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Re: [XTalk] Re: Apologetics/Wonder working

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  • Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis
    Michael, Thanks for directing me to those bits of bibliographic info. I was not aware of them, so thanks. My point was really this: I detected in the use of
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 23, 2002
      Thanks for directing me to those bits of bibliographic info. I was not aware of
      them, so thanks.
      My point was really this:
      I detected in the use of "peasant" and "folk" traditions re
      magic/miracle/exorcism certain unquestioned assumptions about the social location
      of such matters. (Indeed, that assumption seems to be quite well expressed in
      your last posting when you say "I am not aware of any peasant culture where magic
      is not practiced ...". My point is that I do not know of any clear evidence for
      such a social location for magic-miracle-exorcism traditions in Jesus' immediate
      first century world. And the evidence to which you refer us in your reply doesn't
      really alter my perception. The Kelsey web page doesn't - from a quick perusal -
      clearly evince the existence of "some jewish" amulets. I guess nos. 26 and 29
      might be Jewish but the others and everything else we know about the first
      century context makes me doubt they are Jewish in the sense which your social
      picture requires. Amulet nos. 48 in Kotansky is not directly available to me. But
      from the description you give from the review by Frankfurter it is far from clear
      whether it comes from a literate scribal, rabbinic, priestly or other class or
      from a "folk" or "peasant" context (Frankfurter speaks of rabbinic craftsman).
      And is this amulet Palestinian anyway? I cannot see any reference to the angels'
      teaching magic to women in T. Reuben ch. 5 - indeed T. Reuben is normally cited
      because it gives a very DIFFERENT explanation of the fall of the watchers to
      that in in 1 Enoch 6-10. And lumping together the Book of Watchers and a passage
      from the Babylonian talmud is hardly sound methodologically: they are separated
      by 800 years and belong to two quite different socio-religious contexts. The
      Jericho grave references are interesting - I was not aware of them - though again
      I would like to know a lot more before I took these as clear evidence of
      "folk/peasant" magical tradition. On teh other hand given teh amount of
      archaeology that has taken place in territory occupied by Jews in first century
      Palestine is it not a little surprising that we have not found more evidence of
      the folk religion which you suppose must have existed? Why are there not the
      amulets that one finds in Egypt or Syria, for example?
      It seems clear to me that when assessing the social location of Jewish
      "magic" (if that be the best term) in Jesus' own context we have to go with what
      we know not with what we think we ought to know. And what we know is that if
      there was any such thing it was the concern of the educated, the literate and
      those associated with established positions of power - e.g. the priestly Qumran
      community. (This priestly-Temple context I would argue, BTW, is the formative
      context of the whole Enochic tradition). It is not a coincidence that that the
      Jewish exorcists in Acts 19 are - it is claimed - of high prieslty lineage. I
      would grant that the account of Eleazar could be taken to reflect "folk" magic,
      but we really do not know anything of this man's social location within the
      Jewish community (do we?) and it is as likely that he is was a rabbi of some
      standing as anything else.
      All this relates to wider issues of the social location of Jesus (aside from
      the social location of his signs and wonders and exorcisms). And the lack of
      clear evidence for "folk/peasant" magical traditions probably has much to do with
      the fact that no such folk/peasant Judaism existed at the time of Jesus - the
      terms are fundamentally anachronistic.


      turton wrote:

      > >Dear all,
      > >Along with Eric Eve I am wondering what evidence there is for the
      > >existence of"peasant" or "folk" traditions of magic/healing/exorcism in
      > >the first century Jewish context. It has always struck me that talk
      > >of "peasant" and "folk" traditions in this context is anachronistic - at
      > >best a romanticisation of Jesus' context and at worst symptomatic of a
      > >patronising modernist imperialism (we really know that these things were
      > >just psychosomatic
      > The Kelsey museum of the University of Michigan maintains a collection of
      > aumlets from the first century on, mostly egyptian, some jewish, some
      > amalgamating Jewish and Egyptian religion:
      > The website is at:
      > http://www.lib.umich.edu/pap/magic/intro.html
      > See also:
      > Roy Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets: The Inscribed Gold, Silver, Copper,
      > and Bronze Lamellae. Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance.
      > Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994. Pp.
      > xxviii + 446. DM 128/SFr 128. ISBN 3-531-09936-1.
      > >From a review of the above at:
      > http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1995/95.04.12.html
      > "The manufacture of metal amulets involves their careful inscription and
      > insertion into a metal tube to be worn around the neck. Kotansky discovered
      > that the craftsmen would roll up the lamellae before inscribing them, to
      > produce grid-lines that facilitated the orderly writing of text (cf. ##18,
      > 32-33). The use of tubes for inscribed amulets must itself derive from
      > Jewish and Egyptian traditions: wooden tubes for the apotropaic "decrees"
      > of gods have been found in Late Period Egypt and both tefillin and mezuzot -
      > - select portions of holy scripture encased for ritual or protective
      > purposes -- seem to have been a staple of piety at Qumran by the early
      > Roman period. But the tradition took on new aspects as it spread through
      > the wider Roman world, and the precious metals that served as the amulets'
      > media were probably imbued with their own special power: one capsule found
      > in the Crimea contained both a silver and a gold lamella (##65-66).
      > Amulets from Jewish tradition show the particular influence of angel-names
      > as a standard of apotropaic power. The names appear inevitably in lists,
      > which are sometimes quite extensive and may point to a lively circulation
      > of texts behind them. While some lists are too brief and typical to assume
      > a literary source (the four archangels in #26, cf. #64), the complexity of
      > ##33 and 41 suggests a dependence upon angelological formularies
      > circulating in some form among the craftsmen (who may in this case be
      > rabbis). Through marshalling lists that parallel a long invocation of
      > angels of the cosmos (#52) Kotansky shows the manufacturer's certain
      > dependence upon a widely-circulating hierarchy. The proximity of the seven
      > archangels in #48 to those of the ancient Jewish apocalypse the Book of the
      > Watchers also makes a literary relationship quite certain. This important
      > text, part of the apocryphal 1 Enoch corpus, was known throughout ancient
      > Judaism and Christianity (notably to the author of Jude in the New
      > Testament). The date of this amulet in the first century BCE would make it
      > (or its source) important evidence of the early circulation of the Enoch
      > tradition."
      > >Bar Kochba's breathing of fire parallels closely the portrayal of the Son
      > >of Man figure in 4 Ezra 13 - hardly a text of mere folk tradition.
      > Nor did I say it was. I was simply listing some ofthe claims of various
      > forms of magic power that date from around that time. I took Rikki's
      > comments to mean that he thought there was something extremely unique about
      > Jesus.
      > Eric writes:
      > >BTW, when you say, "Why not look in the local peasant magic traditions
      > >where the miracles attributed to Jesus have ample antecedent?" what
      > >sources do you have in mind for the local peasant magic traditions? If
      > >there is any evidence for what such traditions were like in first-century
      > >Galilee, I'd be interested to know what it was (or are you referring to
      > >the possible reflection of such beliefs in the DSS you refer to?).
      > The OT, as I recall, contains several instances of it. The Book of Enoch
      > says that angels taught magic and witchcraft to women, and this is echoed
      > in the Testament of Reuben. The Rabinnical literature strongly links women
      > and witchcraft:
      > Berakhot 53a
      > "The Sages learned: "If a person was walking outside a town and smelled a
      > good smell; if the majority are heathens, he does not recite a blessing (on
      > the good smell). If the majority are Jews, he does recite the blessing". R.
      > Yose says, "Even if the majority are Jews he still does not recite the
      > blessing, because Jewish women offer incense to witchcraft"."
      > The Testament of Solomon attests to a tradition of alphabetical magic.
      > After a demon announces its powers, it then says that it can be blocked by
      > using the alphabet. Alphabetical inscriptions on graves are known from the
      > first century, for example, from Jericho. Although they could have several
      > functions, warding off evil seems to be a likely one.
      > In addition to Eleazar, in Acts Paul performs an exorcism by using Jesus'
      > Name. Solomon was popularly thought to have been given the power of
      > exorcising demons. Eleazar's trick is possible because the ring he uses to
      > draw out the demon has a root from Solomon's recipes in it. The implication
      > of Jesus' casting out demons is that it must have been a known and accepted
      > activity for at least some people. In Mark 9:38 someone is casting out
      > demons in Jesus' name, and the shocking part to the disciples is that he is
      > not one of them, not that he is casting out demons. Ditto for Acts 19:13-
      > 15, where there are some Jews who go around casting out demons, and decided
      > to use Jesus' name, instead of their usual tricks. Once again, the
      > implication is that such activities were considered to take place normally.
      > Mark also differentiates between various types of powers efficacious
      > against demons, as in Mark 9:29: "This kind can come out only by prayer."
      > The disciples in that passage are not shocked by their ability to drive out
      > demons, they are merely bummed because they couldn't handle that particular
      > one. Nor is the father astonished that anyone is claiming to handle demons,
      > he only reports that the disciples are ineffective against it (and that's
      > not a surprise either -- obviously some exorcisms must have failed).
      > There is a bibliography of Greco-Roman magic, with some works on Jewish
      > magic, online here:
      > http://faculty.washington.edu/snoegel/magicinthegrecoromanperiod.htm
      > I was only remarking that Rikki's suggestion that Jesus' must have emerged
      > from a Jewish-Hellenic background did not reflect all the possibilities,
      > and I merely brought up another.
      > Sure, it is entirely possible that Jesus was a folk healer. That's one
      > solution, out of several, to the HJ problem. Does evidence permit us to
      > choose among the possibilities? I think not.
      > I am not sure what Crispin's point is, and I think he has misinterpreted
      > mine. I did not mean by using "peasant" or "folk" to imply anything
      > negative about their magic traditions, merely to differentiate it from the
      > magic practiced by their more educated brethren. I am not aware of any
      > peasant culture where magic is not practiced, so I would be interested to
      > learn about some.
      > Michael Turton
      > Chaoyang University of Technology
      > Taichung, Taiwan
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