Ancient Christian magic : coptic texts of ritual power by Marvin W Meyer; Richard Smith

By Marvin W Meyer; Richard Smith

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In spite of uncertainties, we present in this chapter a broad sampling of Greek (occasionally Greek and Coptic) texts that illustrate a general concern for ritual power in Christian Egypt. As such, these texts, together with the other Greek and Demotic texts of ritual power, complement very nicely the Coptic texts of ritual power published in this volume. 28 RITUAL POWER IN EGYPT The ritual power invoked in the texts in this chapter is directed toward several specified needs. Many of the texts are spells intended to heal or protect a person from illness.

Many of the texts are spells intended to heal or protect a person from illness. When the precise illness is mentioned, more often than not it is a fever, an eye ailment, or a disease prompted by demon-possession. Oxyrhynchus 1384 (text 4) combines medical prescriptions and healing legends in the same text. Oxyrhynchus 1077 (text 7) presents Matthew 4:23-24 with the Greek words arranged to form crosses and with a drawing of a human figure in the center. Like other texts, Berlin 11858 (text 8) includes an historio/a, or mythic story (here, a paraphrase of Matthew 14:22-33), that may help provide the power to aid the one wearing the amulet.

Our knowledge of Greco-Roman traditions of ritual power in Egypt has expanded greatly with the publication of the "Greek magical papyri" in the well-known volumes edited by Karl Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, which were published in 1928 and 1931 and were reedited (by Albert Henrichs) in a new edition that appeared in 1973-74. (Now see also Robert W. ) English translations of these Greek texts (and others not included in Papyri Graecae Magicae) have appeared recently, in 1986 (second edition, 1992), in a volume edited by Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation.

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