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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Beware the Evil Eye 1

During my years as a research fellow, I met for the first time the use of cultural anthropological models and perspectives in New Testament studies, and found it extremely interesting. I applied some models in my dissertation (published 1995), and in other works, and still find it interesting. In the years since my PhD work, such views have been very much accepted and integrated in Biblical studies. We now take them for granted.

One of the Mediterranean cultural aspects, however, that -at least to us Scandinavians- represents an issue rather unfamiliar to us is the evidence and practice of Evil Eye belief. I have, however, met it some times up through the years, but not always quite realized what it was, or how to read it:

  1. Visiting Greece in the early 1990-ies, when leaving the country, we were given an amulet in the form of a heart, with an eye in the middle. It was said to keep and protect us from the evil eye. I did not catch its meaning.
  2. For some time during my career I had a colleague that had worked in Palestine for some years, His wife told me that,  at one particular time, they had visited the home of some acquaintances there. When arriving, she looked at and praised some flower plants standing at their entrance. When they were about to leave some hours later, she discovered that the plants were standing at their car. They were supposed to take them with them, and it turned out that the reason was that she had looked at them and commented on their beauty.  It turned out it was the role of evil eye at work.
  3. My daughter spent a year at an US High School in 1994-95. At school, which had students from many different cultures, she discovered that looks could be problematic, even evoking aggression. Initially she did not understand the reason why. It was because of the fear of an evil eye.

Now we have been given a tremendous help in understanding the function of the evil eye phenomenon in ancient cultures, in Biblical times and cultures, and in fact, in many life situations of today. John H. Elliott has for many years studied the Evil Eye phenomenon, he has published several articles on the evil Eye and the New Testament (cf. his bibliography here, -up to 1997. See also here.), and now he has published a four-volume work dealing with the Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient world.

I am grateful to the publisher, (www.wipsandstock.com) who has provided me with these 4 volumes, and in a series of postings in the coming months I will present the volumes in some brief reviews. Hopefully, these will wet your appetite, and encourage you to read the volumes for your self.

These are the volumes concerned:
John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 1: Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2015.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 2: Greece and Rome.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2016.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 3: The Bible and Related Sources.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2016.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 4: Postbiblical Israel and Early Christianity through Late Antiquity.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2017.

Bruce J. Malina 1933-2017

Bruce.cmalinaThe sad news reached me today that Prof. Bruce J. Malina died yesterday, Aug. 17, at dawn, US time. Malina was professor emeritus at Creighton University, Omaha, USA.

Prof. Malina will probably be remembered by most as one of those who introduced Social Anthropology, or Cultural Anthropology as he called it, into New Testament studies. His books on The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (John Knox Press, 1981 and later), his Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology. Practical Models for Biblical Interpretation (John Knox Press, 1986), and his (together with Jerome H. Neyrey), Portraits of Paul. An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), are great works that made Social Scientific ways of thinking (along cultural anthropology lines) both relevant and common in New Testament studies. Think about it, who, if any, knew and applied the models of Honor and Shame, Dyadic Personality, Limited Good etc in New Testament studies before they read Malina? When at the peak of his strength-and popularity- he published a flow of articles and books on New Testament Issues. He got a lot of followers, and a group focusing on these issues, the Context Group , was formed in 1986, and is still active (see also here). In 2001 he was honored by a Festschrift: John J. Pilch, ed., Social Scientific Models for Interpreting the Bible.  Biblical Interpretation Series, SBL, Atlanta, 2001, and a bibliography 1967-1999 of his works is available here.

As for my own part, I met prof Malina in 1987, when being a Fulbright professor at the University of Oslo, he visited the University of Trondheim to present some of his work there, and to discuss my own work as a research fellow there. There and then he introduced me to the world of Mediterranean Social anthropology, and in particular to the model of ‘establisment violence/vigilantism’ which I later applied in my PhD dissertation. I remember him as very kind, helpful and genuinely interested in my work, but also as very self-conscious about his work.

In his later years he cherished some unconventional ideas about present day Israelis, Israel and the Palestinian problem. To some extent this might also have influenced some views in his scholarly works.

But I cherish the memories of a Bruce Malina as a scholar who did New Testament studies a great service in introducing issues from Mediterranean social anthropology. The study of the social world of the New Testament, and even of the Bible as a whole, received insights through his works that we all now take for granted.

RIP

 

 

Great news from SNTS Meeting 2017

The annual Meeting 2017 of the SNTS (Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas) is now over. It was held in Pretoria, South Africa during the days of Aug 8–11. Alas, I was not able to attend the meeting, but here is nevertheless some info as received from the webpages related to the Society, and from one of those who had the opportunity to attend.

    1. There were no main paper devoted to Philo of Alexandria, but at least one seminar paper dealt with him: In the seminar focusing on The Development of Early Christian Ethics within its Jewish and Greco-Roman Contexts , one paper focused on ‘Aristotle’s Three-fold Submission in the Household codes of Paul, Peter, Philo and Josephus’. It was presented by David Instone-Brewer, and the respondent was Christine Gerber.
    2. There has not been any seminar – in recent years- dealing with Philo of Alexandria, but from 2018 – next year- there will be a change in this.  The Society has accepted the establishment of a Seminar dealing with “Philo and Early Christianity”, working for five years, starting in 2018. The Seminar will be led by the professors Greg Sterling, Yale Divinity School, USA, and Per Jarle Bekken, Nord University, Bodø, Norway.

IMG_3144This is great news, and we can now look forward to Philo sessions at SNTS Meetings for the coming five years. The meeting of 2018 will be in Athens, Greece, then 2019 in Marburg, Germany, and then in Rome, Italy, in 2020.