Biblical Archaeology Review 38:3, May/June 2012

Strata: The Bible in the News: Self-Help for Doctors and Others

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

As we learn from the Gospel of Luke (4:23), advice to medical professionals was being proffered by at least the first century. In a synagogue at Nazareth, so we are told, Jesus spoke these words: “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself.’” In today’s world, this proverb can still be applied in multiple circumstances, many of which could hardly have been imagined two thousand years ago.

In a number of instances, the application is quite literal. So: “In part, it’s a case of ‘physician, heal thyself.’ Mindfulness programmes are being incorporated into medical training to help health care professionals, whose increasingly heavy workload is leading to more burnout and blunders” (from the South China Morning Post). Sometimes, it comes down to a single doctor, as it were taking things into his own hands: “Physician, heal thyself—one doctor took this Biblical proverb to heart and did just that, literally. Nine years ago Farid Saad was asked to evaluate a new testosterone replacement product while working on the issue of male aging … The then 46-year-old clinical researcher and endocrinologist offered himself as a human ‘lab mouse,’ since no other medical staff volunteered” (as reported in Singapore’s Business Times). Think how different history might have been if King David availed himself of this sort of therapy!

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