A thought related to my post Messages or Medicine?
A friend, after reading my blog, pointed out the connection between Moses’ staff and serpent and the medical symbol. I’m a little ashamed I have never made the connection, but I feel it is also a story that deserves to be told (as an alternative to the Rod of Asclepius).
This one comes from the Bible, in Numbers 21. The Israelites, while wandering in the wilderness, are plagued by fiery serpents with poisonous, deadly venom. Moses prays in behalf of the Israelites, and then, as instructed by the Lord, he makes a serpent of brass and puts it on a pole. He then tells the Israelites that to be healed from the bite of the fiery serpents, they need only look at the brass serpent on the pole.
The New Testament, in John 3, adds another perspective by teaching that the serpent is a symbol of Jesus Christ. John 3:14-16 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Thus, the medical symbol becomes a symbol not of Asclepius the healer but of Jesus Christ the Healer.
As I have studied world religions, these types of connections dominate the stories, traditions, and legends taught by various cultures. They have differences (mostly, I believe, due to passing the stories down verbally before they were ever written), but the similarities are astounding. This is not to lessen the truth of them–as I personally believe the Bible story to be true–it’s just interesting that they seem to sprout from one common thread.