Monday, May 05, 2008

Drawing a Samaritan Leper!

Bible Pictures
Don't worry, I'm not going to give a highly detailed description of the effects of Leprosy! (not in this post anyway).

I'm in the middle in illustrating Luke 17:11-19, (the healing of the 'Ten Lepers').
In my over zealous attempt to do some background research for this story, I asked myself a question, which on reflection was a dumb one. It was this;
"How did Jesus know that the leper who returned to thank Him was a Samaritan?" Did the Samaritans wear different clothes? Did he, as a Samaritan, have different facial features from the other nine Jewish men who were with him?

off I went to find the answers to these questions forgetting one very important thing.......that the Lord Jesus knew everything about everyone He met, as the story of the 'Woman at the well' clearly shows. However, from a Bible illustrators point of view, knowing if the Samaritans wore different clothes or had different facial features are still helpful things to know.

In my reading, I've not found anything that would suggest that the Samaritans wore clothing that was much different from that of the average Jewish person, or that they looked very different either, although I did come across an interesting anthropological study of the Samaritan people that showed that they are the tallest people in Syria, and that they have the genes for blond hair and blue eyes! None of this is relevant though as this was a comparatively recent study. Can anyone shed anymore light on this?

I decided that the most useful information that I could pass on to Bible artists, in connection to this story, would be the requirements of the Jewish law regarding lepers, taken from Lev 13:45.
Firstly they were required to rent (tear) their clothes. I believe that it was the upper part of the garment that was torn as this could be easily seen.

Secondly, They were to have their heads uncovered, and the hair left unkept and uncut. (These first two requirements were also two of the signs of being in mourning. see 'Raising Lazarus' post).

Thirdly, they had to cover their top lip. I've read a couple of interpretations on this. One is that it meant growing a moustache, as the Hebrews used to shave their top lip. I have tried to confirm this information but can't find any other references to it. The second one is that they covered their lip by placing a hand over their mouths. The thought behind this is that it stopped them from breathing on others. Again, If anyone can add anything to this it would be helpful. (See comments for new information on this).
Finally, in addition to the above, they were to shout "Unclean!" "Unclean!" This was apparently enough to scare off any unsuspecting passers by.

P.S. By the way, the photo above isn't of a Samaritan leper! It's just an interesting face I found somewhere.