Dragons and Leprosy
We watched the 1959 movie Ben Hur recently as a family and enjoyed it.
Contra the movie, I am not convinced that modern-day Hansen’s disease is necessarily linked with Biblical leprosy. They are very commonly confused, so I was not at all surprised. However, it did surprise and at first disappoint me to see leprosy healed just as soon as Jesus died; that seemed like a cheesy storytelling shortcut.
But upon reflection, it is true that Jesus brings us many great gifts apart from our deserving or even asking for them. A similar unasked-for miracle is recorded on that very day (Matt 27:52-54). And it is particularly striking that the kinds of leprosy described in Leviticus are nowhere quite exactly to be found today: just as today we no longer see the great dragons whose bones can still be found (e.g., Isa. 27, 51), there is today no more leprosy of that kind. The last great leprous house was dismantled in AD 70 (Lev. 14:45, Matt. 24:2), so that we can say the death of Jesus truly did inaugurate the end of leprosy!
The great storyteller has seen fit to tie these transitions to the new covenant in Jesus. The great dragons are defeated, and there is now one washing that grants permanent access to the very throne of God, so that you could even say that it is now life rather than death that is contagious. This the movie portrayed well.