Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Medicine & Religion: A Historical Introduction

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Medicine & Religion: A Historical Introduction

Article excerpt

Medicine & Religion: A Historical Introduction. By Gary B. Ferngren. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, Pp. xii, 241. $24.95.)

This book intends to provide a comprehensive summary of the relationship between medicine and religion in the history of western civilization, so it is more limited than its expansive title might lead one to expect. The chapter titles are based on groupings of centuries, so they disclose nothing of the author's perspective, and are of slightly differing qualities, though that is not a serious problem. The three on the ancient near east, Greece, and Rome present diverse materials and seem well-researched. Sometimes the references jump both backward and forward by centuries making it easy to confuse the chronology. The chapter on early Christianity contains gentle and well-done comments on theological developments in regard to disease and health, and draws useful comparisons with the non-Christian social context. The chapter on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is both the best and most difficult one. The difficulties are occasioned by the good efforts to provide, and parse, in brief summaries, the theological positions of the proliferation of Christian denominations which arose during those centuries. That, of course, accords with the linear Euro-American historical perspective which comes to its conclusion in the United States.

There are multiple detailed blemishes in this portrayal. Describing ancient Greek medicine Ferngren says that "science requires the existence of a body of theoretical knowledge. . . . There were, of course, many empirical techniques which had been collected and transmitted" (43). …

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