On the Various Faces of Hebrew Physiognomy as a Prognostic Art in the Middle Ages

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This essay aims to refine our understanding of the place and character of physiognomy in the world of Medieval Hebrew knowledge. It starts with a survey of sources, primary and secondary, which suggest that Greco-Roman learned physiognomy became increasingly non-mantic and was thought to be largely detached from the divinatory arts and practices. It then moves on to look at the long story of the pre-modern Hebrew physiognomic tradition, which has been systematically analysed as part of the divinatory arts and practices. Finally, it looks briefly at three textual foci: the codicological evidence, which suggests a clear link between physiognomic manuals and practical texts of medical prognosis among Medieval Jewry; the integration of physiognomic knowledge into literature, which suggests its more general integration into broader spheres of life as early as the second half of the twelfth century; and the infiltration of physiognomic thinking into encyclopedias in the fourteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnveiling the Hidden – Anticipating the Future
Subtitle of host publicationDivinatory Practices among Jews between Qumran and the Modern Period
EditorsJ. Rodríguez Arribas, D. Gieseler Greenbaum
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9789004445703
StatePublished - 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'On the Various Faces of Hebrew Physiognomy as a Prognostic Art in the Middle Ages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this