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The Affective Eye


Re-Examining a Biblical Idiom


In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Nicole Tilford1
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Scholars have debated whether the ancient Israelites believed in the evil eye. Biblical passages that mention a “bad eye” (Prov. 23:6; 28:22) or “to do bad with the eye” (Deut. 15:9; 28:54, 56) seem to suggest that such a belief existed in ancient Israel; however, some scholars have argued that such passages are simply idioms for greed or stinginess. This paper reexamines this issue. Drawing upon recent insights from cognitive linguistics, I argue that perception was commonly understood in ancient Israel as a means of positively and negatively affecting the environment and that it was this affective dimension of Israelite thought that prompted biblical writers to describe the character of an individual by his or her physical qualities.


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