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Rufus of Samaria

RUFUS OF SAMARIA (c. 100 C.E.), earliest Jewish physician and writer on medicine whose name has been preserved. Recent studies indicate that Rufus was the first Jew to write commentaries in Greek on the works of Hippocrates. According to the German scholar Pfaff, Rufus of Samaria was a learned and wealthy Jewish physician who emigrated to Rome from Samaria. It is possible that he changed his original Hebrew name to the Latin name Rufus because of its similarity in sound to rofe, the Hebrew word for physician. He learned Greek, wrote medical books in that language, and collected an extensive library of commentaries on Hippocrates, to which he added several of his own. Although *Josephus mentions several contemporaries named Rufus, it is not possible to identify the physician Rufus with any of them. The second-century Greek physician *Galen was careful to distinguish between Rufus of Samaria and his contemporary, the better known Rufus of Ephesus. That Rufus of Samaria was an eminent medical authority is clear from the fact that Galen mentions him in such detail, although the latter was no great friend of the Jews. Galen maintained that whereas Jews (including Rufus) "believed," he (Galen) was "convinced." And, although Galen used Rufus' writings as source material, he felt that Rufus as a Jew, was incapable of appreciating the spirit of the Greek Hippocrates and was therefore unable to produce appropriate commentaries.


R. Walzer, Galen on Jews and Christians (1949), 9, 17, 80; E. Pfaff, in: Hermes, 67 (1932), 356ff.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.