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11.26.2005    |    Physician, heal thyself
Moses ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides, and Rambam (from his name as a Hebrew acronym), is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish sage. He's also the patron saint, so to speak, for Jewish doctors.

It is in this latter role that Maimonides is the subject of an article in today's Washington Post. The story is centered on the author Sherwin Nuland and his new book, Maimonides. Nuland seems to believe that there is something different about a Jew's approach to healing that marks him as separate and apart from his Christian brothers. Or, at least, this was the case for the 12th-century's sage, Maimonides. From the article:
"One who is ill has not only the right but also the duty to seek medical aid," wrote Maimonides, because, he argued, we maintain the body to support our spiritual quest to know God. Christians, on the other hand, attributed disease to supernatural causes, and through the example of Jesus and the martyrs, they placed redemptive value on suffering, Nuland argues. The Jews found that nonsense and focused on healing as a religious calling -- which gave medicine a special status and urgency within Jewish culture. Medicine, for them, was a calling, and perhaps for that reason they were renowned (even among Christians) for being very good at it. (emphasis added)
Maimonides' knowledge of Christian theology appears, well, let's be gentle, limited. As regards health and why we should maintain it, one need only turn to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Seems to me that this is what Maimonides wrote, in slightly different words. Christians attributing disease to "supernatural causes?" Let's just say that back in the 12th century, the typical Jew was likely every bit as superstitious and ignorant as the typical Christian.

The "Christian" approach to healing is not different from the "Jewish" approach (Except, of course, for those pesky Christian Scientists...). Nor is the underlying theology, that we are put on this earth to worship God and be good stewards for His creation. Which very much includes taking care of our bodies.

As for the redemptive nature of suffering, it is curious that any Jewish author would consider that the Old Testament somehow did not feature the theme of the suffering and redemption of the Jews. Ancient Israel was, if nothing else, routinely dragged through the wilderness, literally, and given into slavery more than once. The Temple was destroyed. Twice. If not directly by God, then most certainly with His permission. Ultimately, for redemptive purpose.

The story of Israel, old, and new, meaning today's disciples of Christ, is one of redemption through suffering. This has been one theme that is resolutely the same for both Jews and Christians. Maimonides, and Sherwin Nuland, do you truly think that King David did not suffer? Or the prophets? Or all Jews, throughout the Diaspora?

Think again.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.