An online medical journal has retracted an article about a woman who was cured by Jesus Christ as recorded in three of the four books of the Gospel.
On Friday, Virology Journal issued an official retraction for the article “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time,” acknowledging that it “does not provide the type of robust supporting data required for a case report and that the observations made are mostly speculative.”
“As such, the article does not fulfill the criteria for a case report and does not meet the high standards expected of the journal,” the retraction stated. “The authors and the Editor-in-Chief have therefore agreed to retract the article.”
The article, published July 21, had attempted to examine the case of a woman with high fever who was “cured by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The woman - whose story appears in Mark 1:29-33, Matthew 8:14-15, and Luke 4:38-39 - was reportedly the Apostle Peter's mother-in-law, who was in bed with a fever when Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up after the fever consequently left her.
“If the postulation is indeed correct, the woman with fever in the Bible is among one of the very early description of human influenza disease,” the authors of the study wrote in the article’s abstract.
In discussing the case, the authors referred to the recordings in the Bible, ruling out some diseases based on the lack of mention of notable symptoms.
The authors even went as far as to say “the disease was probably not a severe acute bacterial infection (such as septicemia) or subacute endocarditis” because such diseases “would not resolved instantaneously” as it had with the woman once Jesus touched her.
“Shortly following her recovery, presumbly (sic) within minutes, it is described that the woman began to serve Jesus and the disciples, thus making influenza illness highly probable,” the authors wrote in the article.
Nearly a month after the article was published, news of it hit the blogosphere, drawing criticism and ridicule.
“The content of this ‘case report’ aside, it is unclear how this case report meets any of the normal standards of a scientific article or the minimal standards of any journal other than someone actually paid to have it published,” remarked Dr. Paul Gray of Washington University School of Medicine’s department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
“I would like to know whether the editor actually read this submission and decided that no peer review was necessary,” he added.
Tara C. Smith, an assistant professor of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa, meanwhile, took aim at the authors’ exclusion of bacterial septicemia as a possible disease because "the fever retreated instantaneously.”
“[S]o are they (the authors) saying that Jesus could not have miraculously cured a bacterial infection, but he could have done so for flu?" she posed. "Or that the flu, on its own, resolved the instant Jesus stood over/touched the ill woman, without any divine intervention?”
Amid the flap, the paper’s lead author, Dr. Ellis Hon from The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s department of pediatrics, told weblog Retraction Watch that the article had been submitted initially in the debate section of the journal.
“As an article for debate, there was no absolute right or wrong answer, and the article was only meant for thought provocation,” he clarified.
Still, Hon apologized for having caused "inconvenience to the Journal and anxiety to myself."
"I think I will never write this type of article any more – not worth the hassles!" he concluded.
In Gray’s remarks, the Washington University professor said he had his qualms about journals published by BioMed Central, an online publisher of free peer-reviewed scientific articles in all areas of medical research and biology.
“[A]nd this only makes then (sic) stronger,” he added.
Founded in 2004, Virology Journal describes itself as an open access, peer-reviewed, online journal that presents “high-quality original” research concerning viruses, and establishes a strategic alternative to the traditional virology communication process.