Plato's Timaeus had a profound influence on the philosophical and medical discourses of medieval Islam. The dialogue's speculations on the creation of the cosmos and the human body have shaped the cosmologies and pathologies of writers such as ar-RÄzÄ« (d. c.925) and MÅ«sÄibn MaymÅ«n (d. 1204). While there is some suggestion from 11th century bio-bibliographic sources that Plato's Timaeus was translated into Arabic, very strong arguments have been put forward recently that the text was only available in Arabic through the exegetical treatments of Galen, Proclus and Plotinus (Arnzen forthcoming). This paper will emphasize one aspect of this transmission, that is Galen's synopsis of Plato's Timaeus. Galen synopsis of the Timaeus does not survive in Greek, but is preserved in a tenth-century Arabic translation produced by the Nestorian Christian á¸¤unaynibn Ê¾Isá¸¥Äq and his associates (Kraus and Walzer 1951; Ullmann 1970). The synopsis covers the entire dialogue, from the Atlantis myth (17a–27b) to the creation of woman and animals (91a–92c). The narrative structure of this work, however, differs considerably from the Platonic original, for Galen omits Timaeus' narrative breaks (34a–b; 45b–47e; 51e–52d;69a–d; 72d–73a) and thus presents his discourse as a continuous, linear account.
In this paper, I suggest that Galen's presentation of Timaeus' narrative facilitates the Arabic translator's adaptation of the dialogue into his own religious milieu. My argument demonstrates that Galen's narrative does not elaborate on the pre-cosmic period, and therefore gives the impression that all of creation seems to stem from the Demiurge. The synopsis portrays the Demiurge as a creator exnihilo, which corresponds with the representation of God in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although Galen firmly rejects the principle of creation exnihilo (UP11.14), I will argue here that the interpretation of the Demiurgeinhis synopsis of Timaeus appears compatible with Christian and Muslim belief. The aim of this paper is to draw attention to a work that had significant influence in transmitting the theories of the Timaeus into Arabic, and to show that its presentation of the divine ensured its successful reception.