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Origin of Medicine Symbol

Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Medicine. Anything human!

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Postby Khaiy » Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:38 am

Well I can't speak for a Christian symbol (it's certainly possible that medical associations used something Biblical for their symbol, even if there is an additional possible source from another time).

But the reasoning that I've heard was that the Greek god of medecine, Aesculapius, had a familiar named Caduceus, which was a snake. People would go to one of Aesculapius' temples and pray for healing, and in some cases their answers supposedly came in dreams, with either Aesculapius or his familiar telling them what to do to heal/be healed. Because of this, that particular snake became associated with healing and medicine, and that is why it is used as a symbol.
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Postby Ultrashogun » Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:03 pm

I one saw something on tv and they had the theory that it could represent an ancient way of removing a parasitic worm from somebodys body.

The worm is right below the skin so they would cut there and wrap the worm around a stick to get it out.
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:13 pm

Did the Greek image include the snake wrapped around a pole? Because that's exactly the image used by Moses in the Book of Numbers. The Hebrews were being plagued by poisonous snakes, so God told Moses to create a bronze serpent wrapped around a pole. This image was successful in keeping the snakes away, which is probably how it became associated with healing. This predates the Greeks by at least a thousand years. If the Greeks did use such a symbol, it's because they got the idea from the Hebrews. So the true origin of this symbol is Biblical, not Greek.
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Postby Khaiy » Tue Apr 04, 2006 3:42 pm

Alex, that's not really definitive. While it's certainly a possibility (and it does predate the Greek symbol), it's kind of a stretch to connect keeping snakes away with healing (to my mind, at least). Plus, Caduceus was associated with healing existing problems, not just prevention of their causes.

And even if the Greek symbol came from the Biblical one (which there isn't necessarily reason to assume, because a snake alone could be thought of independantly), if medical associations based their symbol on the Greek version due to the Greek story, then the explanation of the medical symbol would be Greek and not Biblical, even if the Greek symbol came from something else.

That's interesting about the pole though, if you go for the Caduceus explanation I wonder how it got there. I also wonder where the wings on it came from (although some of the symbols have it and others don't).
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Postby canalon » Tue Apr 04, 2006 3:48 pm

For the wings and the origin and symbolic of caduceus see [url=http://drblayney.com/Asclepius.html] here[url].

In short the medical caduceus should be with only one snake and no wings, and was asclepios (god of medicin symbol), but the Hermes caduceus (2 snakes and wings) is often used. The wings being those of the heels of the god messenger.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:55 pm

Actually, after re-reading the passage, it wasn't just keeping the snakes away that caused it to be associated with healing, the people who were bitten actually were healed by looking at the symbol. So the connection is much more obvious than you think. And like you said the presence of the pole indicates a Biblical origin of the story; the wings were probably added later by the Greeks. So the Greeks may have played a part, but the actual origin is in fact Hebrew.
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Postby Cilla » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:19 pm

Hi,

The more that I think about it, those who claim the Biblical origin of this, (and of everything actually), are quite right!

After all, the first mention of any snake was in the garden of Eden, at the dawn of time.

What with Lucifer being a defeated foe and all, I suppose it is more than credible that saints mentioned in the Bible might well wrap a snake around a pole. Would you see this as some kind of former day triumphalism?

Might this also explain the ill-advised practice of some latter day saints (not Mormons) flinging a deadly snake at you during some services of a fundamentalist type?

Alternatively, if you ascribe to the notion that nothing moves in this world that is not Greek in origin, (and a great many learned academics do, at least in the arts), you might prefer their tale of Pandora as opposed to Adam and Eve.
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Postby mith » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:46 pm

Well, is the snake really derived from any ancient stories or is it simply an archetype?
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Postby alextemplet » Wed Apr 05, 2006 6:00 pm

The snake-handling fundamentalists base their practice on a passage from the Gospels that says you shall handle deadly snakes without fear. It's therefore of a different origin from what you're suggesting but still a technically Biblical practice. If you ask me they're taking this one a bit too literally.

I don't think those that claim a Greek origin for the medical symbol are completely without basis for their claim; certainly the Greeks influenced it, although they did not create it. However sometimes I think that in today's culture, especially in academice fields, there seems to be an attitude among some scholars that if it's in the Bible it must be wrong. For example one person here tried to say that Greek mythology predates the Bible, even though this example is from the Book of Numbers which predates the Greeks by several hundred years. Some people also try to claim that there's no evidence that Jesus existed, which completely ignores the evidence that He did. Still others try to claim that Jericho was destroyed not by the Israelites but by the Assyrians or Romans, even though neither empire existed at the time of its fall.

What a lot of people aren't willing to accept is that the Bible actually is a very useful history book. Every other culture's histories are automatically accepted; why is it that Biblical histories are always held in suspicion?
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Postby Linn » Thu Apr 06, 2006 12:18 am

mithrilhack wrote:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&hs=tDc&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=caduceus&spell=1


Oh I don't need to write any thing
out its basicaly
here in the link at the bottom (of course) is the
biblical reference to the symbol.
thanx mithrilhack
I should have read it first :oops:
Any way...
to add a wee bit of info
here is what I found:
the bible mentions flying fiery snakes (Is 14:29 and 30:6)
The hebrew noun for "fiery one" (saraph) is used in
conjunction with
the hebrew term for serpent (na-chash)
and that the correct interpretation of NU 21:6-9 Is that the
copper snake was a "fiery snake" or flying fiery snake
placed upon a signal pole.


I am surprised this topic got this many posts :?:
PS: I am sorry if I repeated any info any one
else brought out I just wanted to post this first.
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these".

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Postby alextemplet » Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:48 am

I wasn't aware of that fiery part; thanks Linn. That no doubt completes the case for a Biblical origin of the symbol.
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Postby kiekyon » Thu Apr 06, 2006 1:51 pm

hi, i make some research on this and fin out that mythologically, the Caduceus was the staff Apollo gave Hermes, which had the power of generating accord, or agreement. It was worn by heralds as a mark of their office and was adopted by the medical profession.
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