CFP: An apple a day? – diet and regimen in ancient Jewish and related traditions

August 3-6, 2020, Wuppertal, Germany

Wellness and a healthy lifestyle have become major topics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, mostly in the Western globalized world. However, works about regimen – proper nutrition, care of the body and physical exercise – formed a distinct genre (diaita/ δῐ́αιτᾰ) in the corpus of Greek medical writings from as early as the fifth century BCE. This knowledge was appropriated and re-organized during Hellenistic, later Roman, early Byzantine and Islamicate time. Spreading in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, such ideas and practices affected many different cultures and religious communities. Besides the emphasis on dietary laws, discussions on food and concerns about a healthy way of life figure in many Jewish, early Christian and Islamic traditions.

This year’s topic aims at examining how pertaining Graeco-Roman and other cultures’ concepts or practices regarding a regimen of health were appropriated, transformed or rejected in ancient to early medieval Jewish and related traditions (Egyptian; Babylonian-Persian; Greek, Syriac, Latin and Coptic Christian; Muslim; Manichean; Mandean and others). Given the close connection to everyday routines, we can assume the familiarity of ancient Jews and their contemporaries with relevant (transmitted) knowledge and practices.

Topics to be discussed may include: diet or nutrition; exercises and physical manipulations; care of the body such as toilet habits, bathing, massages etc.; and purging practices such as sweating or the use of emetics or bloodletting. Contributions may explore the relationship between religious laws (e.g. dietary laws/ kashrut, Halakhic rules, monastic rules), certain rituals or practices (e.g. prayer, meals, offerings) and concepts of health regimen. Alternatively, the papers may focus on narrative and other (visual, embodied, performative) forms of representation of pertaining ideas or the symbolic impact of certain foodstuff or specific places (springs, rivers, gardens etc.) to health and healing. The discussion can also address the specific role of a healthy way of life for certain groups (priests, rabbis, scribes, monks etc.; women, children, elderly, a sick person) and how this regimen interfered with or complemented a life of learning and religious duties. We are especially interested in papers that combine research into ancient medicine, discussions of bodily practice and religious or cultural

Ideally, papers should focus on one or two traditions or one broader regional context with its cultural specifics, while paying attention to and highlighting processes of transmission and other comparative aspects.

The “Medicine in Bible and Talmud” invites paper proposals from scholars of diverse disciplinary backgrounds from different institutions and at different stages of their respective career. We would be particularly interested in co-sponsoring a session with the new group on “Food Symbolism”.

Alongside the thematic focus in 2020 on diet and regimen or related bodily and medical practices, we invite also contributions that fall into the general scope of our group as outlined on our website.


Please submit your proposal until 20 February 2020 via the electronic application system.

Please, send it also to the chairs of this research unit:

Markham J. Geller

Lennart Lehmhaus

Call for papers

Deadline: February 20, 2020

Posted: February 10, 2020