1st Edition

Treating the Body in Medicine and Religion
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Perspectives

ISBN 9781138484856
Published May 29, 2019 by Routledge
264 Pages

USD $160.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Modern medicine has produced many wonderful technological breakthroughs that have extended the limits of the frail human body. However, much of the focus of this medical research has been on the physical, often reducing the human being to a biological machine to be examined, understood, and controlled. This book begins by asking whether the modern medical milieu has overly objectified the body, unwittingly or not, and whether current studies in bioethics are up to the task of restoring a fuller understanding of the human person. In response, various authors here suggest that a more theological/religious approach would be helpful, or perhaps even necessary.

Presenting specific perspectives from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the book is divided into three parts: "Understanding the Body," "Respecting the Body," and "The Body at the End of Life." A panel of expert contributors—including philosophers, physicians, and theologians and scholars of religion— answer key questions such as: What is the relationship between body and soul? What are our obligations toward human bodies? How should medicine respond to suffering and death? The resulting text is an interdisciplinary treatise on how medicine can best function in our societies.

Offering a new way to approach the medical humanities, this book will be of keen interest to any scholars with an interest in contemporary religious perspectives on medicine and the body.

Table of Contents


Jeffrey P. Bishop


John J. Fitzgerald and Ashley John Moyse

Prologue: Which Medicine? Whose Religion?

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr.


PART I: Understanding the Body

1 Responsibility for the Broken Body: Exploring the Invitation to Respond to the Presence of the Other

Ashley John Moyse

2 Embodied Soul and Ensouled Body: Reflections on Ravaisson and Theological Methodology

Matthew S. Vest

3 Judaism on the Body and the Practice of Medicine

Elliot N. Dorff

4 "The Believer is Never Impure": Islam and Understanding the Embodied Person

Ingrid Mattson


PART II: Respecting the Body

5 Reverence for the Body: An Ethical Principle Grounded in Human Experience

Jacek L. Mostwin

6 Healthy Legacies? Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas on Caring for Others and Ourselves

John J. Fitzgerald

7 Islam, Medicine, and Practice: The Manifestation of Islamic Moral Values in Everyday Aspects of the U.S. Health Care System

Cortney Hughes Rinker

8 A Shared Common Good: Catholic and Muslim Bioethical Approaches to HIV/AIDS in Kenya

Timothy Carey


PART III: The Body at the End of Life

9 In the Land of Pain: Why Daudet and Hitchens Are Still Relevant

Susan E. Zinner

10 Suffering, Death, and the Significance of Presence

Autumn Alcott Ridenour

11 The Dead Body as an Object of Investigation, Intrigue, and Reverence

D. Gareth Jones

12 Defining Death in the Context of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives

Noam Stadlan

View More



John J. Fitzgerald is Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John’s University, USA. He specializes in ethics, with particular attention to fundamental and health care issues. He has published one other book, The Seductiveness of Virtue: Abraham Joshua Heschel and John Paul II on Morality and Personal Fulfillment (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017), and written multiple articles on ethics and religion in academic journals.

Ashley John Moyse is McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics and Public Life at Christ Church, University of Oxford, UK. His research is located at the intersection of theological and philosophical ethics, with particular interest in bioethics and medical humanities. His research has been presented and published internationally, including his book Reading Karl Barth, Interrupting Moral Technique, Transforming Biomedical Ethics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Featured Author Profiles

Author - John J. Fitzgerald

John J. Fitzgerald

Associate Professor, St. John's University
Queens, NY, 11439

Learn more about John J. Fitzgerald »


‘Beginning with an unforgettable essay by the immortal Tris Engelhardt, this collection gets down to the serious business of reckoning with the fact that humans are bodies. That plain fact turns out to be the elephant in the room of contemporary bioethics. Bioethicists studiously ignore the elephant, not least because our embodiment exposes the tragic limits of secular liberal assumptions about morality, freedom, and human flourishing. In these wide-ranging essays, the reader will encounter new vistas of moral reasoning that open up when we venture beyond such limits to take the body seriously.’ – Farr Curlin, MD, Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities, Duke University, USA

‘This volume—which boasts an impressive and ideologically diverse array of thinkers from across religious traditions—is much needed. Its pages contain precisely the kind of accumulated wisdom required to think through the discipline’s current puzzle.’ – Charles C. Camosy, Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, Fordham University, USA

‘This volume takes us on a rare religious/cultural journey in the context of Abrahamic traditions to help us appreciate our role of stewardship. In a somewhat agnostic culture of medical practice in healthcare institutions around the world, the book fulfills a critical need by developing a theology of gratitude and spirituality that can better serve humanity’s needs.’ – Abdulaziz Sachedina, Endowed IIIT Professor of Islamic Studies, George Mason University, USA

Treating the Body in Medicine and Religion admirably demonstrates how thinking about bodily existence can be both challenging and exciting. Composed by a vast range of experts, this collection of essays dives deep into medical, philosophical, literary, and cultural deliberations on what bodies are and how they are valued--and shows that many of those perspectives can be enriched, immeasurably, by taking religion and religions seriously.  Bodies live and die not just in some hygienic clinic but also in larger, dynamic, religiously-infused and -enthused contexts. This volume helps us appreciate that fact.’ – Jonathan K. Crane, Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in Bioethics and Jewish Thought, Emory University Center for Ethics, USA

‘This book is a timely one, in that it is poised to make a highly significant contribution to current debates in medical ethics. It is adventurous on two grounds. First, it challenges the common assumption that secular Western approaches to bioethics are sufficient. Secondly, it refuses to accept that only a specific Christian denominational approach has significant value. This richly rewarding book by a very diverse range of scholars will be invaluable not just for medical ethicists who have only a vague notion that something to do with spirituality is likely to be important, but also for theologians.’ – Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing, University of Notre Dame, USA