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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Galen (Galenus Claudius)

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His Philosophy Criticized by Maimonides.

Greek physician and philosopher born at Pergamus, Mysia, about 131 died about 200. Eclipsed by those of Aristotle, Galen's philosophical works were not held in high esteem by the Jews. Maimonides cites them only when they are in accordance with his own views, as, for instance, with regard to the impossibility of proving the eternity of matter ("Moreh Nebukim," 2:15). Once he severely criticizes Galen, declaring that outside the field of medicine he is no authority ("Pirḳ e Mosheh," xxv.), this stricture being called forth by the following utterance by Galen concerning the Mosaic conception of the omnipotence of God: "The difference between the Greek philosophers and Moses is this: In order that matter may be put in order it suffices for Moses that God should wish matter to be arranged. He believes that everything is possible with God, even the conversion of ashes into a horse or an ox while we believe that there exist things with which, being naturally impossible, God does not interfere He chooses only the best between possibilities" ("De Substantia Facultatis Naturæ ," ed. Kuhn, 4:760). Falaquera also shows slight respect for Galen's philosophy, affirming that in his later years the great physician wrote a work betraying ignorance of physics ("Mebaḳ ḳ esh," p. 33).

But if in the domain of philosophy Galen's authority was contested, he reigned supreme in the field of medicine. Maimonides himself helped largely to propagate Galen's medical works by publishing a summary of sixteen of them, which were, so to speak, canonized by the Alexandrian school and by the Arabs. Maimonides was followed by many other Jewish physicians who paraphrased or translated Galen's works from Arabic versions (chiefly made by Ḥ unain ibn Isḥ aḳ ) and from the Latin. These paraphrases and translations, the greater part of which are still extant in manuscript in various European libraries, are as follows:

("Ars Parva"), with a commentary by All ibn Ridwan, translated, according to Paris MS. No. 1114, by Samuel ibn Tibbon in 1199. The same work was translated anonymously, under the title , between 1197,1199.

, a paraphrase by Zerahiah ben Isaac ben Shealtiel of Rome (1277-94), in four books: (1) on the diversity of maladies (2) on their causes (3) on the variety of symptoms and (4) on the causes of the symptoms.

, three treatises on the compounded medicaments according to their species, by the same.

, on the crisis, by Solomon Bonirac of Barcelona (1300-1350).

On bleeding, by Kalonymus ben Kalonymus, in 1308.

("De Clysteriis et Colica"), by the same.

, on the regimen of the epileptic boy.

("De Malitia Complexionis Diversæ "), by David ben Abraham Caslari (1280-1337).

Translations of His Medical Works.

, summaries of the Alexandrian school, by Simson ben Solomon. These summaries contain the following treatises: , on the medical sects or ("Ars Parva") , on the pulse , chapters from the treatise on the urine , on marasmus , on nature , on the elements according to Hippocrates , on the temperament , on the faculties of nature , on anatomy , on maladies and their symptoms , on a knowledge of diseases of the internal organs , on the various kinds of fevers , on crisis , on critical days , on the art of healing , on hygiene and , on melancholy.
The following supposititious works of Galen were also translated into Hebrew:
, on the uterus ("gynæ cæ as").

, against speedy interment, by Judah al-Ḥ arizi.

, on the soul, by the same.

A medico-astrological treatise ("Prognosticum de Decubitu ex Mathematica Scientia"), paraphrased by Leon Joseph.


A summary of various maladies, their natures and symptoms, and the remedies for them, by Abraham ben Shem-Ṭ ob.

, a collection of remedies.

Of Galen's commentaries to the works of Hippocrates the following were translated into Hebrew: on the aphorisms, by Nathan ha-Meati on three treatises of the Pronostics, probably by the same on air, water, and countries, by Solomon ha-Meati.

In the twenty-sixth chapter of the "Healing of the Soul," by Joseph ibn Aknin of Barcelona (12th cent.), Galen's works are mentioned as forming a part of the regular school curriculum (Gü demann, "Das Jü dische Unterrichtswesen," etc., p. 100). He is also cited as an authority on ritual responsa e.g. , by Isaac b. Abraham Laṭ if (13th cent. see "Sammelband," 1:51, 53 Meḳ iẓ e Nirdamim, 1885).

Bibliography : Steinschneider, Alfarabi , pp. 31, 34,134, 142 idem, Cat. Bodl. Colossians 1918 idem, Hebr. Uebers. p. 650 idem, Cat. Hamburg , pp. 143, 197,308 idem, Cat. Leyden , pp. 335, 337 idem , in Monatsschrift , 38:177, 366.G. I. Br.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Galen (Galenus Claudius)'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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