Cursing in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

in Vigiliae Christianae
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One of the most notable features of the so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas is its depiction of several punitive miracles, or curses, performed by the child Jesus. Previous scholarly treatments of the text have often dismissed these curses as merely another type of miracle, rather than as a special feature of IGT deserving of further study. This article examines the curses with an eye toward their distinctive qualities, and then seeks to find a match for the resulting paradigm in other literature, both Christian and non-Christian, from the ancient Mediterranean setting. A possible match is found in the cursing stories told of the ascetics of fourth-century Syria, as related by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Religious History.

Cursing in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

in Vigiliae Christianae



  • 7

    IrenaeusAgainst Heresies 1.20.1 (pg 7653-4).

  • 11

    S. Voicu“Verso il testo primitivo dei Παιδικὰ τοῦ Κυρίου ’Iησοῦ ‘Racconti dell’infanzia del Signore Gesù,’” Apocrypha 9 (1998) 7–9541-42. Cited in Burke De Infantia 6.

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  • 21

    BurkeDe Infantia268. See also Hock Infancy Gospels 96-97.

  • 23

    AasgaardChildhood of Jesus99-101. Aasgaard ultimately rejects the puer senex theory concluding that “Jesus is not only true God and true human he is true God and true child” (157).

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  • 25

    Cf. Gero“Infancy Gospel” 59-61; Hock Infancy Gospels 93; Burke De Infantia 278.

  • 29

    M. Smith“Prolegomena to a Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 902 (Jun. 1971) 174-199 184. The term “divine man” (θεῖος ἀνήρ) has been used often and widely to describe these figures; I avoid it here due to its ambiguity and thus its limited utility for this study. For a recent and helpful critical analysis of the concept see E. Koskenniemi “Apollonius of Tyana: A Typical θεῖος ἀνήρ?” Journal of Biblical Literature 1173 (1998) 455-467 456-460.

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  • 32

    PhilostratusLife of Apollonius 1.7 (lcl): Προϊὼν δὲ ἐς ἡλικιαν ἐν ᾗ γράµµατα µνήµης τε ἰσχὺν ἐδήλου καὶ µελέτης κράτος καὶ ἡ γλῶττα ᾿Αττικῶς εἰχεν οὐδ᾿ ἀπήχθη τὴν φωνὴν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἔθνους ὀφθαλµοί τε πάντες ἐς αὐτὸν ἐφέροντο καὶ γὰρ περίβλεπτος ἦν τὴν ὧραν.... τοὺς δέ γε Πυθαγορείους ἀρρήτῳ τινὶ σοφίᾳ ξυνέλαβε.

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  • 37

    M. DickieMagic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World (New York: Routledge2003) 16 notes that the earliest curse tablets were employed to silence one’s opponents in court though their use soon expanded to include curses aimed at prostitutes and their associates (81ff) and by the late Roman Empire also encompassed competitive athletes such as wrestlers and charioteers (282-8).

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  • 39

    BurkeDe Infantia279-280.

  • 40

    Ibid.276-277. For more on Hanina ben Dosa see G. Vermes Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (London. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1973) 72-80). On Honi see ibid. 69-72; J. Goldin “On Honi the Circle-Maker: A Demanding Prayer” Harvard Theological Review 563 (July 1963) 233-7.

  • 42

    BurkeDe Infantia279.

  • 47

    P. Brown“The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971) 80-10183.

  • 48


  • 50

    TheodoretReligious History2.21 6.2 8.11.

  • 51

    For a chronological list see PriceHistoryxvi-xvii.

  • 53

    TheodoretReligious History 1.4.16-19. Translations of Theodoret’s Religious History follow those of Price History.

  • 54


  • 55

    TheodoretReligious History1.5.4-11.

  • 56

    Ibid.1.5.2-3. For an analysis of Theodoret’s use of biblical typologies in the Religious History see D. Krueger “Typological Figuration in Theodoret of Cyrrhus’s Religious History and the Art of Postbiblical Narrative” Journal of Early Christian Studies 513 (Fall 1997) 393-419.

  • 57

    TheodoretReligious History1.6.13-14.

  • 58


  • 59


  • 60

    TheodoretReligious History8.9.6 8.10.1-2.

  • 61


  • 63

    TheodoretReligious History7.3.

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