The uses of cosmogonic myths in ancient Jewish magic

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Like many other peoples of the Ancient Near East, the Jews had their cosmogonic myth, or myths, as we all know from the detailed narrative accounts of Genesis 1-2 and from echoes and allusions to God's creation of the world in other books of the Hebrew Bible.1 And, like many other peoples, in Antiquity and in later periods, the Jews of Late Antiquity used their myths in their magical rituals and spells, out of the implicit assumption that there is power to be derived from these myths, power that could be harnessed to heal the sick, harm one's opponents, divine future events, and so on. In the Bible's narrative accounts, there is a seamless transition from the cosmogonic and anthropogonic myths of Genesis 1- 2 to the historical myths that cover the history of humanity from the first human couple, through the Flood, the adventures of the Patriarchs, and the Exodus from Egypt, all the way to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, recounted in 2 Kings 25. But the Jewish magical texts of Late Antiquity display an implicit distinction between the cosmogonic and anthropogonic myths on the one hand, and the historical myths on the other, and a marked preference for the latter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-107
Number of pages15
JournalArchiv fur Religionsgeschichte
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2012


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