Online Lecture: Scribes, Stars, and Demons in Ancient Judaism and the Hellenistic Near East

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Lecturers: Annette Yoshiko Reed (NYU), Catherine Bonesho (UCLA)
Publication Date: 11.03.2021
Published on: YouTube

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This lecture revisits the beginnings of Jewish demonology by looking to Aramaic Enoch literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Jewish reception of Mesopotamian scholasticism in the early Hellenistic age. Explicit discussion of demons and exorcism are rare in biblical literature but emerges extensively in Jewish sources from around the third century BCE, especially in Aramaic sources like the Book of the Watchers, Tobit, and Genesis Apocryphon. This seemingly sudden shift has usually been explained as a theological concern with “origins of evil.” By contrast, Reed focuses on the epistemological and anthological ramifications of the integration of “magical” and other knowledge about demons into Jewish scribal expertise, situating the textualization of Jewish knowledge about demons in relation to parallel shifts in areas like astronomy.