Beware the Evil Eye Volume 3: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World
In the third volume of his epic exploration of the use of the Evil Eye motif in ancient texts, John H. Elliott turns his attention to biblical writings. A repeated theme in the Old Testament, which contains around twenty explicit references, mentions of the Evil Eye also appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as in the writings of Philo and Josephus. Evil Eye belief and practice continued into the early Jesus movement, appearing not only in the Gospels but in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The Evil Eye in the ancient world acted in a number of ways – physiological, psychological, economic, social and moral – and the place it occupied was not easily usurped. Beware the Evil Eye is a fascinating analysis of one of the most prevalent superstitions in the ancient world and its cultural influence. The Evil Eye is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, Israel’s parabiblical writings, and New Testament, with a variety of terms and expressions. The Old Testament (Greek Septuagint) contains no less than fourteen text segments involving some twenty explicit references to the Evil Eye (Deut 15:9; 28:54, 56; Prov 23:6; 28:22; Tob 4:7, 16; Sir 14:3, 6, 8, 9, 10; 18:18; 31:13; 37:11; Wis 4:12; 4 Macc 1:26; 2:15; Ep Jer 69/70). At least three further texts are also likely implied references to an Evil Eye (1 Sam 2:29, 32; 18:9), with some other texts as more distant possibilities. The Evil Eye is mentioned also in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of Philo and Josephus�Call of which are discussed in the following pages. Evil Eye belief and practice continued in the early Jesus movement. Jesus mentions the Evil Eye on more than one occasion (Matt 6:22-23; Luke 11:33-36; Mark 7:22). Paul makes explicit and implicit mention of the Evil Eye in his letter to the Galatians (3:1; 4:12-20). Possible implicit references to the Evil Eye are also examined. Both the common and the distinctive features of biblical Evil Eye belief are identified, along with its operation on multiple levels (biological/physiological, psychological, economic, social, and moral) and its serving a variety of purposes. The numerous references to the Evil Eye in Israel’s rabbinic writings and those of postbiblical Christianity (second-sixth centuries CE), together with the material evidence from this period, are examined in volume 4.
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