Jew­ish Mag­ic before the Rise of Kabbalah

Yuval Harari
  • From the Publisher
December 19, 2016

Mag­ic cul­ture is cer­tain­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. But what is it? What, in fact, are mag­ic writ­ings, mag­ic arti­facts?” Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Hebrew in 2010, Jew­ish Mag­ic Before the Rise of Kab­bal­ah is a com­pre­hen­sive study of ear­ly Jew­ish mag­ic focus­ing on three major top­ics: Jew­ish mag­ic inven­tive­ness, the con­flict with the cul­ture it reflects, and the sci­en­tif­ic study of both.

The first part of the book ana­lyzes the essence of mag­ic in gen­er­al and Jew­ish mag­ic in par­tic­u­lar. The book begins with the­o­ries address­ing the rela­tion­ship of mag­ic and reli­gion in fields like com­par­a­tive study of reli­gion, soci­ol­o­gy of reli­gion, his­to­ry, and cul­tur­al anthro­pol­o­gy, and con­sid­ers the impli­ca­tions of the par­a­digm shift in the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary under­stand­ing of mag­ic for the study of Jew­ish mag­ic. The sec­ond part of the book focus­es on Jew­ish mag­ic cul­ture in late antiq­ui­ty and in the ear­ly Islam­ic peri­od. This sec­tion high­lights the arti­facts left behind by the mag­ic prac­ti­tion­ers — amulets, bowls, pre­cious stones, and human skulls — as well as man­u­als that include hun­dreds of recipes. Jew­ish Mag­ic before the Rise of Kab­bal­ah also reports on the cul­ture that is reflect­ed in the mag­ic evi­dence from the per­spec­tive of exter­nal non-mag­ic con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish sources.

Issues of mag­ic and reli­gion, mag­i­cal mys­ti­cism, and mag­ic and social pow­er are dealt with in length in this thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion. Schol­ars inter­est­ed in ear­ly Jew­ish his­to­ry and com­par­a­tive reli­gions will find great val­ue in this text.

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