Friday, December 29, 2006

Ancient Magic and Ephesians

Here is an interesting text from 1 Enoch that helps reveal the attitude towards magical rites in the ancient world:

"And they will worship stones, and others will make graven images of gold and silver and wood and clay, and others willl worship impure spirits and demons and all kinds of superstitions not according to knowledge, notwithstanding no manner of help will be found in them" (1 Enoch 99:7)

The final phrase of this sentence seems to convey one of primary motives behind this idolatorous and demonic worship - acquiring help in various aspects of life. What does all this have to do with Ephesians? Well, in a very important monograph (Ephesians: Power and Magic), Clinton Arnold argues that one of the primary reasons Paul wrote Ephesians was to encourage Christians living in a culture consumed my magical practices and the supernatural (cf. Acts 19). Arnold suggests that Paul highlights Christ's supremacy over cosmic evil (cf. 1:20-22) in this letter in order to remind Christians in Asia Minor that they need not engage in magical rites as a means of placating demonic forces. Christ's defeat of the "powers" is a major theme in this letter and given the central role of the Artemis cult in the religious climate of Ephesus, a connection between the writing of this letter and pagan magic seems quite plausible. This suggestion would also account for the general tone of the letter. Still, I can't help but think that Paul's "sights" are ultimately set on broader (but closely related) concerns.