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Health Care and the Rise of Christianity [Paperback]

By Hector Avalos (Author)
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Item Number 119648  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.42" Width: 5.52" Height: 0.53"
Weight:   0.52 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2001
Publisher   Hendrickson Publishers
ISBN  1565633377  
EAN  9781565633377  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Avalos helpfully turns our attention to the care of bodies as fundamental to the growth and expansion of early Christianity. Response to basic issues such as cost, access to care, and perceived efficacy--helped to fashion an early Christian system of health care that was distinct from contemporary approaches. Avalos raises eminently relevant questions about the role of ideas and practices of health care in the attractiveness of new religious movements, both historically and today.

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More About Hector Avalos

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Hector Avalos is associate professor of religious studies and chair of the US Latino Studies Program at Iowa State University. Besides being the author of Illness and Health Care in the Ancient Near East in the Harvard Semitic Monograph series, Avalos serves on the editorial board for the translation of Luis Alonso SchOkel's Diccionario Biblico Hebreo-EspaNol. He is also the former chair of the Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean Group in the American Academy of Religion.

Hector Avalos has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Semeia Studies

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Greece > General   [2948  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Medicine > Special Topics > History   [1038  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Bibles > Other   [1325  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Bought for class  Oct 22, 2008
I bought this book for a class on the New Testament. It was an interesting read, but he introduced and concluded way too many times, each chapter is a bit much for a book I'm reading wholly.
Accessible Book on History of Healthcare and Christianity  Dec 10, 2007
Professor Avalos' book gives an easy-to-read introduction to the different philosophical, social, and cultural strands in the early Christian communities. Taking an anthropological view, he shows how Christianity operated and perhaps still operates as an alternative health care system. His points are compelling and well-researched.

If you are looking for a book that will give you a lot of information on the early Christians and health, then you should read this book. It is, however, a research-oriented book, and while it doesn't always give deep details, it is not narrative. Therefore, some people might consider it a little dry (i.e. probably not bedtime reading for most). It is good for a Bible-study discussion (or complement to a Gospel lesson).

Avalos covers some intriguing ground such as pharmaceuticals, surgery, and exorcism.
Excellent Blending of Medical Anthropology and Biblical Stud  Jun 30, 2000
This book is the result of Avalos' work on anthropology and the history of the early church. Avalos' major thesis was that, "the role of health care in the rise of Christianity has not been given as much credit as it is due (3)." One theme in the book was to describe, "how healing was portrayed and promoted by the community responsible for the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3)." Avalos discusses how the findings of medical anthropology could be applied to the study and rise of Christianity. He provides interesting insight into the correlation between this branch of archaeology and the New Testament's evidence of healing in the Christian community.

Healing temples and shrines were the results of public demand. Healing movements came when a city was in needed healing. Archaeology indicates that shrines flourished after a major outbreaks, plagues, army occupations, or rapid urbanization. Once established healing movements gained a foothold in the community and were a principle factor in attracting new converts.

After comparing the findings in the Greco-Roman, Judaic, and the Qumran communities Avalos indicated that ancient medical practice was complex. The polytheistic contexts gave the patient freedom to choose their own healing god, angels, or spirits. The various rituals, amulets, incantations, and healers made a "trip to the doctor" quite complicated. The patient had to travel to temples, which were usually located on a high hill, far away city, or dark side of town. The patient would also have to wait until certain seasons when the god would heal or the physician/priest was at the temple. Those who were sick needed healing to be restored to the community. They were outcasts and ritually "unclean" until healed and restored into the community. There were also physician/priest fees as well as religious offerings that could become expensive, in addition to travel expenses. Health care became a complex and lucrative business.

Christianity continued to thrive in this type of environment. Avalos indicated that, "healing can be a principle factor in attracting new converts who are desperate to relieve themselves of one of the most universal of human problems-illness" (3). Christianity's simplified form of health care was an attractive quality in the ancient world. It's strict monotheism gave only one way of healing-the almighty God. Patients did not have to participate in the complicated rituals and incantations common in polytheistic healing-faith was the main requirement. The traveling preachers and apostles were healing at all times, without pay, and made "house calls" (Luke 9:1-9). Christianity's emphasis on moral purity indicated a shift from physical to spiritual healing. The emphasis on outcasts was also an indication that early church health care was designed to bring all men and women to spiritual purity. Avalos claims that Christianity brought a simplified method of health care that was for all people in every city.

I think that this has a strong message for modern Christianity and health care. We have traditionally limited healing in the early church to indicating that God approved the message and messengers. Healing was strictly a sign rather than a ministry. Avalos' book indicates that healing was a method of outreach for the community and a, "principle factor in attracting new converts who are desperate to relieve themselves of one of the most universal of human problems-illness." I would say that healing was not only about power but also about ministry.

Do we have the power to heal today? In some ways no, in others yes. While the power to "lay hands on others," in order to heal them, may have ceased with the generation after the apostles (Acts 8:14-19) I think that the ministry of healing should still be a factor in the church's outreach to the community. First, our world has made health a complex issue. Health care is a multi-million dollar a year industry. Medicines, weight loss programs, therapists, trainers, doctors, and over the counter pharmaceuticals are regulars on our lists. Rising health care costs make routine visits or checkups a costly experience. A multiplicity of choices in medicines, physicians, or second opinions makes health choices confusing. Finding the best expert may involve a long flight, high medical costs, or extended stay in the hospital.

The complexity of health care has also created a community of outcasts. Having the correct body shape, size, or style has become a concern of advertisers, stores, health clubs, and now churches. Most over-the-counter medicines concern how we feel about ourselves. Cosmetics and dietary programs are also a multi-million dollar market. Those living with a difference of shape or lifestyle have become burdened with guilt, shame, and feelings of inferiority.

Ancient Christianity promoted a simple form of health care-faith in God and serving others. Shouldn't churches help people address these issues? Christianity is meant to simplify the concern about health, healing, and lifestyle. While the power of healing may not be present today (as it was in the early church) the ministry of healing should be. People today are concerned about health and illness-is the church? What do we do for those caught in a complex web of health? Do we make their lives more complicated or point them to faith in one God, one option? Do we add more stress or teach others to simplify their lives in Jesus? Since lifestyle factors lead to half of the deaths per year, does the church encourage others to practice preventative medicine? I have noticed that the most effective mission work that the church does in other countries consists of teaching people about hygiene and sterilizing their water. Do our weight loss, counseling, and senior care ministries attempt to draw in outcasts or create more? Are we more concerned with moral or physical purity? Have we emphasized prayer before the surgery or after the doctors "failed to get it all"?

I do not know all the answers to these questions but Avalos' book has reminded me that Christ came to simplify the lifestyle of those in a complex world.


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