Galen on Jews and Christians

The Roman medical writer Galen (d. 199 AD) refers to Jewish or Christian ideas in six places in his works.

Some of the works of Galen involved no longer exist in Greek, and the Arabic translation has to be used.  In some cases the Arabic translation also has perished — although we know from Hunayn Ibn Ishaq that he translated it — and all we have is quotations in later writers.

Unfortunately Walzer, who published a monograph on the subject in 1949[1] did so in a very confused manner.  It was nearly impossible to work out from his text what precisely he was giving us, and from where.  Nor was it possible to see what the context of the quotations was.

It was as part of this process that I encountered Ibn Abi Usaibia, and was led to put an English translation online.

I have now transcribed these six passages, organised the material in a logical manner, looked up material that Walzer did not include, and compiled a web page of it all.

The result is here.  I hope it will be useful.

  1. [1]R. Walzer, Galen on Jews and Christians, Oxford, 1949.

9 thoughts on “Galen on Jews and Christians

  1. Why not refer to the clear passage that proves he was a christian?

    Go to book 19, v.19, page 679. There you will see it is written by Galen:

    «δει και ημάς τους χριστιανούς επί τα καθ΄ημάς μέγιστα και κυρίως μυστηριώδη χωρείν. Τούτοις γαρ εγώ πιστεύω και ομολογώ μη μόνον τα σωματικά πάθη και απηγορευμένα περί πάντων των ιατρών φυγαδεύεσθαι, αλλά και ψυχικά τελείως αφανίζεσθαι».

    «δει και ημάς τους χριστιανούς», meaning in English: we christians shall too…

    That means he considered himself as Christian as well.

    It is crucial that Galen was a baptized christian at the end of his life. We discover that Christianity was not for the poor and the uneducated only and that the greatest doctor of late antiquity finally became a Christian.

    (Edited – RP)

  2. The work is “De renum affectibus”. However, appearing right at the end of Kuhn’s edition, I wonder if perhaps it is one of the spurious works? It is indeed referred to as such here, in a list of abbreviations for works.

  3. Yes, it seems to be spurious. So my theory for a christian Galen goes straight to the garbage.

    Doctor Pearse, do you know if the work “Κατά Μανιχαίων” of Didymus the Blind is spurious too?

  4. No matter – interesting to learn of the reference anyway. Where did you come across it?

    I think some have thought the Contra Manichaeos of Didymus is spurious; but I don’t think offhand that view is general?

  5. I read it on an internet article where this phrase was cited in quotation marks and said XIX, 679. I was impressed. Then i searched on the internet and reached that site with Galen’s works and found it.

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