Thursday 22 January 2009

Magic in the Biblical World: From the Rod of Aaron to the Ring of Solomon Edited by Todd Kultz

I found this great review of a scholarly look at all the magical shenanigans in the Bible. There are a lot of divinations and wonder workings for a document that forbids magic so harshly. Joseph practices oneiromancy, the divination of dreams, and he's the hero, so its not forbidden. Moses has a wizard battle with the Pharoah's wizard's and works the same wonders as the Egyptian magicians. Jesus does some faith healing, some necromancy (raising the dead), and goes on to perform the multiplying fishes and loaves, then closes with the classic water to wine trick. Then he turns to the camera and says "all that I have done, you shall do, and more!". There are many schools of Jewish and Christian Occultism such as the Rosicrucians.
The five page article is here:  FindArticles - Magic and the Bible reconsidered Judaism, Summer-Fall, 2005, by Alex Jassen
Here's a nice passage that sums things up:
"Deuteronomy 18:9-14, with its outright condemnation of magic, divination, and necromancy, often serves as the starting point for the study of magic in the Hebrew Bible and in later Judaism and Christianity. The Deuteronomic prohibition of magic and all associated phenomena, however, does not attempt to define any of these magical acts. Later biblical texts are equally inconsistent in their understanding of what exactly falls under the rubric of Deuteronomy's prohibited magic. For example, 1 Samuel 28 narrates how Saul solicits the aid of a necromancer in order to consult the now dead Samuel. In presenting the actions of the necromancer, the text clearly identifies her behavior as a flagrant violation of the Deuteronomic strictures. At the same time, the stories of Elijah and Elisha are replete with examples of many wondrous deeds that could easily be classified as magical phenomena. For example, Elijah and Elisha raise people from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; cf. 2 Kings 13:20-21), foretell the future through the use of signs (2 Kings 13:14-19), and perform other supernatural acts (1 Kings 17:7-16). Never, however, are Elijah and Elisha condemned as soothsayers nor is their behavior classified as a violation of Deuteronomy."
"D. Marguerat's study on "Magic and Miracle in the Acts of the Apostles" demonstrates how Luke (the putative author of Acts) was very aware of the sociologically dictated distinction between magic and miracle. In the Roman world, Marguerat observes, supernatural healing was often viewed as magical phenomena. Seeking to ensure that his audience recognizes apostolic healing as a divinely inspired miracle, Luke carefully structures healing narratives such that any confusion is quickly dissolved by the clarifying apostolic word. This stands in contrast to the apostolic opponents who are consistently identified as magicians (see Acts 8:9-13, 18-24; 13:6-12)."

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

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