Biblical Archaeology Review 36:5, September/October 2010

ReViews: Repelling the Evil Eye

Here is a brief quiz for BAR readers:

(1) What are the two most ancient copies of a Biblical text?

(2) What is the largest body of inscriptions documenting ancient Judaism?

Most BAR readers will know the answer to the first question: The two small strips of silver from Ketef Hinnom containing portions of the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24–26. Fewer people, however, may realize these small silver strips were most probably magical amulets.a (Like many ancient amulets, they were found at a gravesite.)

The answer to the second question is not so well known: The largest body of inscriptions from ancient Judaism is the collection of more than 2,000 magic bowls from Talmudic Babylonia (present-day Iraq) from the fifth–eighth centuries C.E. These bowls are inscribed in Aramaic with incantations against demons.b

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