This article traverses the disciplines of ancient magic and early Jewish–Christian relations by focusing on and offering a new approach to Christian amulets and spells that utilize elements, which scholars have identified as “Jewish.” This paper challenges the contemporary scholarly practice of dividing the language on a given amulet or spell into the categories “Christian” and “Jewish” based solely on origins or idealized conceptions of Christianity and Judaism. Instead, it draws on insights from recent scholarship on exoticism, indigenization, and syncretism in order to demonstrate the various ways Christian practitioners approached divine names (e.g., Iaô, Sabaôth, or Adônai) and other elements that scholars have labeled “Jewish.” While some Christian practitioners treated elements, which were originally “Jewish,” as completely Christian, others seem to have capitalized on the “Jewish” exoticism of such elements. Moreover, this paper highlights Christian amulets and spells that include ostensibly “Jewish” idioms, but which also reflect language of religious differentiation between Christians and Jews. These cases acutely demonstrate that the very same practical conditions that promoted symbolic exchange across communal boundaries could also support religious differentiation. What is more, these artifacts reveal a disjunction between prevailing scholarly taxonomies of “Jewish” and “Christian” elements and ancient categories of religious difference in so-called “lived” contexts. This manifest disparity creates a hermeneutical barrier between scholar and ancient artifact. The article thus calls for greater attention to how – if at all – each artifact reflects the symbolic boundaries between Christians and Jews. We conclude that the burden of proof ought to fall on the shoulders of scholars who think that a given Christian practitioner utilized putatively “Jewish” elements as such.

Christian Magicians, Jewish Magical Idioms, and the Shared Magical Culture of Late Antiquity

Sanzo J. E.
2017

Abstract

This article traverses the disciplines of ancient magic and early Jewish–Christian relations by focusing on and offering a new approach to Christian amulets and spells that utilize elements, which scholars have identified as “Jewish.” This paper challenges the contemporary scholarly practice of dividing the language on a given amulet or spell into the categories “Christian” and “Jewish” based solely on origins or idealized conceptions of Christianity and Judaism. Instead, it draws on insights from recent scholarship on exoticism, indigenization, and syncretism in order to demonstrate the various ways Christian practitioners approached divine names (e.g., Iaô, Sabaôth, or Adônai) and other elements that scholars have labeled “Jewish.” While some Christian practitioners treated elements, which were originally “Jewish,” as completely Christian, others seem to have capitalized on the “Jewish” exoticism of such elements. Moreover, this paper highlights Christian amulets and spells that include ostensibly “Jewish” idioms, but which also reflect language of religious differentiation between Christians and Jews. These cases acutely demonstrate that the very same practical conditions that promoted symbolic exchange across communal boundaries could also support religious differentiation. What is more, these artifacts reveal a disjunction between prevailing scholarly taxonomies of “Jewish” and “Christian” elements and ancient categories of religious difference in so-called “lived” contexts. This manifest disparity creates a hermeneutical barrier between scholar and ancient artifact. The article thus calls for greater attention to how – if at all – each artifact reflects the symbolic boundaries between Christians and Jews. We conclude that the burden of proof ought to fall on the shoulders of scholars who think that a given Christian practitioner utilized putatively “Jewish” elements as such.
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Boustan&Sanzo_HTR_final.revised-1.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Documento in Pre-print
Licenza: Accesso gratuito (solo visione)
Dimensione 244.07 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
244.07 kB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in ARCA sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3725272
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 15
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 13
social impact