The Curse: An Annotated Bibliography Compiled by Mike Kolaric, York University

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The Curse: An Annotated Bibliography
Compiled by Mike Kolaric, York University
Abusch, I. Tzvi, and K. Van Der Toorn, eds. Mesopotamian Magic Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives. Groningen: Styx Publications, 1999. (UT)
This is a volume of essays presented at a conference on Mesopotamian magic in 1995. The organizers felt that the study of Mesopotamian magic had been dominated by philology at the expense of an effort to make sense of the texts from a number of different interpretations. Of use, is Tzui Abusch's "Witchcraft and the Anger of the Personal God", which argues that the conjunction of two supernatural forces is due to the increasing importance of witchcraft beliefs and practices in Mesopotamia. The author theorizes about the socio-religious developments that might explain various features and trends that embody Mesopotamian magical thought and ritual. Though the article does not discuss curses to a great extent, its insight into how they may have been developed or at least gained popular acceptance can be ascertained from his other conclusions.
Allison, Dale C, Jr. "Rejecting Violent Judgment: Luke 9:52-56 and Its Relatives." Journal of Biblical Literature 121 (2002): 459-478.
This article attempts to illustrate that Luke 9:52-56 (apostles ask Jesus if they should summon fire to come down and consume a Samaritan village) is conceptually closest to 2 Kgs 1:9-12 (where Elijah summons heavenly fire to consume two companies of soldiers), and compares the Greek text of each to show the correlation. This article discusses curses but does not analyze them. The author criticizes these tales of destruction and implicitly rejects their application for the present. This article also outlines how others have dealt with the passage in 2 Kgs 1:9-12, such as Josephus, Philo, Origen, and rabbinic texts.
Ankarloo, Bengt, and Stuart Clark, eds. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. (YORK)
This work has a wide range of curse related material. The first section of the book is devoted to binding spells, curses, curse-tablets, and voodoo dolls found in the Greek and Roman worlds. It presents a chronological scope from the age of Homer to the late Western empire of Augustine and Theodosius. It presents many sources from different geographical areas, and much of this material relates, especially with regards to curses, in a significant way. The book argues that given the immense geographical spread of curse-tablets within the Roman Empire, the overall stylistic uniformity is striking and seems to indicate some form of literary tradition. The work outlines where curse-tablets have been found, their dating, and includes a discussion on how to recognize a curse. It also explains the form of the curse-tablet, where many consist of no more than the name of the intended victim. The book divides curse-tablets into 5 categories: 1) litigation curses 2) competition curses 3) trade curses 4) erotic curses 5) prayers for justice, and explains each of these and gives examples of each. It also attempts to trace the origin of the Greek-binding curse.
Baltzer, Klaus. The Covenant Formulary in Old Testament, Jewish and Early Christian Writings. Oxford: Blackwell, 1971. (YORK)
This study attempts to illustrate that the covenant formula of Old Testament texts can be found in Jewish and Christian texts. It employs the form-critical method to reveal a rational structure between secular texts (treaties) and religious material. Of use are some of the charts that the author presents, which includes a synopsis on his investigation of curses. The author argues that the original element of the blessing and curse underwent a grand transformation. These begin in the Old Testament but are developed further. In the Old Testament they are historicized, so that the present became the fulfillment of the blessing, while the curse was threatened if the covenant was broken. Later, this relationship was reversed. The present was perceived as the time of the curse, while salvation was expected in the future. This work also looks at the structure of the treaty formula, and includes a study on the treaties of the Hittite Empire which forms the basis of this study. This is a useful source for the topic of curses, as it includes many of them from a wide variety of texts (e.g. texts from Qumran, in The Epistle of Barnabas, Didache, etc.), and analyzes their function, structure, and form.
Bassett, Frederick W. "Noah's Nakedness and the Curse of Canaan: a Case of Incest?" Vetus Testamentum 21 (1971): 232-237.
Gen 9:20-27 is a story designed to discredit the Canaanites and justify the Israelite and Philistine homogeny over them. The goal of this paper is to illustrate the nature of the offense which led Noah to curse Canaan and also to identify the offender. According to the text, Ham is the offender but Canaan is cursed. The author argues that it is possible that Ham had sexual intercourse with his father's wife, which led to the curse. Canaan is cursed because he may be the offspring of the incestuous affair. Idiomatically understood, Canaan bears Noah's curse of slavery because he is the fruit of Ham's incest. No in-depth analysis done on the term "curse”.
Bellefontaine, Elizabeth. "The Curses of Deuteronomy 27: Their Relationship to the Prohibitives." No Famine in the Land Studies in Honor of John L. McKenzie. Ed. John L. McKenzie, James W. Flanagan, and Anita Weisbrod Robinson. Missoula: Published by Scholars Press for the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity—Claremont, 1975. 49-62. (YORK)
This paper argues that each curse in Deuteronomy had at one time a corresponding prohibitive norm from which it derived and which it was designed to protect and define. The curse list of Deut 27: 15-26 is recognized as very ancient. The last verse however, cannot be considered as part of the original list, as it is a later addition to the primitive text. It departs from the positive formula used throughout the list. The antiquity of the first curse in the list is also questioned, as the general language reflects a later period. It also betrays the author's effort to compose a curse against idolatry in keeping with the continuity of the basic series of curses. The paper states that this curse list is a unique law formulation within the legal history of Israel, and that there exists a special legal relationship between the prohibitive and the curse.
Bergren, Richard Victor. The Prophets and the Law. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1974. (YORK)
This work employs the form-critical terminology of Clauss Westermann for the prophetic judgment speech. The author provides a survey of scholarship done on the subject and evaluates it. The author argues that when one reads the prophetic words of judgment, one is surprised that there is no complaint regarding the propriety of the indictment. This implies that there was a standard to which people were committed to and by which they were judged. The work analyzes the accusation portion of the prophetic judgment speeches of Amos, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, and reveals a correspondence to certain Pentateuchal laws in form and in language. Curses and judgment speeches are found throughout this work, but the author here mainly analyzes other scholar’s works.
Betz, Hans Dieter, ed. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. (YORK)
This work focuses primarily on primary sources. Translations are based on the Greek, Demotic, and Coptic texts. It incorporates notes explaining the difficulties in the text and in its translation, and provides notes alerting the reader to important information. The extant texts mainly date from the 2nd century BCE - 5th century CE. The editor argues that the discovery of these texts for Greco-Roman religions is as important as the discovery of the Qumran texts was for Judaism, and the Nag Hammadi for Gnosticism. Throughout the papyri are found spells that include a wish for death, poverty, illness, etc. Some of the curse related spells include the following: PGM VII 396-404; PGM VII 417-422; PDM XII 108-118; PDM XII 62-75, 50-61, 76, 107; PGM LXII 76-106; PGM CXXI 1-14; PGM CXXIV 1-5.
Betz, Hans Dieter. Galatians: a Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Churches in Galatia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979. (YORK)
This study is designed to be a critical and historical commentary on the letter to the Galatians. It utilizes philological and historical tools including textual criticism, the methods of the history of tradition, and the history of religion. Betz analyzes the curse found in 1:8-9 and argues that it forms a double curse. The curse must be seen in its connection with the conditional blessing - this phenomenon is known from the tradition of 'sacred law' in the ancient Near East. The curse in 3:6-14 is also analyzed, and Betz explains how Paul could have thought that Deut 27:26 proved his conclusion that the Law was a curse when it seemed on the surface that it proclaimed the opposite. For Paul, the Law was inferior compared to the blessing of Abraham. Betz also surveys how other scholars have dealt with this passage.
Blank, Sheldon H. "The Curse, Blasphemy, the Spell, and the Oath." Hebrew Union College Annual 23 (1950): 73-95.
This essay explores the issue of the curse and its related modes of human expression in the Bible. Biblical evidence concerning the curse suggests a development from the curse as a profane wish - in the sense of it being non-religious - to the curse as an imprecatory prayer. Blank categorizes curses in the following three forms : Simple Curse Formula; Composite curses; Curses freely composed. No external agent was assumed and apparently the spoken curse was itself alone believed to be an effective agent. The curse was automatic and had the nature of a spell. Blank states that both men and the divine can curse effectively, but it is more immediate when God curses. Blank suggests that the imprecatory prayer derived out of the curse formula. Here, Blank discusses the structure, composition, literary function, and theological function of the curse formula. Blank argues that in Biblical times, in breaking away from its profane model, the curse developed into imprecatory prayer in order to make it a religious expression.
Bonneau, Norman. "The Logic of Paul's Argument on the Curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10-14." Novum Testamentum 39 (1997): 60-80.
This article examines the wide variety of proposals made to interpret this passage, and looks at four ways in which it is generally interpreted. The author argues that these rhetorical studies underlined the unity of the argument in Galatians. The key to an adequate interpretation lies in placing the passage within the unfolding argument in the letter as a whole. Paul is not addressing his Judaising opponents nor is he aiming his arguments at the Jews in general. Rather, Paul seeks to dissuade the Christian community who are being tempted to abandon the gospel as he preached it for a different gospel. The author states that the argument on the curse of the law was designed to show that in adopting the “other gospel”, the Galatians would in the end counter-witness the truth of Christ.
Borghouts, J. F. Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts. Leiden: Brill, 1978. (YORK)
This work provides a selection of magical spells from ancient Egypt. All have been translated and interpreted by the author, and tend to deviate from the work of its predecessors. The selection presented here is subdivided according to subject matter. There is no index, which makes it difficult to find the cursing material. However, the following is a list of some of curses: Spell #1- Love spell; Spell #2- Spell to strike a man; Spell #10- Scaring away an enemy; Spell #125- Curse against the crocodile Maga.
Brichto, Herbert C. The Problem of "Curse" in the Hebrew Bible. Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1963. (UT)
This study is an investigation into the complex biblical terms which are often arbitrarily rendered in English by the word "curse" or its equivalent. The author argues that the word "curse" has a range of meanings from formal invocations of evil to violent denunciation of condemnation. The author surveys different scholarship prepared on curse material. In his own work, he distinguishes between a curse and an imprecation. He argues that in the Bible, fortune and misfortune are traceable to God, and prayers or imprecations involving these are addressed to the deity even if not explicitly stated. The work has useful charts, in particular, one that illustrates Biblical texts, and whether or not they include a true imprecation, and whether these are decreed by man or by a Deity.
Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians: a Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982. (YORK)
This study caters to the needs of students of the Greek text, and is theologically motivated. It analyzes and breaks down the passages in Galatians into sections. The work interprets Paul's belief that the Law was a curse in that it could only be reversed through the redemptive death of Christ. The curse of the Law is analyzed and the author gives their interpretation of it: justification of faith over works and the gentiles receiving the Abrahamic blessing was the theological belief overriding Paul's message and inspired his conception of the curse of the Law.
Brueggemann, Walter. "On Coping with Curse : a Study of 2 Sam 16:5-14." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 36 (1974): 175-192.
The central issue of this passage is whether Yahweh will honor His royal promise and whether David will trust in it. Here, David does not resist the curse of Shimei nor does he deny the accusation made against him (he is called a murderer). Shimei expresses the social view of the world in which divine curses and intervention to punish is a threat which is taken seriously. The role of Joab and his brothers in the story portray the opposite: a complete indifference to any fear of the curse. David is in between these two thoughts, thus, he fully affirms Yahweh's authority and involvement in the actions of men but rejects the assumption that man knows how that will manifest itself. For David, faith makes room for Yahweh's freedom. For the author, this passage is an excellent section displaying the type of faith which takes human history and activity seriously without diminishing God's authority.
Byron, J. F. "Curse (in the Bible)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967. (YORK)
This article treats the magical efficacy of the curse in the ancient Near East, the curse in the religion of Israel, and the curses in the New Testament. The people of Israel had once shared with their neighbor cultures the belief in a magical efficacy of the spoken word as a medium for either blessing or cursing. Israel's faith in the sovereign power of Yahweh transformed the curse, which at one time possessed independent efficacy, into an expression of God's justice, which operated only to punish the guilty. The power of the word diminished somewhat, since the curse relied solely on Yahweh's judgment. The occasion for the curse may be anger and fear, but may also be hate and envy.
Carter, Warren. "Matthew 23:37-39." Interpretation 54 (2000): 66-68.
This author suggests that Matthew 23 and its condemnation of religious leaders is perhaps the “bleakest spot in Matthew's gospel”. Seven 'woes' and 'curses' condemn the scribes or Pharisees therein. The author asks whether v. 39 declares condemnation or salvation, which matters greatly to the text because it serves the basis of the view that Jews are now excluded from God's purpose. This passage has fed a long-line of anti-Jewish sentiment. Carter states that there may be another way of interpreting the passage - The political and religious elite, not the whole city of Jerusalem, rejects Jesus and are cursed. This article has a theological purpose to unite, instead of divide, Christians and Jews, as "the text links us in a common vulnerability, in a common desire to serve God..."
Cathcart, Kevin J. "The Curses in Old Aramaic Inscriptions." Targumic and Cognate Studies: Essays in Honour of Martin McNamara. Ed. Kevin J. Cathcart, Michael Maher, and Martin McNamara. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996. 140-152. (YORK)
This paper is inspired by D.R. Hillers’ investigation of the relationship between the curses attached to treaties and the prophetic literature of the old Testament. Cathcart suggests further possible parallels to the ancient Near Eastern curses, including treaty-curses, in the biblical book of Nahum. The parallels in the prophetic books of the Old Testament are often in the form of doom oracles and threats. The author states that Aramaic inscriptions of Sefire provide many interesting and close parallels to the Old Testament literature. He discusses and examines the curses in the Tell Fakhariyah and Sefire Inscriptions and presents parallels to the Old Testament. Having an examination of both the Tell Fakhariyah and Sefire inscriptions is useful since they are rarely both found in the same piece of work. This study examines 19 parallels and each are explained, and presents the Aramaic inscriptions in both their original language and in English.
Cathcart, Kevin J. "Treaty-Curses and the Book of Nahum." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 35 (1973): 179-187.
This author employs D.R. Hillers’ investigations and points out other possible parallels to ancient Near Eastern treaty-curses. Cathcart concludes that Aramaic Sefire treaties provide many interesting and close parallels to Nahum. And as Hillers observed, the greatest number of parallels are found in Jeremiah, who was a contemporary of Nahum. Also, treaties between Esarhaddon of Assyria and Baal of Tyre, and the vassal treaties of Esarhaddon from which impressive parallels come from, are dated 677 BCE and 672 BCE respectively, while Nahum is dated between 663-612 BCE. Cathcart analysis 12 specific parallels between Nahum and ancient Near Eastern treaty curses with specific verses cited.
Charette, Blaine. The Theme of Recompense in Matthew’s Gospel. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 79. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992. (HURON)
The theme of recompense (reward and punishment), while present in all three synoptic gospels, is more apparent in Matthew’s gospel. C. believes this is due to Matthew’s understanding of the covenant to Abraham (“I set before you a blessing and a curse”) (Gen 12:1-4). OT texts referring to this covenant emphasize that, since the “blessing” relates to the promise of land to the Israelites, the “curse” relates to losing that land (i.e., being cast out, either individually or as a group). Matthew’s use of this theme pushes the curse off to an eschatological formula where the disobedient are cursed with being cast into Gehenna. In Matthew’s transformation, what was a curse in the OT becomes simply a warning against transgression. TC

Clements, Ronald E. "Woe." The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Ed. David N. Freedman. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992. (YORK)

This dictionary defines a woe as an "interjection denoting pain, discomfort, and unhappiness. It is a distinct form of prophetic speech, and is found in the Old Testament and New Testament". This article outlines the "woe" oracles in the Old Testament, and examines their form and usage. It occurs approx 50 times in the Old testament e.g. Isa 5:8. It is an impersonal formulation expressing intense anger directed against certain activities which are disapproved of. The judgment is generally expressed prophetically and conveyed by the mouth of God, and is then set out in the pronouncement that follows (Mic 2:1-3). This article states that the development of the woe oracle is traced in two ways in scholarship: 1) as an adaptation from the curse formula 2) developed from the use of the identical cry in funerary lamentations e.g. Jer 22:18.
Collins, Raymond F. "Woe in the New Testament." The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Ed. David N. Freedman. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992. (YORK)
This entry states that 37 examples of "woe" occur in the New Testament, mostly in Matthew (13) and Luke (15). Usually, they are directed to persons or groups of persons. This article examines the use of woe in Revelations and in the Synoptic Gospels. The majority of the woes in the Synoptics derive from the Q source. The author does no analysis on the woe, but it is a useful source to quickly gain access to all occurrences of woe in the New Testament.
Comber, Joseph A. "Composition and Literary Characteristics of Matt 11:20-24." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39 (1977): 497-504.
This article examines the woes on the cities (Matt 11:20-24 par Luke 10:13-15), from the point of view of composition and literary characteristics. Jesus' ministry in Matthew has not produced the desired result as the Jews have not repented. In examining the woes, the author argues that they are created out of traditional materials and their structure consists of a double sense of pronouncement of judgment, explanation of judgment, and comparison of eschatological fates. The structure of these woes parallels numerous Old Testament prophetic oracles. However, Matthew puts his own structural stamp on these materials. His technique startles the reader’s attention and alerts them to the new and tragic turn of events: Israel is rejecting the Messiah and judgment is pronounced.
Crawford, Timothy G. Blessing and Curse in Syria-Palestinian Inscriptions of the Iron Age. New York: P. Lang, 1992. (UT)
The purpose of this work is to examine blessing and cursing in Syria-Palestinian epigraphic materials contemporaneous with the Israelite monarchy (N and S Kingdom) in comparison with each other and the Old Testament. The author summarizes some scholarship done on the topic of blessing and cursing. He then provides a semantic survey of Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician, Punic, Inscriptional Hebrew, Edomite and Biblical Hebrew words for blessing and cursing. The author analyzes what blessings and cursing consists of, and how curses operate. He examines inscriptions and at times illustrates biblical parallels, and also analyzes passages in texts which do not use a specific word for cursing but whose intent is a curse. In his study of Hebrew inscriptions, no epigraphic examples arise in which Yahweh is invoked for a curse, though many imply that He was the god invoked to bring about the curse. The author argues that important points of contact between the cultures of the ancient Near East have been shown by this study.
Crawley, Alfred E. "Cursing." Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Ed. James Hastings. New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1955 (YORK)
This is a lengthy entry compared to many of the other encyclopedia articles. It provides an introduction, a history of cursing, and a definition, as well as explaining the general character of the curse. Of interest, is some of the ways cultures have avoided the curse sent to them (e.g. some Arabs when being cursed will lie on the ground, in hope that the curse may fly over them). The article examines cursing and blessing among a wide variety of groups including Christians, Greeks, the Irish, and gives many examples of specific curses.
Cunningham, Graham. Deliver Me From Evil: Mesopotamian Incantations, 2500-1500 BC. Roma: Pontifico Istituto Biblico, 1997. (UT)
This study analyzes five aspects of approx. 450 published Mesopotamian incantations dating to the period from 2500-1500 BCE: 1) the incantations development during this period 2) their functions, the most important which is deliverance from evil 3) the verbal techniques they use to request helpful divine intervention 4) their accompanying ritual 5) the information they provide about the ultimate cause of the suffering, that is, harmful divine intervention. The author argues that the analysis fails to support the conventional classification of the incantations as magical rather then religious compositions. There is a plethora of curse material in this work, usually found under the sub-chapters entitled "harmful divine intervention".
Curbera, Jaime, and David Jordan. "Curse Tablets From Pydna." Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 43 (2002): 109-127.
This article publishes six curse tablets from ancient Pydna dated to the 4th century BCE. Three of these include the name of the cursed, while the other three name the cursed and explain that the curses were meant to effect lawsuits. The author examines the structure of these tablets and provides some interpretation on them. The tablets are published in Greek with no English translations. The author's argue that these six tablets shed new light on the different features of culture in this area of Macedonia.
Currid, John D. Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1997. (UT)
This work primarily focuses on Egyptian themes in the Pentateuch. It argues that there are literary, religious, and cultural points of contact between the Biblical writers and Egyptian beliefs. The author believes that the Bible borrowed much of its material, especially for Genesis, from many cultures including the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the early Greeks, and not only from Mesopotamian literature. The work looks at the relationship between Egyptian and Genesis cosmogonies and provides an exegetical and historical account of the Ten Plagues of Egypt. In chapter 13, the author states that Egypt was the common target of the curses uttered by the prophets of Israel and Judah and outlines the texts which do this. The primary motif in these texts is a call for the drying up of the Nile River. The author attempts to determine why the theme of a waterless Nile appears so frequently in Hebrew prophetic literature. Here, the author considers Isaiah 19:5-10 to determine its historical setting. This leads the author to believe that the curse of the Nile represented to ancient Egyptians the dissolution and downfall of civilization. There would be no renewal, no revival, and no regeneration. In essence, Egypt would be destroyed, and Yahweh would bring about this curse.
Davis, Basil S. Christ as Devotio: the Argument of Galatians 3:1-14. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2002. (UT)
This is a detailed study into the analysis of the mechanism by which the death and resurrection of Christ actually affected salvation according to the New Testament writers. The author states that the most important theological interpretation regarding Jesus' death is found within the letters of Paul. This book offers an interpretation of Gal 3:13 (Christ redeemed "us" by becoming a curse) and employs Gal 3:1-14 as a whole to explain the context in which Gal 3:13 is written. Chapter 3 is the most useful in regards to the subject of cursing. In chapter 5, the author argues that language of Galatians cannot be understood apart from the Greco-Roman culture of cursing. He employs curse tablets and the words of Greek and Latin authors of the period to support this claim. The curse in Galatians has its parallel in the Greco-Roman world, specifically in the form of the devotio who was sacrificed to save his people from disaster. The author examines the structure of Gal 3:1-14 as well as the form and function of curse-tablets.
Day, John H. "The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics." Bibliotheca Sacra 159 (2002): 166-186.
This article discusses the troublesome portion of the Scriptures - the so called "imprecatory Psalms". These psalms express the desire for God's vengeance to fall upon His people’s enemies. These curses cause "revulsions" in many Christians, since Christians are told to love their enemies and to bless, and not curse. John Day presents a theological argument to justify the curses in light of these Christian ethics. The article presents and outlines many of the curses present in the Old and New Testaments, and attempts to show how they can be consistent with New testament teaching. Day argues that although Yahweh is a god of love, Yahweh is also a god of retribution by nature, and in many of the Old Testament scriptures, God curses in order to keep his promise to David. The article's purpose is to demonstrate that at times it is legitimate for God's people to utter prayers of imprecation or pleas for divine vengeance against the enemies of God and His people.
Dickie, Matthew. Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World. New York: Routledge, 2001. (YORK)
This work states that little attention has been paid in scholarship to the men and women who were believed by their contemporaries to be experts in magic, or who themselves professed to be magicians. This study attempts to assemble the evidence for the existence of sorcerers and sorceresses, and at the same time attempts to address the question of their identity and social origins. The work covers the periods of the 5th century BCE - 7th century CE. It focuses on questions such as whether sorcerers were more common at some times and places then their female counterparts, or was the reverse true? Was there any difference between the sexes with regards to the forms of magic that they practiced? Also, it looks at the ways in which people made contact with magicians. The work argues that the concept of magic only came into existence in the Greek speaking world in the 5th century BCE. It discusses curse-tablets, and how they had evolved through time. Originally, many of the curses in these tablets were binding spells, such as inhibiting an opponent from speaking in court. Later, by the 4th century BCE, these curse-tablets began to include spells that intended to inflict harm on enemies rather than impose constraints. The work argues that the notion of magic is the product of a particular set of historical circumstances in Ancient Greece and that the concept of magic in Judeo-Christian cultures is the direct offspring of that notion. As for cursing material, the work mostly concentrates on curse-tablets, and briefly explains what identifies them as a curse and how they were formed.
Dundes, Alan, ed. The Evil Eye: a Casebook. Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992. (YORK)
This work is an anthology of essays. In his introduction, Alan Dundes argues that the evil eye is a widespread but by no means a universal folk belief. The evil eye is mentioned in the Bible as well as in Sumerian and other ancient Near Eastern texts, making the belief at least 5000 years old. The aim of this study is to sample some of the abundant scholarship devoted to the topic of the evil eye. The majority of the essays consist of anecdotal reports of the evil eye. Many of the essays are useful and each has its own useful introduction. Eugene S. McCartney's "Praise and Dispraise in Folklore" argues that the articulation of praise belongs to the folk belief complex we know as the evil eye. Using classical sources, the author examines the evils of praise as well as the efficacy of dispraise. In the essay entitled "Proverbs (23:1-8) and the Evil Eye in The Wisdom of Sirach", the author argues that in the Biblical context, the evil eye appears to refer to stinginess and envy. In Aaron Brau's "The Evil Eye Among the Hebrews", the author examines the study of the evil eye from a medical perspective and looks mainly at evidence from the Talmud.
Eastman, Susan. "The Evil Eye and the Curse of the Law: Galatians 3.1 Revisited." Journal for the Study of the New Testament 83 (2001): 69-87.
This paper analyzes the verb "bewitched" and argues that it functions as an intertextual echo which evokes the Deuteronomic curse which occurs in Deut 28:53-57. Among the curses in this section of Deuteronomy is one in which starving parents in a besieged city 'cast the evil eye' on their next of kin and eat their children. This specific curse subsequently underwrites Paul's use of family imagery to contrast the death-dealing effects of his opponent’s message with the life-giving effects of the gospel that the apostle preaches. The author argues that the term "bewitched" should read "cursed", and attempts to find textual evidence to illustrate this. This article also looks at the beliefs in the evil eye, its power and its practices, in the ancient world. The connection between the evil eye and the curse of the Law fits the logic of Paul's argument and makes sense of the odd occurrence of the verb "bewitched" at a key point in the letter.
Faraone, Christopher A. "Aeschylus' UMNOS DESMIOS (Eum. 306) and Attic Judicial Curse Tablets." The Journal of Hellenic Studies 105 (1985): 150-154.
Cursed tablets have been unearthed in every corner of the Greco-Roman world. The simplest texts have names of persons to be cursed. However, these do not offer much information regarding the purpose or social context of these curses. In order to do this, the author turns to more elaborate formulas which range from simple sentences to long invocations of chthonic deities. These texts are placed into three categories: erotic curses, judicial curses, and circus curses (those against athletes and gladiators). The author uses defixiones as a source of interpretation of Greek society and literature. He also analyzes the Attic Judicial curse and suggests how the use of such a curse suits the dramatic context of Eumenides. The author also argues that the curse and court evolved simultaneously.
Faraone, Christopher A. Ancient Greek Love Magic. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1999. (YORK)
This work offers a survey on ancient Greek love magic and a new bipolar taxonomy based mainly on the genders of the agents and their victims: those rituals used by men to instill erotic passion in women and those used by women to maintain or increase affection in their men. The conclusion of the work, which surprised even the author, was that the evidence assembled suggests that men, and not women as was thought in antiquity, were the naturally lascivious and wild gender who often needed to be sedated and controlled by chaste women. The work discusses curse-tablets that show binding spells which women used to prevent their husbands or lovers from marrying other people. The study focuses primarily on the interpersonal use of love magic - spells used by persons to force others to lust or fall in love with them. It treats erotic magic as a type of curse because Eros was viewed in the Greek world as a disease.
Faraone, Christopher A. "The Agnostic Context of Early Greek Binding Spells." Magika Hiera Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Ed. Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. 3-32. (YORK)
This paper examines the uniquely Greek form of cursing known as defixio or binding spells. Nearly 600 Greek defixiones have been published to date and more than 400 have yet to be studied. The aim of this study is to provide an analysis of the function and social context of the binding spell in early Greek society. The author's approach is twofold. He analyzes various formulas used in the binding curses to demonstrate that they were originally aimed at binding but not destroying the victim. Secondly, the author suggests that an agnostic relationship was the traditional context for the use of defixiones and that they were not employed as measure of vengeful spite but rather as effective means to prohibit a possible future defeat. The author argues that from the available evidence, though somewhat unclear, binding spells could be invoked by either the general person or professional magician. Four types of curses are found within these binding spells: commercial curses; amatory curses; judicial curses; curses against athletes or public performers. Generally, judicial and commercial curses date from the classical and Hellenistic period, with the other two dating to the late Roman period (2nd century CE onward).
Fensham, Charles F. "The Dog in Ex 11:7." Vetus Testamentum 16 (1966): 504-507.
The meaning of the expression "But against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, not a dog shall growl" has been ignored in scholarship. This author examines this passage and argues that the dog imagery is present herein because it has a threat of a well known and common curse found throughout the ancient Near East. This passage points to a blessing for the Israelites and a curse to the Egyptians. The Egyptian plagues are also linked with ancient Near Eastern curses, and all can be paralleled by one or more curses in ancient Near Eastern literature.
Fensham, Charles F. "Treaty Between Israel and the Gibeonites." Biblical Archaeologist 27 (1964): 96-100.
This article discusses the judicial implications of the treaty between Israel and the Gibeonites described in Joshua 9-10, and the breaking of that treaty referred to in 2 Sam 21:1-14. Parallels are found between Old Testament treaties and those of the ancient Near East e.g. the covenant of Yahweh and his people share similarities between the Hittite king and his subjects. Although the Israelites discovered deceit, the treaty could not be broken, as it was under the name of Yahweh. Deceit was cursed by Joshua (v. 23), but the curse could not negate the treaty, but only make the obligations heavier. Curses in the ancient Near East were generally connected with the breaking of an oath. Famine was one of the most popular penalties discussed by these curses (Old Testament, the treaty of Esarhaddon, The Aramaic Sefire Treaty). These curses were transmitted in a fixed form over many years.
Fox, W. Sherwood. "Old Testament Parallels to Tabellae Defixionum." The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 30 (1914): 111-124.
This article states that every prophetical book in the Old Testament with the exception of Hosea contains oracles against non-Israelite nations. It argues that the importance of these speeches is not found in what they "said" to the enemy but rather, in the function which they were performed within the context of Israelite society. This article attempts an investigation into the usage of these oracles within the institutional life of Israel, which should contribute to the understanding of the function of these oracles within the prophetic literature. The author argues that the use of oracles against one's enemies is found in the Old Testament as part of the preparation and execution of warfare, and these speeches at times took the form of a curse. As a general rule, speeches made before battle did not take the form of a curse, but rather, as a speech of judgment against the nations. This article does discuss curses, how the curse of Agade relates to the Old Testament, as well as the curses of the Hittite treaties.
Franklena, R. "The Vassal-Treatise of Esarhaddon and the Dating of Deuteronomy." Oudtestamentische Studiën. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965. 122-154.
This essay confines its study to the vassal-treaties of Esarhaddon, which are of great importance to the study of Old Testament chronology. The paper analyzes the curses in these treaties, and separates them into individual curses and curses of general character. It explains the form of curses and illustrates how the curse formulae operate. The purpose of the study is to investigate the treaty pattern. It compares the curses in the treaty to the Old Testament curses, such as those found in Deuteronomy, and attempts to make literary connections between Old Testament and Assyrian texts.
Fraser, A.D. "The Ancient Curse: Some Analogies." The Classical Journal 17 (1922): 454-466.
This author states that traces of the curse have been followed by students of folklore and primitive religion through the Bronze Age of mankind back to the Neolithic Period. This article argues that the principle of cursing is inherent in human nature. The current state of cursing relieves private feelings, nothing more. Ancient curses were infinitely more of a potent phenomenon, complete with dangerous possibilities against a victim against whom it is directed. The author argues that in the Old Testament, Yahweh was not cited as giving a command in a curse, as the power of the word was enough from the person invoking the curse.
Gager, John G. Moses in Greco-Roman Paganism. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972. (YORK)
The purpose of this study is to examine the figure of Moses, his life, person, and teaching, as recorded by pagan authors in the Greco-Roman world. It asks questions such as: what did they think of him and what factors (social, political, literary, etc) influenced their evaluation of him; what did they know or claim to know of him; and where they received their information. The author argues that Moses is by far the best known figure of Jewish history in the pagan world. He is best known within the popular realm of magic. Celsus claims that the Jews had learned the art of magic from Moses. The author examines charms, titles, and amulets that make mention of Moses. The main source concerning Moses as a magician is found in the corpus of magical papyri. There are three images of Moses in the pagan writings; that of a lawgiver, the leader of the exodus, and a magician. Unfortunately, not much curse material is found within this work.
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. "The Woe-Oracles of the Prophets." Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 249-263.
This article argues that the desire to understand the prophetical literature often leads to a wishful exegesis on the part of the authors who know beforehand what answers will be given by the text. Gerstenberger attempts to establish the original features of a given text in regard to its form and origin. He argues that the Woe-oracle had been in use over a long period of time and that the prophets used these to construct their own Woe-oracles. The purpose of this investigation is to study the structure and the form of the Woe-Oracle in Israelite society and localize it according to its possible origins, and trace how it became used in prophetic speech. Also, he attempts to ascertain the Woe-oracles meaning, purpose, and significance in the prophetic message. The author argues that the curse is always a powerful and effective utterance while the Woe-oracle cannot compete with the ‘curses’ official and powerful announcement. Woes are more private and detached from the scene of evildoing, more contemplative, and less effective than are curses.
Gevirtz, Stanley. Curse Motifs in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East. Diss. The Univ. of Chicago, 1959. 15 Apr. 2006

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