Proverb of the Week: Physician heal thyself

This is more a taunt than a proverb, and reminds us that throughout history, patients have taken comfort in the physical misfortunes of their doctors. Sayings of this kind are recorded in most civilisations and are especially well attested in ancient Greece. The first century evangelist Luke, who was undoubtedly an educated Greek and possibly a physician, has Jesus quote it as a well-known proverb (Luke 4;23) when he tries to explain why he can achieve miracles in Capernaum but not in his home town of Nazareth. The townsfolk of Nazareth, recognising him as the son of Joseph the carpenter, will have none of it and chase him out of town – so proving his point that it is faith which accomplishes miracles, and that you can’t have faith in somebody you knew in short trousers.

The great Jewish scholar Geza Vermes points out that though there was a similar Aramaic rabbinical saying extant at the time of Jesus, “Physician, physician, heal thy lameness!