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The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy
Jewish and Christian Physicians in Search of Truth


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  • Date Published: November 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107065543

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About the Authors
  • The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy explores the reciprocal relationship between biblical interpretation and natural philosophy in sixteenth-century Italy. The book augments our knowledge of the manifold applications of medical expertise in the Renaissance and of the multiple ways in which the Bible was read by educated people who lacked theological training. Andrew D. Berns demonstrates that many physicians in sixteenth-century Italy, Jewish and Christian alike, took a keen interest in the Bible and post-biblical religious literature. Berns identifies the intellectual tools that Renaissance doctors and natural philosophers brought to bear on their analysis of the Bible and assesses how their education and professional experience helped them acquire, develop, and use those tools. The Bible and Natural Philosophy in Renaissance Italy argues that the changing nature of medical culture in the Renaissance inspired physicians to approach the Bible not only as a divine work but also as a historical and scientific text.

    • Addresses three principal audiences: historians of Renaissance intellectual history, historians of science and medicine in pre-modern Europe, and specialists in early modern Jewish thought and culture
    • Based on previously unstudied manuscripts from European libraries and archives
    • Offers new interpretations of early modern printed sources, including medical works, letters, antiquarian treatises, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and commentaries on the Bible and other classic texts
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    • Winner, 2016 Howard R. Marraro Prize, American Catholic Historical Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a fascinating book for all who are working on the intellectual cultures of late sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century Italy … By drawing mostly on hitherto unexamined and very rare texts, Berns unearths amazing new evidence for a vivid interconfessional exchange between Jewish and Christian doctors in Northern Italy … Berns displays an impressive erudition in his command of vernacular Italian, Latin, and Hebrew sources, many of which have remained in manuscript. …Berns also demonstrates an enviable knowledge of the relevant scholarly literature.' Sergius Kodera, Renaissance Quarterly

    'Berns's work represents an excellent paradigm of intellectual inquiry in the field of the history of ideas. This volume is a precious tool for better understanding the scholarly relationships between Italian Jews and Christians at the beginning of the modern era.' Fabrizio Lelli, Association for Jewish Studies Review

    'Drawing on a large number of primary sources in Latin, Italian, and Hebrew - many of them still in manuscript and most underinvestigated if not entirely neglected - Berns presents an illuminating series of case studies. These illustrate how the methods developed by sixteenth-century naturalists - critical scrutiny of ancient scientific texts like Pliny's Natural History, empirical observation, and reliance on the practical know-how of contemporary artisans - were applied to the interpretation of certain puzzling natural phenomena found in the Hebrew Bible. Berns guides us expertly through the exegesis performed by his select group of Jewish and Christian scholars on a range of classical, biblical, Talmudic, and later rabbinic texts.' Jill Kraye, Isis

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107065543
    • length: 309 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. 'This is what King David meant': Amatus Lusitanus and Ulisse Aldrovandi on the natural science of scripture
    2. Pliny, papyrus, and the Bible
    3. 'The grandeur of the science of God': David de' Pomi and the stones of the high priest's breastplate
    4. Jewish-Christian relations in late Renaissance Italy: Abraham Portaleone's correspondence with his gentile colleagues
    5. 'I seek the truth from whomever pronounces it': Abraham Portaleone (1542–1612) and ancient Israelite incense.

  • Author

    Andrew D. Berns, University of South Carolina
    Andrew D. Berns is Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Carolina.


    • Winner, 2016 Howard R. Marraro Prize, American Catholic Historical Association

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