Thank you for a very interesting and informative post, especially on the
Greek amulets. It occurred to me after reading what you say that the line
between miracle and magic may be thin. A person who believed in magic might
think, after reading the story of the Exodus, that this deity had great magic
powers. The plague of frogs, turning the rivers to blood, the houses passed
over by death because they had blood on the doorpost, etc.
The Egyptians, too, had a re;putation for great magical powers, but there I
thought it might trace back to their ability to mummify bodies.
> >I'm a bit confused about why the Hebrew alphabet shows up so often in
> >or mystical contexts that are essentially non-Jewish. Some packs of Tarot
> >cards have Hebrew letters on the cards, and I've also seen Hebrew letters
> >diagrams in books that were occult but didn't specifically mention the
> >Kabbalah. What could the Hebrew alphabet possibly have meant to
> >users of Tarot cards? If an allusion to the Kabbalah, how would they
> >known of the Kabbalah, which isn't even widely familiar among Jews?
> >pat sloane
> Though I have no idea about the Tarot cards or books you refer to, I have
> at least some suggestions related to the prominence of jewish references
> magical contexts.
> General suggestions:
> a) Jews from at least the time of the 8th century, but more prominent from
> the 7th/6th century BCE onwards lived in various places outside Palestine
> (e.g. Mesopotamia, Egypt), thus having and giving the opportunity of
> contact and mutual exchange with other religions.
> b) The jewish religion is considered to be very old and jewish
> historiographers from the 3rd/2nd centuries BCE propagated this view
> a framework of competing old religions, such as, e.g., the egyptian
> religion and their propagandists (c.f., Peter Pilhofer, PRESBYTERON
> KREITTON, Der Altersbeweis der juedischen und christlichen Apologeten und
> seine Vorgeschichte, WUNT 2/39, 1990).
> c) The jewish religion is the religion of the "word" (iconoclastic). It
> worships a god whos name could not be pronounced, the tetragrammaton JHWH.
> This is in itself very mysterious and gives rise to a lot of speculations.
> Even in LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew bible) MSS from BCE centuries
> usually the tetragrammaton was written in old Hebrew characters (or as its
> misconception PIPI). (Some) Jews used to have small phylacteries
> the "schema jisrael" (Deuteronomy 6.4seq, including the tetragrammaton) in
> hebrew characters, worn on the head or left arm.
> To my way of thinking it is not hard to imagine why even non-Jews had been
> attracted by this religion and some of it's paractices. Especially within
> magical context the power of names is of great importance. Therefore, we
> know a lot of Greek magical papyri containing hebrew names such as
> "sabbaoth" or "iao", though usually in greek transcription (c.f, K.
> Preisendanz, Papyri Graeca Magicae, Leipzig 1931; more recent publications
> on that by Morton Smith and Hans-Dieter Betz), usually serving as amulets.
> From the top of my head I cannot firmly claim that there were amulets
> containing hebrew characters, but it seems quite likely that they existed.
> Although it is usually hard to assess whether those amulets stemm from
> jewish or non-jewish circles, it seems at least likely that their use was
> not restricted to jewish circles alone.
> Ulrich Schmid,
> Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies