New Book – A Disabled Apostle, Impairment and Disability in the Letters of Paul, by Isaac T. Soon, pub by Oxford University Press

  • Provides the first book of its kind—no one has analyzed Paul and disability with this much depth and breadth
  • Presents disabilities that have not been understood as disabilities before (circumcision, demonization), not least in relation to Paul
  • Offers scholarship relevant to contemporary issues about disability, accessibility, and ableism
  • Presents a significant new interpretation of Paul that will change the field
  • Suggests new ways of approaching the study of disability in ancient texts


Speculation around the health of Paul the Apostle has been present since soon after his death. Recently scholars have understood Paul to be disabled but have been wary of isolating precisely what his disabilities may have been or whether they are important for understanding his writings.

This book is the first full-length study of Paul the Apostle and disability. Using insights from contemporary disability studies, Isaac Soon analyses features of Paul’s body in his ancient Mediterranean context to understand the ways in which his body was disabled. Focusing on three such ancient disabilities—demonization, circumcision, and short stature—this book draws on a rich variety of ancient evidence, from textual sources and epigraphy, to ancient visual culture, to analyze ancient bodily ideals and the negative cultural effects such ‘deviant’ persons generated. The book also examines Paul’s use of his own disabilities in his letters and shows how disability is not subsidiary to his thought but a central aspect of it. This book also provides scholars with a new method for uncovering previously unrecognized disabilities in the ancient world. Last of all, it critiques the latent ableism in much New Testament scholarship, which assumes that the figures of the early Jesus movement were able-bodied.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Disorderly Figure
1:An Angel of Satan
2:The Demon Inside
3:Demons as Disability
4:God and the Disabling of Paul
5:A Bestial Glans
6:Circumcision as Disability
7:A Disabling Gospel
8:Pneumatic Circumcision
9:A Short Apostle
10:Short Stature as Disability
11:The Smallest of all Apostles
Epilogue: Recognising Unrecognised Disabilities

Author Information

Isaac T. Soon, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall University

Since 2021, Isaac T. Soon has been Assistant Professor of Religious Studies (New Testament) at Crandall University. He has degrees from the University of Oxford and Durham University. He has published peer-reviewed journal articles in the Journal for the Study of the PseudepigraphaEarly Christianity, the Journal for the Jesus Movement in its Jewish SettingVigiliae ChristianaeNovum TestamentumReligions, the Journal of Biblical Literature, and the Journal for the Study of Judaism.


More info on the editor’s website

Disability and Care in Western Europe during Medieval Times: A Bioarchaeological Perspective

  1. Disability and care in Western Europe during Medieval times: A bioarchaeological perspective

    March 2024
    Pages 119-125
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  2. Helping to shine light on the Dark Ages: Applying the bioarchaeology of care approach to remains from the early Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Worthy Park

    June 2023
    Pages 88-100
  3. Conceptualizing disabilities from antiquity to the middle ages: A historical-medical contribution

    March 2023
    Pages 41-47
  4. Caring for the sick in a medieval rural community: A study based on paleopathological and archaeological data from Medieval Rus’

    June 2022
    Pages 30-40
  5. On some paleopathological examples of amputation and the implications for healthcare in 13th-17th century Lithuania

    June 2022
    Pages 68-76
  6. Considering care: A traumatic obturator fracture dislocation of the hip in a middle-aged man from Gaelic Medieval Ballyhanna, Co. Donegal, Ireland

    September 2022
    Pages 115-122
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  7. Caring for the injured: Exploring the immediate and long-term consequences of injury in medieval Cambridge, England

    March 2023
    Pages 7-19
    View PDF
  8. Surviving (but not thriving) after cranial vault trauma: A case study from Transylvania

    September 2021
    Pages 122-129
  9. The unwritten history of medical treatment: Evidence for ritual-healers and their activities in the pre-literate past

    September 2021
    Pages 206-216
  10. The greatest health problem of the Middle Ages? Estimating the burden of disease in medieval England

    September 2021
    Pages 101-112
  11. 3D reappraisal of trepanations at St. Cosme priory between the 12th and the 15th centuries, France

    September 2021
    Pages 168-181
  12. Disability in a medieval village community: A unique case of facial dysmorphism

    December 2021
    Pages 22-28
  13. A possible case of paralysis in early modern Vilnius and the implications for social care

    March 2022
    Pages 14-23

New book – The Care of the Brain in Early Christianity, by Jessica L. Wright, pub. by University of California Press

About the Book

New book – Death and Disease in the Medieval and Early Modern World, Perspectives from across the Mediterranean and Beyond, Edited by Lori Jones and Nükhet Varlık for Boydell & Breyer


This collection highlights and nuances some of the recent critical advances in scholarship on death and disease, across and beyond the pre-modern Mediterranean world, Christian, Islamic and Jewish healing traditions.

Across and beyond the pre-modern Mediterranean world, Christian, Islamic and Jewish healing traditions shared inherited medical paradigms containing similar healthy living precepts and attitudes toward body, illness and mortality. Yet, as the chapters collected here demonstrate, customs of diagnosing, explaining and coping with disease and death often diverged with respect to knowledge and practice.
Offering a variety of disciplinary approaches to a broad selection of material emerging from England to the Persian Gulf, the volume reaches across conventional disciplinary and historiographical boundaries. Plague diagnoses in pre-Black Death Arabic medical texts, rare, illustrated phlebotomy instructions for plague patients, and a Jewish plague tract utilising the Torah as medicine reflect critical re-examinations of primary sources long thought to have nothing new to offer. Novel re-interpretations of Giovanni Villani’s “New Chronicle”, canonisation inquests and saints’ lives offer fresh considerations of medieval constructions of epidemics, disabilities, and the interplay between secular and spiritual healing. Cross-disciplinary perspectives recast late medieval post-mortem diagnoses in Milan as a juridical – rather than strictly medical – practice, highlight the aural performativity of the Franciscan deathbed liturgy, explore the long evolution of lapidary treatments for paediatric and obstetric diseases and thrust us into the Ottoman polychromatic sensory world of disease and death. Finally, considerations of the contributions of modern science alongside historical primary sources generates important new ways to understand death and disease in the past. Overall, the contributions juxtapose and interlace similarities and differences in their local and historical contexts, while highlighting and nuancing some of the recent critical advances in scholarship on death and disease – two historiographical subfields long approached separately.


Intersections: Disease and Death, Medicine and Religion, Medieval and Early Modern


1 Knowing the Signs of Disease: Plague in the Arabic Medical Commentaries between the First and Second Pandemics

2 The Legal Foundations of Post-Mortem Diagnosis in Later Medieval Milan

3 Epidemic Illness in the Last Book of Giovanni Villani’s New Chronicle, 1345-1348: Warfare, Sin and the Heavens

4 Colours of Disease and Death in the Early Modern Ottoman Cultural Imagination


5 The Role of Music in a Franciscan Liturgy for the End of Life, as Evidenced in Manuscript Newberry 24

6 Medical and Spiritual Healing of Death and Disease in Medieval Miracle Stories

7 Infirmity and Death-Wishes in Medieval French and Italian Canonisation Processes

8 Bubo Men? Repurposing Medieval Anatomic Illustrations for Plague Therapy in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

9 Psalm 38 as Plague Diagnostic and Prophylactic in Abraham Yagel’s Moshi’ah Ḥosim (1587)

10 The Protection of Innocents: Red Coral as a Lapidary Cure for the ‘Children’s Disease’ and Conditions Related to Childbirth in Medieval and Early Modern England


11 Leprosy in Medieval Europe: An Immunological and Syndemic Approach

12 Past Plagues: On the Synergies of Genetic and Historical Interpretations of Infectious Disease



Lori Jones is a medical historian at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her research focuses primarily on plague texts and images.

Nükhet Varlık is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark. Her research focuses on disease, death, medicine and public health in the Ottoman Empire.

New book – Illness, Pain, and Health Care in Early Christianity, by helen Rhee, pub. by Eerdmans 

Illness, Pain, and Health Care in Early Christianity

Helen Rhee 

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Eerdmans (October 22, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 367 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0802876846
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0802876843

In this wide-ranging interdisciplinary study, Helen Rhee examines how early Christians viewed illness, pain, and health care and how their perspective was influenced both by Judeo-Christian tradition and by the milieu of the larger ancient world. Throughout her analysis, Rhee places the history of medicine, Greco-Roman literature, and ancient philosophy in constructive dialogue with early Christian literature to elucidate early Christians’ understanding, appropriation, and reformulation of Roman and Byzantine conceptions of health and wholeness from the second through the sixth centuries CE.

Utilizing the contemporary field of medical anthropology, Rhee engages illness, pain, and health care as sociocultural matters. Through this and other methodologies, she explores the theological meanings attributed to illness and pain; the religious status of those suffering from these and other afflictions; and the methods, systems, and rituals that Christian individuals, churches, and monasteries devised to care for those who suffered. Rhee’s findings ultimately provide an illuminating glimpse into how Christians began forming a distinct identity—both as part of and apart from their Greco-Roman world.


Table of Contents

1. Health, Disease, and Illness in Greco-Roman Culture
2. Health, Disease, and Illness in the Bible and Early Christianity
3. Pain in Greco-Roman Culture and Early Christianity
4. Health Care in the Greco-Roman World
5. Health Care in Early Christianity


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