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Beware the Evil Eye, II

In my former posting, way too long ago (see here), I gave some examples of how I in my own personal life had encountered the phenomenon of Evil Eye. It was supposed to function as an introduction to the great four-volume set of studies published by John H. Elliott.

The first volume was published in 2015:
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, an imprint of Wips and Stock, 2015.

The four volumes as such covers Mesopotamia, Egypt (vol.1), Greece, and Rome (vol. 2), the evil eye in The Bible and Related Sources. (vol. 3), and Postbiblical Israel and Early Christianity through Late Antiquity (vol. 4). A vast area of time, space, and material indeed. The focus in the present posting is primarily vol. 1.

Elliott defines the ‘evil eye’ phenomenon thus:

“…that some persons are enabled by nature to injure others, cause illness and loss, and destroy any person, animal or thing through a powerful noxious glance emanating from the eye.” (p. xi).

“”This belief holds that certain individuals (humans, gods, demons, animals, and mythological figures) possess an eye whose powerful glance or gaze can harm or destroy any object, animate or inanimate, on which it falls. Through the power of their eye, which can operate involuntarily as well as intentionally, such Evil Eye possessors (also known as ‘fascinatorsæ) are thought capable of injuring, withering, or obliterating the health and life, means of sustenance and livelihood, familial honor, and personal well-being of their hapless victims” (p. 3).

It is a central thesis in Elliott’s presentation that this phenomenon is an ‘international’ phenomenon, it is to be found in most cultures. In fact, on p. 16 he presents terms for Evil Eye in 39 languages, and ideas and practices associated with it span over five millennia and across the globe, though of course, there are cultural and temporal variations. Nevertheless, he presents 7 features inherent in the concept (p. 17):

  1. power emanates from the eye (or mouth) and strikes some object or person;
  2. the stricken object is of value, and its destruction or injury is sudden;
  3. the one casting the evil eye may not know he has the power;
  4. the one affected may not be able to identify the source of power;
  5. the evil eye can be deflected or its effects modified or cured bt particular devices, rituals, and symbols;
  6. the belief helps to explain or rationalize sickness, misfortune, or loss of possessions such as animal or crops;
  7. in at least some functioning of the belief everywhere, envy is a factor.

In societies, where such ideas were an acknowledged reality, the fear of being attacked, could be alarming and paralyzing; on the other hand, accusations of being a ‘fascinator’, one who throws evil eyes, would be just as alarming and scary, as such accusations would stigmatize the one accused as a social deviant and dangerous person. Hence apotropaic means also became important, as e.g., amulets. On p. 34-38 Elliott deals with several such items, gestures and defensive gestures prevalent.

It is impossible in a posting like this to deal with all of the features of this volume One. In many ways, it functions as an introduction to both the phenomenon as such and to the 4-volume book-set presented and written by Elliott. I especially found his chapters on ‘Research on the Evil Eye from Past to Present’ and ‘on ‘Method, aims, and Procedure of this Study’ interesting and valuable as it also lays the groundwork for the subsequent volume on ‘The Bible and related Sources’ (vol. 3). The focus of my next posting will thus be on that third volume.

Prof. Peder Borgen 90 today!

Peder foreleser
Professor emeritus, dr.theol, Ph.D., Peder J. Borgen, is celebrating his 90th birthday this weekend. The day is today; January the 26th., but it will surely be celebrated the whole weekend!

Congratulations to Peder Borgen from ‘Philonica et Neotestamentica’!

Wikipedia correctly states that “He is considered a pioneer “within the theological scientific community in Norway and was the first Methodist and the first member of a Norwegian Free Church who took the theological doctorate at a Norwegian university. He was also the first non-Lutheran who became a professor at a Norwegian University when he in 1973 became a professor of New Testament at the University of Trondheim. He retired in 1997, but is still active, informed engaged. His most recent article is about to be published this spring.

Update: S19-138 Philo Seminar

All the papers for the S19-138 Philo of Alexandria Seminar are now available at my site here:

Philo Seminar, The SBL Annual Meeting 2017

The papers to be discussed at The SBL Annual Meeting 2017 Philo Seminar, that is S 19-138: Philo of Alexandria (at 11/19/2017 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM Room: 103 (Plaza Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)) on the Philo’s De Cherubim, with Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding, is about to be available at my website here:

The rest of the papers will be made available as soon as I receive them from the writers.


The Studia Philonica Annual 2017 is here!

The 2017 issue of this cherished Annual for all Philo students has been published! A couple of weeks ago

The Studia Philonica Annual XXIX – 2017
(Studies in Hellenistic Judaism)
Edited by David T. Runia & Gregory E. Sterling.
Atlanta; SBL Press, 2017

arrived at my desk. A welcome publication every year!
The volume contains 5 articles, and the Special Section contains papers from the 2016 SBL Philo Seminar on Philo’s De Plantatione. In addition, we get the Bibliography Section, which contains An Annotated Bibliography for 2014 (pp. 185-228), and a Provisional Bibliography 2015-2017 (pp. 229-243), and A Book Review Section (pp. 245-264).

Among the Articles (pp. 1-110), you will find the following studies:
Geert Roskam, Nutritious Milk from Hagar’s School: Philo’s Reception of Homer,
Sharon Weisser, Knowing God by Analogy: Philo of Alexandria against the Stoic God,
Jerome Moreau, A Neocentric Exegesis: The Function of Allegory in Philo of Alexandria and its Hermeneutical Implications,
Yakir Paz, Examining Blemishes: The /Mwmoskopoi/ and the Jerusalem Temple,
Eric J. DeMeuse, Nostre Philon: Philo after Trient.

Then, in the Section concerning De Plantatione, you will find these studies:
David T. Runia, Introduction,
David T. Runia, The Structure of Philo’s De Plantatione and Its Place in the Allegorical Commentary,
James R. Royse, The Text of Philo’s De Plantatione,
Sami Yli-Karjanmaa, The Significance of Reading Philonic Parallels: Examples from De Plantatione.

The App for the SBL Meeting

The App for the SBL & AAR Annual Meeting 2017 is now available. Make it easier to find your way through all the sessions, download the app here: SBL APP, or go directly to your IOS Apple store or your android store.

Philo at SBL 2017

If you are a) a member of the SBL, b) are going to the SBL Annual Meeting this November, c) you might be interested in these Philo sessions and/or lectures. The lectures of the Philo Seminar sessions will be available at my site here:

S18 – 324 LGBTI/Queer Hermeneutics
11/18/2017 – 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 210 (Second Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

James N. Hoke, Luther College
Homo Urbanus or Urban Homos? Philo, the Therapeuts, and Queer Space (25 min)

S19-138: Philo of Alexandria
11/19/2017  9:00 AM to 11:45 AM
Room: 103 (Plaza Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Theme: Philo’s De Cherubim
Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding
Annewies van den Hoek, Harvard University:
Philo’s De Cherubim: Sample Commentary and Translation (20 min)
Michael Cover, Marquette University:
The Logic and Poetics of Association: Secondary and Tertiary Lemmas in Philo’s De Cherubim (20 min)
James Royse, Claremont:
The Text of Philo’s De Cherubim (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Break (10 min)
Sean Adams, University of Glasgow:
To Be and Not to Be: Philo on the Difference between Philosophers and Sophists (20 min)
Justin Rogers, Freed-Hardeman University:
A Little Cain in All of Us: De Cherubim as an Introduction to Philo’s ‘Cain Trilogy’ (20 min)
Discussion (20 min).
Business Meeting (10 min).

S19 – 139 Prayer in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Harvard (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: The Problem of Identifying Prayer

Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer, University of Aberdeen
What is Prayer for Philo of Alexandria? (25 min)

S19 – 150: Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Tufts (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Center and Periphery in Antiquity
Reflections on center and periphery, broadly understood.

Jaime Waters, DePaul University, Presiding
Jonathan R. Trotter, Lewis University
Going and Coming Home: Diaspora Jewish Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period (30 min)
Sissel Undheim, University in Bergen
Virginity at the spatial turn: Sacred virgins, sacred places, and ideals of immobility of in Late Antiquity. (30 min)
Lee I. Levine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Palaestina Secunda: Jewish Resilience in Late Antiquity (30 min)
Pieter B. (Bärry) Hartog, Protestant Theological University
Globalised Space in Philo’s Embassy to Gaius (30 min)

S19 – 154: Violence and Representations of Violence in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Suffolk (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Precarity and Violence in Antiquity, Part 1

Erin Walsh, Duke University, Presiding
Loren R. Spielman, Portland State University
Domestic Violence in Ancient Judaism (25 min)

S19 – 333   Philo of Alexandria
11/19/2017 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Tremont (First Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Panel Review of Maren Niehoff’s Philo of Alexandria: An Intellectual Biography (Yale University Press)

Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts,, Presiding (5 min)
Erich Gruen, University of California-Berkeley, Panelist (15 min)
Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School, Panelist (15 min)
René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne, Panelist (15 min)
Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Panelist (15 min)
Thomas Tobin, Loyola University of Chicago, Panelist (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Maren Niehoff, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)

S20 – 108: Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory
11/20/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Belvidere B (Second Level) – Hilton Boston Back Bay

René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne
Philo of Alexandria between Greek and Jewish Myth (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)

S20-124: Hellenistic Judaism; Josephus; Philo of Alexandria
Joint Session With: Hellenistic Judaism, Josephus, Philo of Alexandria
11/20/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 306 (Third Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Theme: In Honor of Tessa Rajak

Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Presiding (5 min)
Loveday Alexander, University of Chester, Panelist (15 min)
John Collins, Yale University, Panelist (15 min)
Martin Goodman, University of Oxford, Panelist (15 min)
Erich Gruen, University of California-Berkeley, Panelist (15 min)
Steve Mason, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Panelist (15 min)
Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
Tessa Rajak, University of Oxford, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)

S20 – 323: Hellenistic Judaism
11/20/2017 – 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Public Garden (Fifth Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)

Theme: Hellenistic Judaism and Philosophy
Lutz Doering, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Presiding

Horacio Vela, University of the Incarnate Word
The Transformation of the Soul in Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, and Philo of Alexandria (20 min)
Elisa Uusimäki, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet and Anna-Liisa Tolonen, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet
4 Maccabees: Ancestral Perfection in the Roman Diaspora (20 min)
David L. Palmer, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Judaic Paideia and Mastery of the Passions: The Philosophical Argument and Use of Scripture in 4 Maccabees (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Teppei Kato, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
Presenting Jews as Philosophers: The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature and the Jews’ Self-Image in Judeo-Hellenistic Literature (20 min)
Jason M Zurawski, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Orthos Logos as Orthos Nomos: The Stoic Active Principle in Hellenistic Judaism (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)