Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a devastating autoimmune disease with no known cure. Lupus patients suffer from a myriad of clinical symptoms which variably include arthritis, pleuritis, pericarditis, vasculitis, and nephritis. The underlying mechanisms behind these clinical findings and the etiologic events preceding and causing disease onset, however, remain largely unknown. For many years, investigators have suspected that Epstein-Barr virus might somehow be involved in the etiology and/or pathogenesis of systemic lupus. Numerous studies have examined this possibility from various angles and have arrived at different conclusions. This work reviews these historical papers in the context of new results and presents a hypothetical role for this virus as an etiological environmental trigger for SLE.