It seems that the notion of 39 categories of disease has biblical
According to the Bible, the 39 lashes that Jesus received before being
crucified were on behalf of our healing:
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might
die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been
1 Peter 2:24
One interpretation of this is that each of the strokes of the lash
(or, alternatively, each of the "stripes" left on Jesus' skin by the
lash) was for the healing of one category of disease:
"...we know that Jesus took 39 stripes before they crucified him.
There are 39 categories of diseases known to man ... Jesus took those
39 stripes that YOU might not have to have sickness."
Pat Thornton - Scriptures on Healing
I can find only one specific modern reference to 39 categories of
disease, in a sermon by Dr. Dale A. Robbins where he ascribes this to
the Journal of the AMA:
"According to the scripture, these stripes upon Christ were in behalf
of our healing. Coincidentally, several years ago the American Medical
Association Journal published an interesting article which traced all
the world's diseases to thirty nine root sources. A coincident? Not
hardly. Jesus bore a stripe for every disease known to mankind."
"Healing is one of God's Benefits"
The American Medical Association has a searchable archive of their
past journal articles, but I was not able to find any article
purporting to establish 39 root sources of disease, or even discussing
a list of 39 disease categories. However, it's possible that the such
an article predates the AMA's electronic archive.
(The AMA charges $9 to retrieve the full text of an archived article.)
In any case, modern disease classification systems are not based on 39
categories. Diseases are so varied, and our knowledge of some of them
is developing so rapidly, that such a simplistic categorization would
be unlikely to be useful. In practise, there can be as many categories
as are required to achieve the desired level of granularity. There are
broad groupings of diseases, but no hard-and-fast divisions.
An example of a modern system is "ICD", the "International Statistical
Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems" which is
currently in its 10th revision:
World Health Organization - ICD-10
The latest revision is not yet online, but you can browse the 9th
revision. It's free for the first 23 lookups in any 24 hour period:
ICD classifies diseases with numbers from 001 to 999, like the Dewey
Decimal System used by many libraries to classify books. Like the
Dewey System, it uses digits after the decimal point for extra detail,
so is no limit to the number of available disease classifications.
There are 17 broad categories within which all ICD diseases are
classified. Within those, there are varying levels of subcategory
(hundreds of subcategories in all). Here are the top-level categories:
Infectious and parasitic diseases
Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases
and immunity disorders
Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs
Diseases of the nervous system and sense organs
Diseases of the circulatory system
Diseases of the respiratory system
Diseases of the digestive system
Diseases of the genitourinary system
Complications of pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue
Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period
Symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions
Injury and poisoning
Given that this list includes "ill-defined conditions", it's clear
that the categories may be further refined as our knowledge increases
in the future.
Bible Gateway (to search for biblical quotations):
Google search strategy:
"39 categories" disease
"39 diseases" egypt OR biblical
jesus 39 OR "thirty nine" stripes OR lashes OR disease
"root sources" disease
"classification of diseases"
(plus variations on these, e.g. "thirty nine" instead of "39",
"illness" instead of "disease", etc.)
Search terms used at the archive of the Journal of the American
Medical Association included:
"root causes" disease
"classification of disease"
"39 broad categories"