The Jewish magical tradition from late antique palestine to the Cairo Genizah

Gideon Bohak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Despite some progress in recent decades, the study of Jewish magic is still in its infancy. The few monographs devoted to this subject – most notably the classic treatments of Ludwig Blau and Joshua Trachtenberg – cover only small segments of the Jewish magical tradition, which spans at least from the Second Temple period all the way to the twenty-first century. And more recent work, including both the publication of numerous Jewish magical texts and some attempts at broader syntheses, has not yet grappled enough with the diachronic aspect of the Jewish magical texts, and with their diffusion and transformation over space and time. It is as a contribution to this important yet neglected topic that the following discussion of the Genizah magical texts and their transmission of some late antique Jewish magical recipes should be read. The significance of this contribution does not lie in the novelty of its main argument – that some of the magical texts from the Cairo Genizah are copies of magical texts from late antique Palestine and Egypt – for this point has already been made by others, but in the attempt to provide sound methodological guidelines which could supplement existing scholarly intuitions. It is for this reason that I shall begin with a brief general survey of the magical texts from the Cairo Genizah, move on to discussing the methods for distinguishing late antique materials in the Genizah magical texts and illustrating these methods with a concrete example, and end with some reflections on the wider implications of this claim for the study of late antique Jewish magic and its transmission history.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Hellenism to Islam
Subtitle of host publicationCultural and Linguistic Change in The Roman Near East
EditorsHannah M. Cotton
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK ; New York
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511641992
ISBN (Print)9780521875813
StatePublished - 2009

RAMBI Publications

  • rambi
  • Cairo Genizah
  • Jewish magic -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
  • Jewish magic -- History -- To 500
  • Magic, Ancient -- History


Dive into the research topics of 'The Jewish magical tradition from late antique palestine to the Cairo Genizah'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this