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Ancient Jewish Magic
A History


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  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521180986

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About the Authors
  • Gideon Bohak gives a pioneering account of the broad history of ancient Jewish magic, from the Second Temple to the rabbinic period. It is based both on ancient magicians' own compositions and products in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, and on the descriptions and prescriptions of non-magicians, to reconstruct a historical picture that is as balanced and nuanced as possible. The main focus is on the cultural make-up of ancient Jewish magic, and special attention is paid to the processes of cross-cultural contacts and borrowings between Jews and non-Jews, as well as to inner-Jewish creativity. Other major issues explored include the place of magic within Jewish society, contemporary Jewish attitudes to magic, and the identity of its practitioners. Throughout, the book seeks to explain the methodological underpinnings of all sound research in this demanding field, and to highlight areas where further research is likely to prove fruitful.

    • Was the first scholarly history of ancient Jewish magic
    • An accessible account which assumes no prior knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek and only a general acquaintance with ancient Judaism
    • Utilises numerous ancient and medieval sources, and much research
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    • Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… this is a lively, exhaustively researched, theoretically mature, and always informative book. It should certainly be required reading of anyone delving into the question of magic in earliest Christianity or the status of the rabbi.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    '… some interesting conclusions are drawn … it is a significant contribution that all specialists in ancient magic should read.' Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

    'This volume has much to teach us about that subject and the cultural history of Judaism.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'Gideon Bohak's Ancient Jewish Magic … provides a comprehensive survey of virtually every aspect of Jewish magic in antiquity; its breadth is encyclopedic and its discussions richly informative. It provides the most up-to-date single resource for the study of ancient Jewish magic and will serve as an excellent tool and starting point for those who wish to undertake research in this field. Specialists will find much with which they are already familiar, along with stimulating discussions and new insights.' AJS Review

    'A pioneering work to be commended for its attention both to detail and the broader picture.' International Review of Biblical Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521180986
    • length: 494 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.77kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    1. Jewish magic: a contradiction in terms?
    2. Jewish magic in the Second Temple period
    3. Jewish magic in late antiquity - the 'insider' evidence
    4. Non-Jewish elements in late antique Jewish magic
    5. How 'Jewish' was ancient Jewish magic?
    6. Magic and magicians in rabbinic literature

  • Author

    Gideon Bohak, Tel-Aviv University
    Gideon Bohak teaches in the Department of Jewish Culture, Tel-Aviv University. He is author of Joseph and Aseneth and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis (1996).


    • Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009

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