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