From ancient times until today, plagues and pandemics have played a transformational role in human history. And of all the intellectual and theological traditions that have reflected upon the significance of these devastating natural phenomena, perhaps the most famous and profound is the Bible. Just think, for example, of the narrative of the Ten Plagues in the Book of Exodus.

So how have commentators on the Bible understood these reflections, and even developed them in new and surprising directions? In his most recent book—”The Eleventh Plague: Jews and Pandemics From the Bible to Covid-19”—Dr. Jeremy Brown (Director at the NIH and a historian of science) broke down how Jewish thinkers and communities in particular responded to widespread infectious diseases across history. And on this episode, Ari broke it all down with Dr. Brown.

They discussed pandemics and the fall of Rome; humans and animals in the Book of Genesis; anti-Jewish canards during the Black Death; intellectual creativity during pandemics; responses to Edward Jenner’s invention of the smallpox vaccine; mysticism during the Scientific Revolution; “plague weddings”; new perspectives on the Ten Plagues; and much more!

Good Faith Effort is a production of Bnai Zion and SoulShop.