- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801891426
- ISBN-13: 978-0801891427
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity 1st Edition
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"A succinct, thoughtful, well-written, and carefully argued assessment of Christian involvement with medical matters in the first five centuries of the common era... It is to Ferngren's credit that he has opened questions and explored them so astutely. This fine work looks forward as well as backward; it invites fuller reflection of the many senses in which medicine and religion intersect and merits wide readership."(Journal of the American Medical Association)
"In this superb work of historical and conceptual scholarship, Ferngren unfolds for the reader a cultural milieu of healing practices during the early centuries of Christianity... His arguments are always compelling and usually convincing. He shows how Christians lived out their faith as a positive healing and caring witness, boldly living out their Christianity as a persuasive alternative to the failed pagan responses to fellow human beings in need."(Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith)
"Readable and widely researched... an important book for mission studies and American Catholic movements, the book posits the question of what can take its place in today's challenging religious culture."(Missiology: An International Review)
"This is an important book, for students of Christian theology who understand health and healing to be topics of theological interest, and for health care practitioners who seek a historical perspective on the development of the ethos of their vocation."(Journal of Religion and Health)
"Medical historians and historians interested in the classical age will welcome this well written book to their libraries. Medical practioners in every field with a strong interest in medical history will profit from reading it as well. Certainly, libraries at every medical university and graduate school will want this book."(Doody's Review Service)
"Well written and well researched."(Catholic Insight)
"The story that [Ferngren] tells is provocative for Christian readers who live in a culture of fear and who tremble at the thought of new pandemics."(Christian Century)
"We must be grateful for this closely argued book and the light it sheds on early Christian health care."(Journal of Theological Studies)
"Reading this book gives one the impression of discovering something new. One can see how some medical and social ideas were born, and how mutual relations between religion and medicine were developing."(Religion)
"[An] excellent and thought-provoking work."(Medical History)
"Ferngren writes in an engaging manner that will be especially attractive to physicians who do not have a background in theology or Church history. This book would be of great interest to any Christian physician or health-care professional who is interested in learning more about medicine at the time of Christ and its impact on Christianity and, perhaps more importantly, Christianity's impact on the care of the ill."(Linacre Quarterly)
"[An] excellent and thought-provoking work."(Ildiko Csepregi Medical History)
"A highly important investigation in medicine and healing in early Christianity. A book that every scholar of healing in early Christianity should read."(Practical Matters)
"Ferngren's approach and evidence are persuasive and a wonderful introduction to an element of early Christianity frequently overlooked, misunderstood, or both."(Brethren Life and Thought)
"A good book."(Catholic Historical Review)
" Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity, written with deep affection for the subject, is a rich study, important for any scholar interested in the emergence and development of medicine in the Christian society of late antiquity."(Isis)
"A very fine book. Well written, well researched, and remarkably original. It will have lasting impact."(Rodney Stark, author of The Rise of Christianity)
From the Back Cover
Drawing on New Testament studies and recent scholarship on the expansion of the Christian church, Gary B. Ferngren presents a comprehensive historical account of medicine and medical philanthropy in the first five centuries of the Christian era.
Ferngren first describes how early Christians understood disease. He examines the relationship of early Christian medicine to the natural and supernatural modes of healing found in the Bible. Despite biblical accounts of demonic possession and miraculous healing, Ferngren argues that early Christians generally accepted naturalistic assumptions about disease and cared for the sick with medical knowledge gleaned from the Greeks and Romans.
Ferngren also explores the origins of medical philanthropy in the early Christian church. Rather than viewing illness as punishment for sins, early Christians believed that the sick deserved both medical assistance and compassion. Even as they were being persecuted, Christians cared for the sick within and outside of their community. Their long experience in medical charity led to the creation of the first hospitals, a singular Christian contribution to health care.
"A succinct, thoughtful, well-written, and carefully argued assessment of Christian involvement with medical matters in the first five centuries of the common era... It is to Ferngren's credit that he has opened questions and explored them so astutely. This fine work looks forward as well as backward; it invites fuller reflection of the many senses in which medicine and religion intersect and merits wide readership."― Journal of the American Medical Association
"In this superb work of historical and conceptual scholarship, Ferngren unfolds for the reader a cultural milieu of healing practices during the early centuries of Christianity."― Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
"Readable and widely researched... an important book for mission studies and American Catholic movements, the book posits the question of what can take its place in today's challenging religious culture."― Missiology: An International Review
Gary B. Ferngren is a professor of history at Oregon State University and a professor of the history of medicine at First Moscow State Medical University. He is the author of Medicine and Religion: A Historical Introduction and the editor of Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction.
Top customer reviews
Gary Ferngren has done a great service for the church in researching and writing this scholarly book. The book itself is only 152 pages long but the endnotes and bibliography are another 100. There is a wealth of information in this book.
In the first chapter, Ferngren explains method, approach, and primary references in researching this topic. He also explains why he engaged in this endeavor and that is because much of the research in this field has been presumptive. In the following chapter, Ferngren discusses the early reception of Greek medicine into Christianity. He mentions Dr. Luke as well as some of the early Fathers who welcomed Hippocratic medicine. Moving on into the next chapter, Ferngren explores early Christian views of disease etiology. Here he dispels the common myth that early Christians saw all diseased as caused by demonic activity, and explores the naturalistic causes they saw behind some diseases. In chapter four, he refutes the common view that Christianity is a religion of healing. While he affirms the eschatological emphasis of physical healing at the second coming of Jesus, he sees Christianity cast primarily as a saving religion in the here and now. The next chapter considers medical philanthropy in the early church. Here Ferngren discuss how Christianity was the only religion in Greco-Roman society willing to care for those infected with diseases, exposed babies, and the leprous outcasts. In chapter six, Ferngren considers the early-organized healthcare efforts of the early church. Basil the Great founded the first hospital, and many would follow employing physicians and nurses. Ferngren provides some concluding observations and summarizes his study in the final chapter.
Context is so important. As one reads the Gospels, it is obvious that demonic activity causes a variety of problems with people. The prevailing notion has developed that early Christians saw all illness and disease as attributable to demonic causes. This is simply not the case. Ferngren cites example after example of attribution to naturalistic causes directed ultimately by the providence of God. It is easy to forget that Jesus walked on the earth following Hippocrates and the advent of Western medicine. Dr. Luke was a physician trained in Greco-Roman medicine. Ferngren argue persuasively that it was not until late antiquity and the veneration of the saints that the church became more superstitious regarding illness and disease. Understanding original context is so important, and Ferngren does an excellent job to show why.
Although the entire book is worth reading, I found this one of Ferngren’s a strongest contributions.
Sincere thanks for getting this book so efficiently to me.
Those Christians, such as the ascetics, who refused medical treatment did so because they believed that one drew closer to God through suffering. Rather than believing that medicine was deplorable or suffering necessary to rid the soul of the body (as the Gnostics would have thought), the ascetics believed in the use of medicine to care for the suffering, but rejected medical care for themselves that they might grow closer to God through the travails of sickness.
Ferngren further discusses the great contribution of Christian thought to Western understanding of the sick and suffering. While the ancients largely ignored the poor, seeing only the rich and powerful as worthy of notice by the gods, Christianity saw all human beings as created in the image of God and thus worthy of God's attention. During plagues, Christians cared for the sick and suffering that the Roman government left to die on the streets. Eventually, Christians founded the first hospitals.
Christians believed first that they should care for the sick. If medicine originating among pagans offered a remedy for a given illness, Christians used the remedy to relieve suffering. Christianity was not a religion of healing, but a religion of caring.
The accounts of Christ's miracles were not meant to be emulated, but were a sign that the Messiah had come, symbols of the clash between God and Satan, good and evil. Christians did not believe that they could or should perform miracles, but that they should love and care for their neighbors as Christ commanded.
Ferngren explores the etymology of specific medial terms used in ancient Greek and Roman literature to offer a precise understanding of the various views held by the ancients regarding care for the sick. His lucid prose and patient, careful research makes this book an excellent contribution to the study of Christian views of science and medicine as well as Christian perspectives on caring for the sick.
(Full disclosure: I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis under Dr. Ferngren at Oregon State)