Introduction: Connections between medicine and religion extend into antiquity, as medicine emerged out of the prehistoric as a specific human activity. At least three thousand years thereafter, the rise of Greek civilization and the extension of Hellenistic culture resulted in “emancipation of medicine from religion, mysticism and superstition.” The emancipation from divine explanations for natural phenomena (disease) was neither abrupt nor talismanic for medicine’s future. While the historical record in Egypt, China and India also describes the changes in medicine occasioned by religions, this paper will concern itself primarily with Hippocratic medicine and the Judeo-Christian tradition as both intermingled and evolved in the period from approximately 1200 BCE through the end of the 4th century CE. To some extent, the rise of patristic-era Christianity in the first four centuries after the birth of Christ returned to ideas about healing through divine methods even though there was no specific ecclesiastical injunction against Hippocratic techniques or philosophy and, indeed, there were Hippocratic physicians numbered among the Christian converts. As they did during the transition marked by Christ’s birth, the values of medicine and religion have continued to challenge one another in a complex environment of morality, politics, philosophy and science. Our objective is to trace how Hippocratic medical traditions and values arose distinct from Christian traditions and values, and how the adoption and adaption of Hippocratic medicine into the Christian west occurred over time. Methods: This investigation was carried out via studying a large volume of primary and secondary sources, commentaries and histories written in both ancient and modern times. This included sources which had been translated from the original Greek and Latin into English. Results and Conclusion: Hippocratic medicine was adopted and adapted by various groups throughout history. Prior to the inception of Hippocratic medicine, the practice of medicine was characterized by cultic, magical, and spiritual healings. Then, in the fourth century BCE, an Oath and a new method of practicing medicine, emancipated from mysticism, arose. The Oath sought to bind students to a moral code and allegiance to a fraternity of physicians as well as to prescribe and proscribe certain behaviors in medical practice. We provide evidence of an incorporation of Pythagorean values into the Hippocratic Oath, and that Hippocratic medicine arose separate from early Christian values and principles. Moreover, we find that Christian physicians likely adopted the Hippocratic healing principles as well as the Oath and medicine, adapting it to better fit their doctrine and worldview.
Van Kalsbeek, Mitchell B., "The adoption and adaption of Hippocratic medicine and oath." (2021). IdeaFest. 393.