Of course, shirts canít get leprosy any more than turbans can get gout, but the bible doesnít know any better. Actually, thatís not entirely fair. As I mentioned before, the problem here is the translation. The traditional translations of the bibles used by Christians (King James Version for Protestants, Douay-Rheims for Catholics) both translate the original Biblical Hebrew word to ďleprosy,Ē when in fact, the word probably refers to any type of disease that presents with mottled blotches. Itís often difficult to put these words in context because you have to forget any modern understanding of medicine. To these deserts nomads, leprosy wasnít a bacteria that caused skin lesions, it was the skin lesions. Likewise, we now recognize the spots that grow on damp clothing as several species of tiny fungus, i.e., mildew. While these are cosmetically similar to the lesions on human skin, theyíre quite different. Itís easy to confuse two things that look similar when you donít understand the underlying nature. However, years of science assure us that rashes and mildew are not homologous.
So, God commands the priests to wash the garment, and then isolate it for a week in the same manner they do with humans. If the mildew goes away, you can keep wearing your favorite shirt, but if it persists, the garment must be burned. Too bad God couldnít just give the Israelites a recipe for bleach.