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Prayer in the Ancient World (PAW) is an innovative resource on prayer in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. The over 350 entries in PAW showcase a robust selection of the range of different types of prayers attested from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, the Levant, early Judaism and Christianity, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and Iran, enhanced by critical commentary.
The project illustrates the variety of ways human beings have sought to communicate with or influence beings with extraordinary superhuman power for millennia. By including diverse examples such as vows and oaths, blessings, curses, incantations, graffiti, iconography, and more, PAW casts a wide net. In so doing, PAW privileges no particular tradition or conception of how to interact with the divine; for example, the project refuses to perpetuate a value distinction between “prayer,” “magic,” and “cursing.”

Detailed overviews introduce each area and address key issues such as language and terminology, geographical distribution, materiality, orality, phenomenology of prayer, prayer and magic, blessings and curses, and ritual settings and ritual actors. In order to be as comprehensive as practically possible, the volume includes a representative prayer of every attested type from each tradition.

Individual entries include a wealth of information. Each begins with a list of essential details, including the source, region, date, occasion, type and function, performers, and materiality of the prayer. Next, after a concise summary and a brief synopsis of the main textual witnesses, a formal description calls attention to the exemplar’s literary and stylistic features, rhetorical structure, important motifs, and terminology. The occasions when the prayer was used and its function are analyzed, followed by a discussion of how this exemplar fits within the range of variation of this type of prayer practice, both synchronically and diachronically. Important features of the prayer relevant for cross-cultural comparison are foregrounded in the subsequent section. Following an up-to-date translation, a concise yet detailed commentary provides explanations necessary for understanding the prayer and its function. Finally, each entry concludes with a bibliography of essential primary and secondary resources for further study.

Abstract

In this article, the author challenges the consensus surrounding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. This consensus claims the Bethlehem birth was a fabrication posited as messianic fulfilment of Micah 5.2. First, the author summarises the majority position on the issue. Second, the author problematises the notion that there was an expectation regarding Bethlehem as messianic birthplace. Third, the author claims the available evidence might equally suggest Jesus was born in Bethlehem, with Micah 5.2 reinterpreted in light of this. As such, the author calls for renewed discussion about Jesus’ birthplace, and the nature of scholarly argumentation surrounding the issue.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

The film Mary Magdalene (2018) has been praised for its focus on one of Jesus’ most overlooked followers. But the film includes subtly negative depictions of Jewishness as well as problematic depictions of Black characters. Despite the film’s stated attempts to reflect first-century contexts, cinematic decisions reinforce harmful stereotypes about Judaism and about Black men. Viewing the film in light of historical Christian-feminist anti-Judaism on the one hand, and on the other, the figure of the ‘Karen’, a white woman who polices the presence and behaviour of Black people, this article investigates the ways in which Mary Magdalene is characterized in line with white feminism, and as such, the ways in which this white Mary is weaponized against Jews and Black people.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author:

This essay responds to the four essays concerning the portrays of Mary Magdalene in film and television for the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus.

Open Access
In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Abstract

This article examines the source material that gave rise to the notion that Jesus befriended sex workers. It considers the first and century evidence. It turns then to medieval fiction for the source of this misunderstanding.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author:

Abstract

This response essay responds to the articles on Mary Magdalene in film by James Crossley, Matthew Rindge, Meredith J. C. Warren, and Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author:

Abstract

This article is an appreciative and critical engagement with Tucker Ferda’s book, Jesus, the Gospels, and the Galilean Crisis.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Abstract

The author offers a grateful reply to his three respondents before clarifying a few matters and responding to queries. Nothing emerges that would require modifications to the main arguments of the book.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Abstract

This article reviews Tucker Ferda’s recent book on the Galilean Crisis Theory, a scholarly theory that holds that Jesus encountered hostility and rejection in Galilee, which spurred significant changes in his mission, including his rather abrupt transition to Jerusalem. This lucid and deftly executed study charts the development of this scholarly theory, before offering its own assessment of Jesus’ mission and its success. With his perceptive assessment of early scholarship, Ferda makes an important contribution to the on-going meta-critical work in historical Jesus studies.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus