From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism 978-3-16-158677-4 - Mohr Siebeck
Religious Studies

Attilio Mastrocinque

From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism

[Von der jüdischen Magie zur Gnosis.]

unrevised e-book edition 2020; Original edition 2005; 2005. XV, 244 pages.

Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum / Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 24

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ISBN 978-3-16-158677-4
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Attilio Mastrocinque examines the intriguing link between magic and Gnosticism. There were two main reasons why Christian thinkers identified Gnosticism with magic: the fact that the roots of Gnosticism lay in the Hellenistic Judaism influenced by the Chaldeans and the Magi, and the need felt by orthodox Christians to distinguish themselves from Christian Gnostics by proving that the latter were magicians.
Pliny the Elder spoke of a Jewish stream of magic. What is the relationship between this stream and Gnosticism? Why does Judaising magic in magical papyri and gems have scarcely any links with Christianity? In this book, Attilio Mastrocinque examines the intriguing connection between magic and Gnosticism. Both Christian Gnostics and other heirs to Hellenistic Jewish Gnosis were committed to the study of astrology and what were known as magic arts and doctrines. Heretical Jews in Egypt envisaged the creator god as a snake producing the Nile flood and destroying the giants; in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC the Jews of the Leontopolite temple believed in the manifestation of God as a divine lion-headed man, a young god, a Son of God, whose name was Jaldabaoth. In the 2nd cent. CE the Christians condemned these two heretical figures and developed new forms of Gnosis, which were described and condemned by orthodox Christian heresiologists. The old Jewish Gnosis evolved into private forms of religion, which amalgamated the Jewish god and several supreme pagan divinities and gave birth to the widespread Judaising magic of gems and papyri. The orthodox Christian Church came to identify the religion of the Gnostics with magic, and even now our concept of magic is strongly influenced by ancient Christian ideology concerning Gnosis.

Attilio Mastrocinque Born 1952; 1975 Master; since 2002 Full Professor of Roman History at the University of Verona; 2008–10 president of Cultural Heritage courses at the University of Verona; 2005–15 Director of the Archaeological Mission at Grumentum (Lucania).


The following reviews are known:

In: Laval théologique et philosophique — 70 (2014), S. 619–620 (Tuomas Rasimus)
In: Mayeutica — 72 (2005), S.445ff (Enrique Eguiarte)
In: Hervormde Teologiese Studies — 63 (2007), S. 1335 (Jonanda Groenewald)
In: International Review of Biblical Studies — Vol.51 (2004/05), 1977
In: Journal of Religion — 87 (2007), S. 652–654 (Roy Kotansky)
In: Journal for the Study of the NT — Vol.28.5 (2006), S.118 (James R. Davila)
In: New Testament Abstracts — Vol.49 (2005), H.3, S.638
In: Religious Studies Review — 33 (2007), S. 67–68 (Birger A. Pearson)
In: Revue d'histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses — 86 (2006), S. 404–405 (Ch. Grappe)
In: Tijdschrift voor Theologie — 46 (2006), S. 407 (Joseph Verheyden)