- Medicine and Hygiene in the Works of Flavius Josephus (review)
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 13, Number 4, Summer 1995
- pp. 139-141
- View Citation
- Additional Information
, Book Reviews 139 have been written in the time of King David or Solomon to the conclusion that it must therefore date to the late exilic period. Moreover, a recent study of Greek culture by the classicist Walter Burkert entitled Tbe Orientalizing Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1992) argues that the predominant influence on all levels of culture (crafts, medicine, poetry, myth, writing) ran in the opposite direction-from the ancient Near East to Greece rather than from Greece to Israel and the Near East as Van Seters proposes. Nevertheless, Prologue to History is a provocative study which will stimulate readers interested in the book of Genesis and the ways it might reflect the relationship of ancient Israel to the literature and culture of its ancient ,neighbors. Dennis T. Olson Princeton Theological Seminary Medicine and Hygiene in the Works of Flavius Josephus, by Samuel S. Kottek, New York: E. j. Brill, 1994. 217 pp. Many studies of medicine in the Bible and Talmud have been published, but except for Max Neuburger'S Die Medizin im Flavius josephus (1919), few historians of medicine have paid much attention to the writings of josephus Flavius. Although josephus is regarded as an ambivalent figure in jewish history, he is the only available source of information for many aspects of the struggle between Rome andjerusalem. Samuel S. Kottek's survey of medicine in the works of josephus is, therefore, a welcome addition to the literature. Some of this material has already appeared. in journal articles, but Kottek has added extensive revisions, two new chapters, five appendices, a bibliography, and an index. Kottek demonstrates that a systematic analysis of the works of josephus can provide historians with new insights into classical and Hellenized medicine. josephus is the only historian of jewish origin in antiquity whose works have apparently been preserved in their entirety. Because jewish scholars generally regarded josephus as a traitor, he is not mentioned in the Talmudic writings or in the Midrash, although many Romans are'noted. Details about the life ofjosephus have to be taken from his own writings,' Tbejewish War, The Antiquities ofthejews, Tbe Life, and a pamphlet later called AgainstApion. Kottek praises josephus as a skillful writer, but warns the reader that he was not always an accomplished historian. The Christian Church Fathers were important in preserving the writings ofjosephus and 140 SHOFAR Summer 1995 Vol. 13, No.4 another Jewish· author, Philo Judaeus. The Church Father Jerome called Josephus the "Greek Uvius." In his first chapter Kottek examines Josephus' statements on physicians in reference to biblical history and the post-biblical period. In discussing the few references to physicians found in the Bible, Josephus seems to have added details that would have been of interest to his GrecoRoman readers. Thus, Kottek concludes that some of the medical details in the writings of Joseph1Js are literary fictions. There is no systematic description of diseases in the works ofJosephus, or any indication that he is particularly interested in such medical problems. Josephus does, however, refer to various medical cases in the course of his narratives and sometimes provides non-scriptural details that may have come from oral tradition or his own imagination. The medical cases include simulated diseases, epidemics or plagues, leprosy and skin diseases, disorders of the eyes and ears, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, apoplexy, paralysis, loss of speech, fainting, vertigo, and so forth. Hygiene in the ancient world was primarily related to issues of public health and sanitation, such as water supply, public baths, and sewage systems. Hygiene in Jewish tradition also included circumcision, the Sabbath rest, dietary laws, death and burial, and laws of purity. Kottek considers Josephus' accounts of Jewish respect for the Law part of sociocultural hygiene and includes the education of children in this category. In the ancient world, war and accidents were the major reasons for surgery. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether there were organized, formal medical services attached to the Roman army. The medici who cared for wounded soldiers may have been fellow soldiers with some skills gained through observation and experience. The Bible provides many examples of wounded heroes, but little evidence of medical attendants. Josephus mentions many battle wounds and accidents in his...