CFP: Ancient Medical Expertise and Healing Experts, “Medicine in Bible and Talmud”

August 11-14, 2019, Warsaw, Poland

For the research unit “Medicine in Bible and Talmud” convened by Markham J. Geller and Lennart Lehmhaus and supported by the Collaborative Research Center SFB 980 “Episteme in Motion”, Freie Universitaet Berlin, we welcome contributions on ancient medicine and knowledge that fall into the general scope of our research unit as outlined on our website.

For the next meeting in Warsaw 2019 we invite proposals for individual presentations or for pre-organized panel-sessions on the theme, “Even the best among doctors is destined for Gehenna/Hell- ancient medical expertise and healing experts”. The thematic sessions will deal with questions of experts and expertise in various medical and religious cultures of (Late) Antiquity, ideally from a comparative perspective.

Thematic Outline

It has become a common notion that the ancient “medical marketplace” was not populated by competing medical schools and high-profile medical authors alone. Rather, this was a crowded arena with a variety of actors, in which different types and fields (e.g. medical subfields, botany, pharmaceutics, astrology/astronomy, religion, and philosophy) of related expertise merged, complemented but also fiercely contested each other. Healing expertise comprised various approaches (diagnosis/prognosis; recipes, diet, and other cures including amulets and incantations; divination, dream interpretation, dream healing and incubation; charismatic healing) in different contexts (private households, a doctor’s or pharmacist’s house, public places, temples, churches, monasteries etc.). What was the attitude of so-called political, intellectual or religious elites (like priests, rabbinic sages, philosophers, medical authors, Christian clergy, heads of academies etc.) to and their involvement in the field of medicine? Do ancient sources relate to the role of women as healing experts and to what extent may one discern a gender bias that reflect hierarchies of authority or prerogatives of male “legit” experts against “illicit” female healing personnel?

In a dialogue with current research on ancient medicine and sciences, this panel aims at discussing how medical and related types of expertise manifests itself in and were appropriated to different, overlapping traditions, practices, and socio-historical settings. This pertains to traditions that were primarily associated with religious and normative discourse and (ritual) practices such as medical (technical) information integrated in religious texts and contexts (biblical, rabbinic, early Christian and Islamic, mystical etc.). However, is also aims at medical traditions that developed in dialogue with or contained philosophical and theological questions.

How do authority and authorship interlace? Which strategies of self-fashioning, claims to expertise and superior knowledge techniques (theories, taxonomies, empiricism) play a major role, also for the transmission of certain knowledge? Papers can also address the framing of medical expertise in specific genres like case (hi)stories, question and answer formats, anecdotes and other narratives. May one discern some striking differences between so-called miraculous healing stories and other healing narratives? Alternatively, do these various approaches mix within our sources? How do language and narratives about illness and health function among and between patients and doctors in different traditions and various healing contexts? What other aspects and cultural specificities may we observe in the interaction between different medical experts, on the one hand, and between patients and the healing experts they attended to, on the other?

As mentioned in the research unit’s description, we welcome papers that relate to one or more of these issues in relevant traditions and periods, if possible, with a comparative (synchronic or diachronic perspective), while discussing the central theoretical or methodological assumptions and challenges involved.


Please submit your proposal by 28 February 2019 via the electronic system.

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

Markham J. Geller
Lennart Lehmhaus

Call for papers

Deadline: February 28, 2019

Posted: February 12, 2019