being maintained in the MRC-5 (Medical Research Council cell strain 5) cell line, composed of fibroblasts originally developed from the lung tissue of a fourteen-week-old aborted fetus, but which have been in culture for thousands of generations.
Maybe ask Drs. Joseph Mercola, Sherri Tenpenny, Rashid Buttar, Kelly Brogan, and Christiane Northrup; who should know better, but are making too much money to care how many people die because of their lies, if they would like to go back to the Middle Ages where disease was caused by angels and where death from smallpox ran 10-20%?
I’m not even going to address the other five COVID-19 myths. They are too ridiculous and there are no scientific data to support any of them. Oh, I do like the one advanced by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, that the COVID-19 vaccine makes you magnetic. I’m walking around right now with lots of metal hanging from me. Those of us who have been vaccinated are easy to spot, were the ones covered in metal.
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD