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Authors: Henry, Jonathan Klein
Advisors: Luijendijk, AnneMarie
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Early Christianity
Rabbinic Judaism
Second Temple Judaism
Subjects: Religious history
Judaic studies
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation offers a detailed account of the historical origins, professional roles, and personal lives of Jews and Christians who practiced exorcism, especially highlighting their contributions to emerging social institutions and cultural identities in Late Antiquity. Beginning in Judaea in the Second Temple era, I show that Jesus and his early followers utilized exorcism as an unconventional means for appropriating special authority typically assigned to scribes, priests, and other Judaean ritual experts. I argue that the practice of exorcism became prevalent among Gentile Christian congregations when Christian leaders encountered diasporic Judaean ritual practitioners, who were sometimes called “exorcists” by authors who wrote in Greek. Inspired in part by traditions about Jesus, Gentile Christian leaders fostered populist, non-literate approaches to exorcism, and branded traditional Jewish ritual experts as illegitimate, ineffective, and illicit (thus contributing to the concept of “Jewish magic”). Throughout the second and third centuries, Christian leaders curated the socio-political capabilities of exorcism, which led to the creation of an order of Christian exorcists in the early episcopal hierarchy. The order of exorcists became obsolete around the beginning of the fifth century, but not before Christian leaders had sufficiently established rhetoric to malign Jewish practitioners of exorcism as magicians; meanwhile, educated Christians increasingly produced “magical” exorcism texts and objects without apparent jeopardy to a stable sense of Christian identity. To support these arguments, the dissertation draws upon an original database of evidence I have collected for more than fifty individual exorcists, including a comprehensive collection of epigraphical sources for approximately thirty Late Antique exorcists. Besides contributing to social history and the epigraphical study of Late Antique religious functionaries, the dissertation also proposes fresh interpretations for sources in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hellenistic Jewish literature, the New Testament, the writings of early Christian apologists and ecclesiastical leaders, rabbinic texts, and Greek and Roman authors from Late Antiquity. Ultimately, this study exhibits the substantial impact of exorcists and exorcism on the history of Jews, Christians, and others in Late Antiquity.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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