Yeghishe on Medicine

This excerpt (of Ghewond's response to Tenshapur) is from my translation of Volume 2 of Yeghishe's History (forthcoming):

“But your scorning and condemning of doctors regarding their inability to find a cure for me is not surprising. For they are also men. There are illnesses for which they find cures, and those that evade their treatments—for we are all mortals, both those who treat and those who are treated. I wish that you, too, would take likeness to the medical profession, for the truth of their healing is not minor. Because when they see that someone has fallen ill, they do not delay in going to him; rather, they hasten to find a way to heal him. Especially if one of the king’s friends in the court becomes ill, and the doctor arrives at the great courtyard, and sees the crowd of dignitaries and the healthy, attractive youngsters, and then in the hall of the court, sees the marvelous and wonderful sight of all the servants, he is not at all astonished at that splendid sight. And when the bedframe where the patient is placed is jeweled and entirely in gold, he does not pay it any mind; rather, he commands that the gold-threaded covers be removed, puts his hand beneath, and examines the entire body to see whether it is feverish, whether the heart is beating calmly in its place, whether the liver is tender, and whether the circulation of blood through the veins is normal; and he conducts treatment accordingly, blessing his patient with the gift of recovery.


“Now if human medicine thus knows how to scorn everything in service of carrying out its job of healing, how much more fitting is it for you, who have the whole country under your great dominion, to first take care of curing your souls of all the faulty aberrations of this world, having everyone already physically subjected to you. And now, since you have grown ignorant, you have subjected your immortal souls to death in the unquenchable fires of Gehenna, and afflicted your bodies with the morbidity of illness whether you wished to or not; yet you reproach us for our physical illnesses, which are not from our own will, but which come upon people according to the nature of each one’s body […].”

The second paragraph, invoking the king as a spiritual doctor with the capacity to help save the souls of his subjects, is similar to the following excerpt from Book 1 of The History of the Aghuans (translated by Robert Bedrosian):

“The pious king Vach’agan considered all of this and sanctified and cleansed himself in the virtue of true faith by converting to the true God. He also became the physician to many other lands by converting them to the God of all, Jesus Christ. [Vach’agan] freed them from the bitter service to Satan. For in truth, the wisest among doctors and the most skilled in medicine is the doctor who—when his own body is afflicted with terrible wounds—is able to restore his own health through medicinal herbs. Using the same drugs, he can also bring others who are suffering quickly back to health. It is the same for a sinner who sincerely turns to God and receives the drugs of repentance. The health of his soul may, with the same beneficial drug of confession and repentance, become the healer and restorer of the souls of others and the one who makes their bodies immortal, by converting them completely to the holy and pure Christian religion.”


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