Original Research

Galen and his treatise on grief

John T. Fitzgerald
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 50, No 2 | a2056 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v50i2.2056 | © 2016 John T. Fitzgerald | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 November 2015 | Published: 25 August 2016

About the author(s)

John T. Fitzgerald, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, United States and Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Throughout his career, Fika Janse van Rensburg has rightly insisted on the importance of the socio-historical context in interpreting early Christian literature. Although New Testament scholars have given careful attention to many aspects of this context, they have generally neglected writings by physicians. This neglect includes the numerous works of the philosopher-physician Galen (129-ca. 216 or 217 CE), who was one of the Roman Empire’s most prolific writers. As a corrective, this article focuses on Galen, with attention given to his life and to a recently discovered treatise on distress or grief (lype¯), known as De indolentia [Avoiding Distress or On Freedom from Distress]. Galen discusses grief from both a physiological and philosophical perspective, and his treatment of this emotion and common human experience provides an important context for the statements about lype¯ found in the New Testament and other early Christian documents.


Galen; distress; grief; De indolentia


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