Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

338

Book Reviews / Religion 40 (2010) 324377

increasing the proportion of them retained within the community. Another recent change that will probably distort Warburgs projections is the fact that she considers that it is unlikely that there would be any conversions to the Bahai Faith from among Iranians resident in Denmark (p. 276). In fact, many European Bahai communities are now reporting signicant numbers of Iranians becoming Bahais. In all, however, the above criticisms are merely quibbles; all such sociological surveys suffer from similar problems, and in this instance they do not detract from the value of the book. It is a very useful book in that it captures for the rst time in detail the sociological characteristics of a contemporary Bahai community. It represents the fruits of some two decades of careful study and the book is clearly laid out and well structured. For all of these reasons it is worth reading, and one hopes that it is the precursor of more such studies. Moojan Momen Independent Scholar (United Kingdom) E-mail address: moojan@momen.org.uk

doi: 10.1016/j.religion.2010.05.007 Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic: A History. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ix D 483 pp., $135 (hardback), ISBN 978 0 521 87457 1. Gideon Bohaks Ancient Jewish Magic: A History provides an impressive analysis of Palestinian Jewish magic from the Second Temple period to the early Middle Ages. Bohak synthesizes a vast body of research in the eld in order to offer a comprehensive assessment of the western Jewish magical tradition, especially its relationship to the Greco-Egyptian magical traditions. In addition to the historical contribution his work makes toward our understanding of magical practices, texts and artifacts, Bohaks book also advances important methodological insights for the scholarly study of magic. In his rst chapter, Bohak tackles a number of issues that have bedeviled the study of Jewish magic. Against the frequent modern assumption that magic was denitively forbidden by the Hebrew Bible, Bohak demonstrates that the Hebrew Bible stresses the illegitimacy of certain practitioners, not the illegality of particular practices an approach that allowed pious Jewish magicians to assert that their particular practices fell safely within the bounds of the Torah. In response to contemporary questions regarding the rationality of late antique magic, Bohak shows how clients and practitioners might have understood the efcacy of these practices and argues that they were no less credulous than rational moderns, who engage in various magical acts in different forms. Finally, in contrast to Webers classic assessment that monotheism cannot be reconciled with magic, Bohak argues that Jewish magical traditions have ourished alongside their practitioners monotheistic convictions. While monotheism has had important cultural implications for Jewish magic, it is hardly incommensurate with magical practice. Bohaks second chapter, centered on Palestinian Jewish magic during the Second Temple period, admirably confronts the paucity of sources available relating to this era and surveys the testimony available on magic in Philo, Josephus, the Qumran community and the books of Tobit, Jubilees, and Enoch. Bohak regards holy men and priests or other religious ofcials (such as the maskil at Qumran) as the primary performers of Second Temple magic and argues that a professional class of magicians arose only after the destruction of the Temple. Much of the chapter focuses on the sources related to exorcism, including charismatic exorcisms performed by holy men; the exorcistic hymns from Qumran; and exorcism via the invocation of God, the angels, or even biblical gures such as Solomon. The other practices that Bohak deals with amulets, curses and aggressive use of the Divine Name are less satisfying, largely because there are so few examples to examine. Bohak emphasizes the profoundly oral nature of early Jewish magic, noting the striking absence of recipe books designed for copying, and observing that even the extant textual sources were often designed for oral performance. Bohaks third and fourth chapters chart what he calls the scribalization of Jewish magic in late antiquity, when the act of writing became a central part of magical practice. Since this tendency also characterizes Greco-Egyptian magic, Bohak hypothesizes that Jewish magicians may have developed these scribalized forms in light of their contact with Greco-Egyptian practitioners. In assessing the major forms of late antique Jewish magic, Bohak surveys the creation of magical gems and Jewish Aramaic metal amulets for healing and protection, as well as a few artifacts suggestive of aggressive magic, and rare and fragmentary examples of Jewish magical papyri, which provide key evidence of Jewish magical traditions in Egypt. His treatment of magical books includes a fascinating discussion of the social and cultural differences between the Sepher ha-Razim and the Sword of Moses, in which he argues that the former reects an educated, Hellenized, and urban elite milieu, while the latter displays few signs of contact with Hellenic culture and is more rustic in nature. Bohak also briey studies the research on Babylonian incantation bowls, but concludes that they represent a strikingly different magical branch than the other artifacts he deals with and thus deserve to be studied in light of their own cultural context. His attention to the transmission of magical texts is particularly insightful; in contrast to the common notion that magicians believed their spells or magical names would only work if replicated with absolute precision, Bohak demonstrates that there is a remarkable uidity in the copying and adaptation of magical recipes. He suggests that magical texts often consist of exible blocks and units, an observation which I hope will inspire the fruitful application of oral-formulaic composition and performance theory to the study of late antique magic. One of the chief contributions of Bohaks work is his approach to situating the western Jewish magical tradition within the intensely cosmopolitan Mediterranean magical world. The presence of non-Jewish elements within Jewish magical texts has attracted considerable scholarly attention sometimes from scholars interested in demonstrating how paganized ancient Jews really were and sometimes from scholars who aim to prove that the magical tradition was not authentically Jewish. To begin his fourth chapter, Bohak offers an important set of methodological considerations for assessing the relationship between the Greco-Egyptian magical tradition and Jewish magic. Particularly valuable is his schema for evaluating the status of a given foreign element within Jewish texts or artifacts. Bohak argues that some non-Jewish motifs were naturalized within the Jewish context to such a degree that they became part of the active vocabulary of many Jewish practitioners or were even retroactively judaized. He identies multiple-entry motifs that appear frequently within the corpus, but which never became truly integrated into the Jewish context. He marks certain one-time entry phenomena which represent rare

Downloaded by [Missouri State University] at 10:53 20 July 2012

Book Reviews / Religion 40 (2010) 324377

339

occurrences of foreign motifs that might have been more widely adopted, but which most practitioners rejected. He concludes with the category entry denied, arguing that, in light of the widespread borrowing of motifs and recipes across cultural lines, aspects of the Greco-Egyptian tradition that were not incorporated into the Jewish magical tradition also shed light on what Jewish magicians considered incommensurate with their own practice. Bohak asserts that scholars must go beyond noting the mere presence of borrowing to enquire as to the meaning and signicance that a practice of term acquired in its new context. He stresses that borrowed elements were often transformed by practitioners to t their own cultural and religious needs. This creative adaptation manifests itself in the frequent paganization of the Jewish God as one of many divine powers in the Greco-Egyptian tradition, while similar principles allowed Jewish magicians to judaize the pagan or Gnostic gure Abrasax as a powerful angelic gure responsible for the destruction of Sodom and one of the bearers of the Divine Throne. This sophisticated sensitivity to the intense creativity involved in these intercultural transfers allows Bohak to avoid many of the pitfalls of a more static model of cultural inuence. As he assesses the distinct Jewishness of the Palestinian magical tradition in his fth chapter, Bohak concludes that the Jewish magicians of late antiquity were far less syncretistic, and far more Jewish than previous scholars were willing to admit (p. 350). Yet, as Bohak deals with the relationship between Jewish magic and other manifestations of Jewish religiosity, his analysis is hampered by his failure to offer a working denition of magic itself. Near the end of his rst chapter, Bohak rejected an ahistorical, essentialist denition of Jewish magic, noting that the practices covered by this term change in different historical periods and among different communities. Bohak also argued against an assessment of magic that has gained considerable currency in recent scholarship: the labeling of magic as a purely polemical category, rather than a meaningful phenomenon in its own right. While he acknowledges that the term magic is occasionally deployed in a polemical sense by Jews in order to marginalize and demonize the practices of non-Jews or Jewish women, he maintains that this cultural polemic can be separated from the study of actual Jewish magical practice. He also rejects a scholarly trend that treats all Jewish religious practice as magical or quasi-magical, thereby rendering a distinct category of magic irrelevant. While he recognizes the potential connections between traditional Jewish religiosity and magical practice, Bohak argues that Jewish magic should be treated as a distinct category of Jewish culture and practice. Bohaks approach thus assumes that it would be possible (at least theoretically) to craft an actual list of practices that should be treated as magical, albeit one that would shift across time and place. However, Bohak often fails to establish the boundaries of this category in a meaningful fashion. The closest he comes to outlining a method for assessing which texts and practices t within the rubric of magic is his suggestion to use as starting points those non-normative Jewish texts which could only be classied as magical (p. 67). While he is quick to point out that such a study should not lead to the complete isolation of these texts in their own little ghetto (p. 68), Bohaks injunction to center the study of Jewish magic on esoteric texts inadvertently perpetuates the tendency to marginalize Jewish magic by dening it in terms of its non-normativity. The difculty of distinguishing between magic and religion coupled with this assumption that the magical must also be marginal manifests itself several times throughout Bohaks book, such as in his assertion that the Scroll of Ahimaaz attribution of the sotah ritual to a well-known rabbi helps cast doubt on whether the ritual should be classied as magical. Bohak also pays very little attention to the gender dimensions of Jewish magic throughout his book, which is particularly disappointing in light of his avowed interest in assessing the social and cultural context of ancient Jewish magic. The absence of gender analysis becomes especially striking in his nal chapter on magic in rabbinic literature, where he remarks that as the issue has already attracted much scholarly attention and generated several detailed analyses of the roles of such accusations in maintaining male hegemony in rabbinic society, we may safely leave such issues aside (p. 393). Despite this, Bohaks nal chapter provides an otherwise compelling analysis of the rabbinic texts in light of the sources produced by Jewish magicians of the same period. He argues that rabbinic discourse of licit and illicit magic formulated explicit and implicit exceptions to the biblical prohibition of magic. Bohak shows that the rabbis considered amulets entirely acceptable and made no attempt to regulate their content. Bohak argues that magical literacy and often magical prowess was a necessary qualication for rabbinic judicial competence and an important component of rabbinic religiosity. While a number of rabbis expressed qualms about the use of biblical verses as spells, Bohak cites other passages in rabbinic literature that demonstrate explicit magical use of verses by the rabbis including an example of a biblical verse, the magical use of which depends entirely on a midrashic reading. While acknowledging that rabbinic magic often differs from the magic of other Jews, Bohak maintains that rabbinic openness to magic paved the way for a ourishing of a Jewish magical tradition even among the strictest observers of rabbinic halakhah (p. 423). Bohaks Ancient Jewish Magic: A History deserves praise for its breadth of research, its attention to a wide range of illustrative primary sources, and its keen methodological insights. Bohak offers a comprehensive synthesis of the current state of research of Jewish magic in Palestine, in a study that offers great riches to students and scholars of early Judaism, rabbinics and ancient magic. Julia Watts Belser Missouri State University (U.S.A.) E-mail address: juliawattsbelser@missouristate.edu

Downloaded by [Missouri State University] at 10:53 20 July 2012

doi: 10.1016/j.religion.2010.05.008 Thomas Banchoff, ed., Religious Pluralism, Globalization and World Politics. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008, x D 348 pp., $99 (hardback), ISBN 978 0 19 532340 5, $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978 0 19 532341 2. On the global scene today, religion often carries an egregious reputation. This book tries to present another, much more positive image of religion, without neglecting the critical factors. Well structured and full of contemporary data on religious actors in a global world, Banchoffs collective book denes many key issues in the contemporary debates on religion in the public sphere and provides some important orientations that are accompanied by solid case studies. It offers a useful index and some bibliographies on each topic. It is worth noting that the book was compiled from data up to 2005 and that many important events occurred on the global scene after that year. Nevertheless, this book could feature as a course textbook. Having worked on the subject for a few years, I discovered many fruitful reections on a variety