Ben Sira's "Praise of the Physician"
McConvery, Brendan (1998) Ben Sira's "Praise of the Physician". Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association, 21 . pp. 62-86.
Ben Sira's poem in praise of the physician (Sir 38:1-15) is unique among biblical texts for the high esteem in which it holds the art of medicine. It casts a faint beam of light on a profession about which the Bible says comparatively little and about whose role the texts and world views they represent, seem for the most part, ambigious. The Gospels record three remarks about doctors. The Q saying (Luke 5:31//Matt 9:12). "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but only those who are sick," assumes that the services of physicians are available for those who need them.The remaining two are negative, namely, the evangelist's ironic comment on the woman's wasting of her money on useless doctors (Mark 5:26), and Luke's use of the proverb "Physician, heal yourself" (Luke 4:23). The intention of this paper is to explore some aspects of the life and professional practice of the physician in Pre-Maccabean Jerusalem. After a brief survey of the role of the physician in the Hebrew Bible, it will examine some aspects of Ben Sira's poem in praise of the doctor (Sir 38:1-15). It will then go on to consider the role and lifestyle of physicians in this period as represented by some documents from the Hippocratice Corpus.
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