A Nice New Article about BYU’s Publication of the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides


Statue of Moses Maimonides in Córdoba, Spain


For those of you who read German:


There is a nice new article by Heinz-Peter Katlewski in a publication from the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland) entitled roughly “The Rabbi as Physician: For a Long Time, Moses Maimonides’ Medical Works Received Scarcely Any Scholarly Attention, But That’s Changing Now” (Der Rabbiner als Arzt: Moses Maimonides’ medizinische Werke waren lange Zeit wissenschaftlich kaum erschlossen — das ändert sich jetzt):




Moses Maimonides was, by a considerable distance, the greatest rabbi (see, e.g., his fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah) and the greatest Jewish philosopher (see, e.g., his Guide of the Perplexed) of the Middle Ages.  But he earned his daily bread as a physician, and he wrote on that topic, as well.  Much of what he wrote, he wrote in Arabic, and, in partnership with Dr. Gerrit Bos of the Martin-Buber-Institut für Judaistik in Cologne, Germany, BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has been publishing his medical works in dual-language editions.


My thanks to Dr. Morgan Davis for bringing this article to my attention.  (An incentive to those of you who can read a bit of German but find it difficult:  The article mentions . . .  sex.  Generations of British “public school” pupils, I’m told, gave extra attention to Latin a century or two ago because salacious passages in their classical readings were often left in Latin, or even translated from Greek to Latin instead of English.  Truth in advertising, though:  This passage isn’t especially interesting.)



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  • Stephen Smoot

    I’m guessing this is the risque part of the essay you are referring to:

    “Männer höherer Stände an den Höfen hatten oft viele Frauen und Konkubinen, aber oft nicht genug Potenz, um alle zu befriedigen. Die Ärzte sollten ihnen Medikamente verschreiben, um die Kraft ihrer Lenden zu steigern.“

    So there you go. Maimonides and other medieval doctors anticipated the need for Viagra by a good several centuries.

    Incidentally, last night I read a debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on whether one can be a scientist and a believer. I wonder what Maimonides would have thought about this question, since his religious work was, according to the article, as voluminous as his medical work.

    • danpeterson

      Yep. That’s it. You went right to it!

      Maimonides would have regarded Dawkins as a fool, I think.