Stars and Spirits: Heavenly Bodies in Ancient Jewish Aramaic Tradition

in Aramaic Studies
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This study treats the theme of divine judgement as mediated by heavenly beings, the ‘Watchers’ and the members of the heavenly court in the Aramaic Jewish tradition (Dan. 4, 7.1; En. 14), who are imagined as heavenly bodies and spirits, mediators between the human and heavenly worlds. This tradition is founded upon Mesopotamian scholarly lore. In the Hebrew apocalypse of Dan. 10–12, written in Hellenistic times, a new term, śār, appears, which similarly designates the spirit of a star. These spirits and mediators have a direct role in influencing and determining the fate of territories and kingdoms. The idea of zodiacal spirits is apparent in the physiognomic texts that were found in Qumran.

Stars and Spirits: Heavenly Bodies in Ancient Jewish Aramaic Tradition

in Aramaic Studies




EusebiusPraep. Ev. 29.4–5 in Carl R. Holladay Fragments from Hellenistic Authors Vol. 2: Poets (Atlanta: Scholars Press 1989) pp. 362–363. See also Kristine J. Ruffatto ‘Polemics with Enochic Traditions in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian’ JSP 15 (2006) 195–210. Cf. Mt. 19.28 where the apostles are promised that they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


Uehlinger and Müller Trufaut‘Ezekiel 1’ pp. 164–165 reveal the close relationship between certain texts in the book of Ezekiel and various works of cuneiform literature as the Poem of Erra the Underworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince the Šurpu series of magical incantations and other compositions of mystical and cultic explanatory works.


E. ReinerAstral Magic in Babylonia (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 85:4, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society1995) pp. 15–16.


ReinerAstral Magic in Babylonia pp. 68–73.


F. RochbergIn the Path of the Moon. Babylonian Celestial Divination and its Legacy (Ancient Magic and Divination, 6, Leiden: Brill2010) pp. 21–23.


I. Fröhlich‘The Figures of the Watchers in the Enochic Tradition (1–3 Enoch)’Henoch 33 (2011) pp. 6–26.


RochbergIn the Path of the Moon p. 35. On the Mesopotamian influence on Hellenistic astral science and its transmission see F. Rochberg ‘The Hellenistic Transmission of Babylonian Astral Sciences’ Mélanges de l’ Université Saint-JosephLXI (2008) pp. 13–32. On planets and planetary spirits in Hellenistic astral science see H.G. Gundel Weltbild und Astrologie in den griechischen Zauberpapyri (München: Beck 1968) pp. 41–52.


PopovićReading the Human Body pp. 172–208 (Chapter IV ‘ “There is a Spirit for Him …”: Human or Zodiacal Spirits in 4QZodiacal Physiognomy [4Q186]’).

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