My Lots are in Thy Hands: Sortilege and its Practitioners in Late Antiquity


Sortilege—the making of decisions by casting lots—was widely practiced in the Mediterranean world during the period known as late antiquity, between the third and eighth centuries CE. In My Lots are in Thy Hands: Sortilege and its Practitioners in Late Antiquity, AnneMarie Luijendijk and William Klingshirn have collected fourteen essays that examine late antique lot divination, especially but not exclusively through texts preserved in Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac. Employing the overlapping perspectives of religious studies, classics, anthropology, economics, and history, contributors study a variety of topics, including the hermeneutics and operations of divinatory texts, the importance of diviners and their instruments, and the place of faith and doubt in the search for hidden order in a seemingly random world.

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AnneMarie Luijendijk, ThD (2005), Harvard University, is Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She researches early Christianity and late antique manuscript culture. Her publications include a new Coptic divinatory text: Forbidden Oracles: The Gospel of the Lots of Mary.

William Klingshirn, Ph.D. (1985), Stanford University, is Professor of Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America. He has published numerous articles on divination in the Mediterranean world and is currently writing a book on diviners in late antiquity.

Contributors are: Jeff Childers, Salvatore Costanza, David Frankfurter, William E. Klingshirn, Alexander Kocar, AnneMarie Luijendijk, Michael Meerson, Franziska Naether, Laura S. Nasrallah, David M. Ratzan, Randall Stewart, Pieter W. van der Horst, Kevin W. Wilkinson
"The present volume with contributions from well-established scholars of the field is a timely addition to the scholarship of sortition in late antiquity and middle ages and a valuable instrument for further research." - Florin Filimon, University of Münster, in: The Byzantine Review 2019.009
"The volume offers several important correctives to prevailing scholarly biases about sortes, especially their relationship to late antique Christianity (...) the editors ought to be congratulated for producing an excellent volume that will certainly serve as an essential guide for future scholarship on late antique sortilege and its practitioners." - Joseph E. Sanzo, University of Warwick, in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review, September 2019
"En conclusion, ce volume collectif présente habilement les différentes facettes de la divination par le sort." - Fabio Spadini, in: Kernos 32, 2019
"This volume offers a necessary and helpful roadmap for the study of sortilege in late antiquity. (...) It compiles ancient lot texts and bibliography and addresses the subfield’s status quaestionis from various angles." - Carson Bay, in: Review of Biblical Literature 12, 2020
List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

1 The Literature of Lot Divination
AnneMarie Luijendijk and William E. Klingshirn

2 The Instruments of Lot Divination
William E. Klingshirn

3 Fateful Spasms: Palmomancy and Late Antique Lot Divination
Salvatore Costanza

4 Hermēneiai in Manuscripts of John’s Gospel: an Aid to Bibliomancy
Kevin Wilkinson

5 Hermeneutics and Magic: a Unique Syriac Biblical Manuscript as an Oracle of Interpretation
Jeff W. Childers

6 Secondhand Homer
Michael Meerson

7 Sortes Biblicae Judaicae
Pieter W. van der Horst

8 The Sortes Barberinianae within the Tradition of Oracular Texts
Randall Stewart

9 Oxyrhynchus and Oracles in Late Antiquity
Alexander Kocar

10 Sortes, Scribality, and Syncretism: Ritual Experts and the Great Tradition in Byzantine Egypt
David Frankfurter

11 Sortilege between Divine Ordeals and “Secular” Justice: Aspects of Jurisdiction in (Ritual) Texts from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
Franziska Naether

12 Freakonomika: Oracle as Economic Indicator in Roman Egypt
David M. Ratzan

13 “I Do Not Wish to Be Rich”: The ‘Barbarian’ Christian Tatian Responds to Sortes
Laura Salah Nasrallah

14 “Only Do Not Be of Two Minds”: Doubt in Christian Lot Divination
AnneMarie Luijendijk

Scholars and students interested in divination, late antiquity, religion, classics, papyrology, and manuscripts.
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