Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians

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Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995 - 315 pages

In Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians, Temkin shows how the perennial appeal of Hippocratic practice helped establish the relationship between scientific medicine and monotheistic religion. After the first century, Hippocratic medicine competed with powerful beliefs in religious healers from Asclepius to Jesus. Yet the ascendance of Christianity, Temkin explains, did not diminish the stature of Hippocratic science. Hippocrates, after all, saw nature as a divine and orderly power that caused growth and supplied "health." Hippocratic doctors could easily exchange the cult of Asclepius for the worship of Christ. But they could not sacrifice their belief in nature as the basis of health, disease, and therapy without renouncing their science. In compromise, the Church accepted Hippocratic medicine with the proviso that the Christian physician shun all pagan or heretical interpretations of naturalism—he must not, for example, believenature to be divine, the soul a mere function of the brain, or himself the true savior of the sick.

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About the author (1995)

Owsei Temkin, who holds his medical degree from the University of Leipzig, is William H. Welch Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine and former director of the Johns Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine. Widely recognized as one of the leading authorities in his field, Dr. Temkin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities from the American Council of Learned Societies. Among his previous books is The Falling Sickness: A History of Epilepsy from the Greeks to the Beginning of Modern Neurology and The Double Face of Janus and Other Essays in the History of Medicine, the latter available from Johns Hopkins.

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