Article ID: CBB001251179

The Ideas of Maimonides (1138--1204) on Tzara'at Disease (Leprosy?): A Diagnostic Challenge in the Middle Ages (2011)


This study investigates the views of Maimonides (Cordoba, Spain, 1138 - Fustat, Cairo, 1204) on the disease known as tzara'at, whose major traits - etiology, diagnosis, management, treatment and social features -- are well described in the Bible and the Talmud. The corresponding sections in Maimonides' legal and philosophical works are approached. Seemingly this author posited four causes for tzara'at, namely nutritional, hereditary, contagious and supernatural. We stress the usefulness of comparative studies of texts by medieval authors remarkable for their contributions to several areas in order to attain an integral image of their ideas, also including their potential inconsistencies. Maimonides was aware of the difficulty in defining the term tzara'at from the medical point of view, and acknowledged its polysemic nature and possibly also its multifactorial causality. This article further emphasizes the difficulty inherent in translating ancient terms into modern languages and suggests that translators of Biblical texts ought to seek the collaboration of historians of medicine when translating medical terms mentioned in Biblical sources.

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Authors & Contributors
Demaitre, Luke E.
Collins, Kenneth E.
Paavilainen, Helena
Kottek, Samuel S.
Martínez Delgado, José
Talmud, Jérôme
Korot: The Israel Journal of the History of Medicine and Science
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Medical History
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Johns Hopkins University Press
Arcadian Library
Truman State University Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
Universidad de Salamanca
Cornell University Press
Disease and diseases
Leprosy (Hansen's disease)
Physicians; doctors
Jewish civilization and culture
ben Samuel, Hillel
Time Periods
12th century
17th century
14th century
Early modern
13th century
Cairo (Egypt)

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