Greek-Hebrew linguistic contacts in late antique and medieval magical texts

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The frequent contacts between the Hebrew and the Greek languages, over a period of more than two and a half millennia, have been the subject of numerous studies, including many excellent contributions by the honorand of the present volume. But the Jewish, ‘pagan’, and Christian magical texts of late antiquity and the Middle Ages have rarely been utilized in the study of such linguistic contacts, in spite of their potential contribution to this field, in which the available sources tend to be quite inadequate. It is therefore with this lacuna in mind that I wish to honour Nicholas de Lange by analysing the most important magical texts that shed light on the issue that is so dear to his heart, and is of such major significance for the longue durée study of Judaeo-Greek culture. In what follows, I focus on four specific types of linguistic contacts, arranged in a chronological order. I begin with some Greek transliterations of Hebrew phrases and biblical verses, as found first in Jewish and then in some Graeco-Egyptian magical texts. I then turn to bilingual (Aramaic/Greek or Hebrew/Greek) and even trilingual (Aramaic/Greek/Hebrew) magical texts, in which each language is written in its own alphabet. I then turn, in the third section, to several examples of the transliteration of Greek phrases in Hebrew letters in Jewish magical texts of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. And finally I return to the Greek transliteration of Hebrew words and sentences, but this time in late Byzantine and post-Byzantine Christian manuscripts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Jewish-Greek Tradition in Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire
EditorsJames K. Aitken, James Carleton Page
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780511736223
ISBN (Print)9781107001633
StatePublished - 2014

RAMBI Publications

  • rambi
  • Greek language -- Transliteration into Hebrew
  • Hebrew language -- Transliteration into Greek
  • Jewish magic -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
  • Jewish magic -- History -- To 500


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