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Edited by David Frankfurter

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion of ancient magic by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The individual essays in this volume cover most of Mediterranean and Near Eastern antiquity, with essays by both established and emergent scholars of ancient religions.

In a burgeoning field of “magic studies” trying both to preserve and to justify critically the category itself, this volume brings new clarity and provocative insights. This will be an indispensable resource to all interested in magic in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, ancient Greece and Rome, Early Christianity and Judaism, Egypt through the Christian period, and also comparative and critical theory.
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Bart Koet

The deacon is an often-neglected leader in the Early Church. This book focuses on the deacon’s role and functions in relation to Augustine’s corpus. The author explores the corpus in a detailed and appropriately cautious approach that is always attentive to the text. He analyses how Augustine commented on deacons and the way he wrote about them, as well as how he preached on saints and martyrs who were deacons. The book thus provides a new perspective on the early deacons who were not social workers, but go-betweens between the bishop and his flock, between Scriptures and daily life, between Church and society, and who were epistle bearers responsible for the world wide web of Early Christianity.
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Edited by AnneMarie Luijendijk and William E. Klingshirn

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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Edited by Renaud Gagné, Simon Goldhill and Geoffrey Lloyd

Historically, all societies have used comparison to analyze cultural difference through the interaction of religion, power, and translation. When comparison is a self-reflective practice, it can be seen as a form of comparatism. Many scholars are concerned in one way or another with the practice and methods of comparison, and the need for a cognitively robust relativism is an integral part of a mature historical self-placement. This volume looks at how different theories and practices of writing and interpretation have developed at different times in different cultures and reconsiders the specificities of modern comparative approaches within a variety of comparative moments. The idea is to reconsider the specificities, the obstacles, and the possibilities of modern comparative approaches in history and anthropology through a variety of earlier and parallel comparative horizons. Particular attention is given to the exceptional role of Athens and Jerusalem in shaping the Western understanding of cultural difference.
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Edited by Ignacio Gallup-Diaz and Geoffrey Plank

Quakers and Native Americans examines the history of interactions between Quakers and Native Americans (American Indians). Fourteen scholarly essays cover the period from the 1650s to the twentieth century. American Indians often guided the Quakers by word and example, demanding that they give content to their celebrated commitment to peace. As a consequence, the Quakers’ relations with American Indians has helped define their sense of mission and propelled their rise to influence in the U.S. Quakers have influenced Native American history as colonists, government advisors, and educators, eventually promoting boarding schools, assimilation and the suppression of indigenous cultures. The final two essays in this collection provide Quaker and American Indian perspectives on this history, bringing the story up to the present day.

Contributors include: Ray Batchelor, Lori Daggar, John Echohawk, Stephanie Gamble, Lawrence M. Hauptman, Allison Hrabar, Thomas J. Lappas, Carol Nackenoff, Paula Palmer, Ellen M. Ross, Jean R. Soderlund, Mary Beth Start, Tara Strauch, Marie Balsley Taylor, Elizabeth Thompson, and Scott M. Wert.
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The Derveni Papyrus

Unearthing Ancient Mysteries

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Edited by Marco Antonio Santamaría Álvarez

The Derveni Papyrus: Unearthing Ancient Mysteries is devoted to this fascinating and challenging document, discovered in 1962 in a tomb in Derveni, near Thessaloniki, and dated c. 340-320 BCE. It contains a text probably written at the end of 5th c. BCE, which after some reflections on minor divinities and unusual cults, comments upon a poem attributed to Orpheus from an allegorical and philosophical perspective. This volume focuses on the restoration and conservation of the papyrus, the ideas of the anonymous author about Erinyes and daimons, the quoted Orphic poem in comparison with Hesiod’s Theogony and Parmenides’ poem, the exegetical approach of the commentator, his cosmogonic system, his attitude regarding mystery cults and his peculiar theology.
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Dmitri Levitin

Abstract: When faced with the spectacular outpouring of seventeenth-century texts that seem to provide something that looks like the comparative history of religions, it is tempting to adopt one of two positions. One is condemnatory: the reduction of these texts to the ‘polemical’ contexts that inspired them. The other is celebratory: to announce that the seventeenth century witnessed the flowering of the ‘modern’ study of religion. The following investigation proposes an alternative approach, one that seeks to recover the historical specificity of the early modern comparative enterprise. It argues that the period did indeed see very large transformations to ideas about world religions, and that these ideas unquestionably transcended any polemical-political aims that underpinned them. On the other hand, what may sometimes look like ‘modern’ comparatism was in fact grounded in very pre-modern forms of engagement with the textual legacy of classical antiquity, early Christianity, and medieval natural theology. Around the late sixteenth century, European scholars came to realise that arguments for the similarity between pagan and Judaeo-Christian conceptions of the divine – arguments stemming from the Hellenistic Jews and the church fathers – were unreliable. Instead, they increasingly characterised pagan ‘theology’ as broadly animist. But this reading could be interpreted in two ways. One was to suggest that this animism concealed a latent monotheism, grounded in an imperfect recognition of the true deity as he could be predicated by analogical reasoning upon the natural world. The second view was that pagan animism was so fundamentally incompatible with Judaeo-Christian transcendentalism that it was better characterised as a monist atheism, akin to the theology of the earliest Greek philosophers (whose doctrines were also being reconsidered at this time). This debate involved a spectacular range of participants: late humanist scholars; Christian missionaries and their native interlocutors; pioneering natural philosophers; and the most important players the European respublica literaria. Gradually, the second view came to be dominant, to the extent that in the late seventeenth century, it offered Pierre Bayle a heuristic for the interpretation of all pagan religion, stretching from ancient Egypt to Japan; and from Greek philosophy to Neoconfucianism. Its influence continued long after, shaping the work of the orientalists of the eighteenth century, and the founding fathers of social anthropology, E.B. Tylor, in the nineteenth.

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Simon Goldhill

Abstract: This chapter looks at how Christian and in particular Protestant historians of the 19th century wrote the history of the Jews as a fundamental gesture of comparatism as self-understanding. In the name of objective historiography, Christian historians discovered an image of the Jews to suit their own teleology. In particular, Alexandria, as a place where Jews and Greeks lived in a hybrid cultural environment, was systematically devalued, because of its hybridity, despite the fact that it was the environment in which the Septuagint, the Christian Old Testament, was forged. This chapter shows how religious history turn to comparatism, but how this comparatism is deeply embedded in apologetics.

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Caroline Humphrey

Abstract: This paper attempts to understand comparison as an intellectual endeavour in a non-European cultural milieu and then takes up the challenge of relating this case to the ways in which comparison is done in anthropology. These issues are discussed through analysis of one example, that of the conceptual apparatus of a Mongolian Buddhist lama and poet of the 18th century, Mergen Gegen. The paper argues that the Mongolian regime of comparison was done on the basis of a cosmology consisting of unrelated beings or objects and by means of constructing analogical relations between these elements that enabled equivalences and oppositions to be established. This operation was in tension with the writing of the history of the Mongols; for in order to set up ‘the Mongols’ as an object in a comparison their history had to be written in such a way as to enable conceptualisation of this people as an internally consistent, separate ‘kind’, equivalent to other cosmological elements. Having, not without difficulty, achieved this task, Mergen Gegen then wielded a grand structural schema capable of linking – by analogy and on different scales – political, ethnic, geographical and moral dimensions in order to produce comparisons between peoples.

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Renaud Gagné

Abstract:  In 1761, John Tuberville Needham published a study arguing that the hieroglyphic inscriptions of an Isis statue held in Turin could be read through the knowledge of Chinese. The study provoked a vigorous and acrimonious debate in the scholarly word of the time. Not only would Needham’s decipherment give access to the coveted records of Egypt, which had resisted all previous attempts at cracking their code, but it would demonstrate once and for all that the customs of China could be read through the antiquity of Egypt, and that the comparison of the two was the key to harmonizing the historical record of the Far East with the Bible. Vertiginous scientific and theological consequences were at stake. The Isis of Turin affair revolved entirely around issues of cultural comparison: what to compare? How? And why? A precious collection of disagreements about the practice of cultural comparison at the crucial turn of the 18th century can be found clustered around this case. The intellectual infrastructure that made this comparative debate resonate as it did in its time belongs to a distinctive epistemological moment. In time, what had been hailed as a cornerstone of world history had become a fading foil. Before it was completely forgotten, the Isis of Turin affair came to stand for the error of a previous time’s knowledge in a period that conceived itself going through rapid scientific progress. Within the space of a few years, the whole edifice of knowledge that had allowed it to emerge was no longer in place.