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.
M. Smith“Prolegomena to a Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus,”Journal of Biblical Literature902 (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.
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).
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.
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.