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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(וֹפֵא, rophe, a curer; ἰατρός). Among the Hebrews, as among the ancients generally, medical remedies (Exodus 21:19) were early (comp. Pliny, 29:5) dispensed by a special class, who probably derived their skill from the Egyptians (Genesis 1:1; comp. Herod. 2:84; 3:1, 129; Diod. Sic. 1:82; Diog. Laert. 3:8; Pliiy, 26:3; 29:30: see Sprengel, Geschichte, 1:62; Wilkinson, 3:390), who were famous for their medicines (Odyss. 4:229). Their aid was at first made use of, as among common people at all times, for surgery and in extraordinary cases, and medicines (Exodus 1:15 : the "stools," אָבְנִיַם , there spoken of were, according to Gesenius, Thes. Heb. page 17, benches or seats on which the parturient females were seated; but the word, see Studien u. Krit. 1834, pages 81, 626, 641; 1842, page 1048, will scarcely bear this signification, see Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 1:481, and Lengerke; Keizma, page 387) were regularly employed (see Kall, De obstetricib. matrum Hebr. in XEg. Hamb. 1746). In later times Hebrew prescriptions obtained, which the prophets sometimes applied (2 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 8:7; 2 Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38; which cases, although miraculous, evince the custom of seeking relief from that class of persons); mostly for external injuries or complaints (Isaiah 1:6 : Ezekiel 30:21; 2 Kings 8:29; 2 Kings 9:15), but sometimes for internal maladies (2 Chronicles 16:12), and even for mental diseases (1 Samuel 16:16; comp. Josephus, Ant. 8:2, 5); but these never reached any extensive degree of science (see Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. s.v. רפא ). The resort to physicians was very general before and especially after the exile (2 Chronicles 16:12; Jeremiah 8:22; Sirach 38:1; Mark 5:26; comp. Luke 4:23; Luke 5:31; Luke 8:43; see Josephus, War, 2:8, 6; Doughtaei Analect. 2:35), and eventually medical practitioners could be foumd even in the smaller cities of the land (Josephus, Life, 72; comp. Ant. 14:13, 10). Their remedies consisted mostly in salves (especially balsam, Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8; comp. Prosp. Alpin. Med. AEg. 118 sq.; or oil, Luke 10:34; Mishna, Sabb. 14:4; including the oilbath, Josephus, War, 1:33, 5; Mishna, Berachoth, 1:2), leaves (Ezekiel 47:12), plasters (e.g. of fig, 2 Kings 20:7; comp. Pliny, 23:63; Strabo, 15:713), and bathing in mineral springs (Josephus, Ant. 17:6, 5; Life, 16; War, 1:33, 5; 2:21, 6; comp. John 5:2), or in flowing streams (2 Kings 5:10). Internal nostrums are again and again recommended in the Talmud (see the Mishna, Sabb. 14:3; 22:6; Joma, 8:6); in the Old Test. honey only is mentioned (Proverbs 16:24), which still holds a conspicuous place among medical compounds in the East. Specimens of the Jewish prescriptions may be seen in Lightfoot on Mark 5:26 (the formula or "Recipe" is לייתי ). Surgical operations are mentioned in the Mishna (Sabb. 22:6; Chelim, 12:4; comp. Sabb. 6:5). Great curative virtue was attributed to amulets (Mishna, Sabb. 6:2, 10), incantations, charms, the touch of certain individuals, and other superstitions of a like character (2 Kings 5:11 [comp. Rosenmuller, Morgenl. 3:227]; Josephus, Ant. 8:5); especially in cases of hypochondria or supposed daemoniacal possession. (See AMULET); (See DAEMONIAC).
The priests (Luke 17:14) were appointed by the law (Leviticus 12-15) the civil health-wardens, not so much for the cure as for the inspection of the sick, or of persons suspected of certain maladies, and the instructions given to them, especially respecting endemic diseases, exhibit a very careful observation, and afford apt and accurate symptoms. (See LEPROSY); (See PLAGUE). For the priests themselves, who, in consequence of being obliged to perform their services barefoot, were often liable to catch cold (see Kall, De morbis sacerdotum V.T. Hafn. 1745), a special physician (medicus viscerum) was (in later times) appointed at the Temple (Lightfoot, page 781). The priests must have obtained considerable anatomical knowledge (comp. the Talmudic abstract on osteology in the Mishna, Oholoth, 1:8) from the daily slaughter of the animal sacrifices. On the subject generally, see Borner, Diss. de statu medicinae ap. vet. Ebr. (Viteb. 1755) Lindlinger, De. Hebr. vet. arte medica (1774); Sprengel, De medicina Ebraeor. diss. (Hal. 1789); comp. Schmidt's Bibl. Medicus (Till. 1743); also Norberg, De medicina Arabum (in his Opusc. acad. 3:404 sq.); Wunderbar, Biblisch-talmudische Medicin (Riga, 1859). (See MEDICINE).
The superstitious credulity of modern Orientals as to curative means is proverbial, and has been noticed by all travellers. The Arabs are ready to put faith in almost any Frank as a professional "medicine man" or hakim (literally "wise man"), as they term all physicians. Prescriptions of all sorts are at once taken by them, however absurd; but they are generally unwilling to exercise the patience, care, self-restraint, and especially the cleanliness necessary to a real cure. They expect sudden and immediate restoration, and invariably prefer extraordinary to simple remedies. All this is in keeping with the supernatural character of the nostrums ordinarily employed by them. Indeed, fatalism being the basis of Mohammedanism, a resort to direct divine power might naturally be expected. (See SUPERSTITION).
"It is a very prevalent notion among the Christians of Europe that the Muslims are enemies to almost every branch of knowledge. This is an erroneous idea; but it is true that their studies, in the present age, are confined within very narrow limits. Very few of them study medicine, chemistry (for our first knowledge of which we are indebted to the Arabs), the mathematics, or astronomy. The Egyptian medical and surgical practitioners are mostly barbers, miserably ignorant of the sciences which they profess, and unskilful in their practice; partly in consequence of their- beiig prohibited by their religion from availing themselves of the advantage of dissecting human bodies. But a number of young men, natives of Egypt, are now receiving European instruction in medicine, anatomy, surgery, and other sciences, for the service of the government. Many of the Egyptians, in illness, neglect medical aid, placing their whole reliance on Providence or charms. Alchemy is more studied in this country than pure chemistry, and astrology more than astronomy" (Lane, Mod. Egypt. 1:239).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Physician'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/physician.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.