The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics

By George H. Van Kooten | Go to book overview

GALEN AND GENESIS

TEUN TIELEMAN


I. Introduction

In 1949 the distinguished scholar Richard Walzer published a monograph in which he discussed six testimonies from Galen of Pergamon (129−c. 213 CE) concerningJewish-Christian beliefs and practices.1 Three of these intriguing passages had only recently been spotted by Western scholars in medieval Arabic versions of Galenic treatises.2 The others came from treatises preserved in the original Greek that had long been accessible to readers in the Christian world.3 From these assembled pieces of evidence Galen emerges as a reasonably unbiased observer, who criticizes the Jews and Christians for having faith in undemonstrated laws and miracles but also commends the Christians for their virtuous conduct. He seems to be well informed. The second and by far longest of Walzer's texts, from the On the Usefulness of Parts XI. 14, refers to the first chapters of Genesis. Other testimonies indicate that Galen engaged in oral discussion with Christians in Rome.4 Galen was clearly interested in their creed and must have learned from these conversations also.

Galen's evidence is not extensive but it is precious in view of its date and content. Of particular interest is the passage from the On the Usefulness of Parts, which considers at some length a doctrinal issue, viz.

1 R. Walzer, Galen on Jews and Christians, London 1949, 101 pp.

2 A passage from Galen's On Hippocrates' Anatomy cited by Ibn al-Matran, Life of
Galen
, vol. I, p. 77, ed. Miiller (∼ Reference No. 1 Walzer), another one from his On the
First Unmoved Mover
, also cited by Ibn al-Matran, ibidem (Ref. No. 5 Walzer), and one
from the Summary of Plato's Republic, as quoted by Abu'1−Fida, Universal Chronicle, p. 108,
ed. Fleischer (∼ Ref. No. 6 Walzer). For the (translated) text see the Appendix below.

3 These are: On the Usefulness of Parts XI.14 (vol. 2, pp. 158−160, ed. Helmreich ∼
Reference No. 2 Walzer) and On the Differences between Pulses III.3, II.4 (VIII, pp. 657,
579, ed. Kiihn ∼ Ref. Nos. 3, 4 Walzer). For the (translated) text see below, p. 132 and
die Appendix.

4 See esp. the passages from On the Differences between Pulses (see previous note), i.e.
Walzer's Reference Nos. 3 and 4, and the passage from Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica
28.13−14, quoted below, p. 143.

-125-

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