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Stile

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How did the Jews in antiquity measure the passage of days? Many times in the gospels Jesus says he will rise after three days. Here's a smattering of examples:

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Acts 10:39b-40 They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest;

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

Now since Jesus died before sundown on Friday and was raised on Sunday, I'm still having problems finding three days. Is the answer that there is no day zero as we might think of it nowadays? Thus, Friday would be the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third. If not, was this found peculiar to early Christians? (If someone today said I'll see you in three days, I certainly wouldn't expect them a scant 36 hours later.)
 

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How did the Jews in antiquity measure the passage of days? Many times in the gospels Jesus says he will rise after three days. Here's a smattering of examples:...

...Now since Jesus died before sundown on Friday and was raised on Sunday, I'm still having problems finding three days. Is the answer that there is no day zero as we might think of it nowadays? Thus, Friday would be the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third. If not, was this found peculiar to early Christians? (If someone today said I'll see you in three days, I certainly wouldn't expect them a scant 36 hours later.)

I can field part of this one.

The answer is: the same way we do now. For purposes of the Hebrew calendar, days start & end at sundown. For example, the Sabbath starts at sundown Friday & ends at sundown Saturday. The Hebrew calendar dates to at least 1000 BCE & is still in use today. It's a lunar calendar so it kinda makes sense that months start at sundown (when the moon's phase is visible).

Plotinus will have to answer the part about how that relates to the Gospels & early Christians.
 

ParkCungHee

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After the 4 century, what non-abrahamic religion do you think has had the most influence on Christian theology? I know Hinduism had a pretty big role on 19th century American philosophy, would you say that's it?
 

Plotinus

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In Acts, Paul was blinded by God and healed by God. Ananaias did pray over Paul when God told him to do so.

That's true of all biblical miracles though - there's no indication that Jesus' are any different.

The blind man had been blind from birth, and even he knew that only one from God could do this. This does not point to Jesus' divinity straight out, but it does raise some strong implications.

I wouldn't say it points to Jesus' divinity at all! All biblical prophets are presented as being from God and as performing miracles, when they perform them, through divine power. It doesn't at all mean that they are divine. I don't see why Jesus' miracles should be any different. In the story in John 9, the formerly blind man says he thinks Jesus is a prophet, not that he's divine. This story is also notable in that Jesus is presented as performing the miracle in a quasi-magical way, involving the application of mud to the person's eyes and the need for washing. To my mind that would detract from any suggestion of divinity, since an omnipotent God should not require such means to accomplish his ends.

One striking thing that I find on searching for this is that Jesus is the only biblical character who heals people who are blind from birth, and there are a number of times he does it. So perhaps there's some significance to it. But still I would say you're reading rather too much into it.

Raising from the dead is not strong since Jews held somewhat to the ability of the soul to stay around after the body expired. Calling the soul back in would be a miracle, but not a great one.

First, this is not something I have heard, and I would say it's more of a Greek belief than a Jewish one (the idea of a soul that survives death is Greek rather than Hebrew, and Greek authors such as Plato thought that ghosts were souls that were still hanging around near the body instead of leaving properly). Of course that doesn't mean some Jews couldn't have thought this, because there were strong hellenistic influences on some forms of Judaism. But obviously not all Jews would have thought it since, in Jesus' time, there was a wide variety of beliefs about life after death, as the opposed views of the Pharisees and Sadducees illustrates.

Second, El Mac's question was about whether Jesus' miracles are evidence to us for his divinity, not whether his contemporaries would have taken them as evidence of divinity. Even if it's true that his contemporaries wouldn't have thought raising the dead was such a great miracle (which I'm not convinced by anyway - otherwise why does John present the raising of Lazarus as the final straw for Jesus' enemies?), I think we can agree that we would consider it pretty impressive, and more so than merely making the blind see. But still not as evidence for divinity, I'd say.

How does the Torah, the Gospels, and the Quran compare?

In what way? I'm unlikely to be able to give much of an answer, though, given that I know little about the Torah and almost nothing about the Quran.

I believe you have said that you are agnostic. If this is still true, what sort of evidence would convince you personally, beyond REASONABLE doubt that there is a God and cause you to discard agnosticism? I don't say beyond ANY doubt because I don't think the existence of God could ever be "proved" beyond any and all possible doubt.

I suppose some kind of dramatic self-revelation of God, involving very impressive miracles that would be near-impossible to explain naturalistically. E.g. an enormous booming voice and words appearing on the sky or something of that kind. Religious experiences - that is experiences apparently caused by, or even of, God, are surely the most psychologically convincing reasons to believe in God; but they're only reasonable in the way you suggest if God really is the best explanation for them. So an experience that would fall into that category would have to be a very dramatic and otherwise inexplicable one.

What was the conception of angels in those days, and did Jesus's teachings modify the thinking about angels in the early church fathers? In the passage above, the author is clearly using angels as a reference point, so there had to be a common idea, no?

That's not something I know much about, but my understanding is that there was a pretty complete and elaborate angelology within Judaism by the time of Jesus. The books of Enoch, for example, have quite a lot to say about it. So Jesus and the early Christians alike more or less took over the idea of angels, and I don't think changed it much.

How have scientific discoveries about the physiological mechanisms of our thoughts and emotions entered into discussions about the nature of free will and the soul among modern Christian thinkers?

On the soul, most modern Christian thinkers had largely given up on that idea before any significant physiological discoveries were made, I think. On free will, I'm not sure. Certainly the discoveries you mention have, as far as I can tell, made relatively little impact on philosophical discussions of the matter, because philosophers seem mostly to be aware that they're not really very relevant. I don't know if theologians have realised this!

Plotinus -- do you know of any Christian teachers, groups, sects, or denominations of note that viewed procreation as bad, or celibacy as mandatory, for Christians as a whole? (I'm not talking about for select groups like Roman Catholic priests.) I'm aware of the Cathar heresy as well as the Shakers. Are there any others that you know of?

Yes, I'm sure that some gnostic groups were probably like this, although we don't know the details. Also, it may well have been the case that mainstream early Christianity in Syria required celibacy from all Christians, although again this is uncertain. The ancient Christians tended to think that sex was generally bad and avoided it even among married couples, but the Syrians were more extreme when it came to asceticism.

How did the Jews in antiquity measure the passage of days? Many times in the gospels Jesus says he will rise after three days.

Now since Jesus died before sundown on Friday and was raised on Sunday, I'm still having problems finding three days. Is the answer that there is no day zero as we might think of it nowadays? Thus, Friday would be the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third. If not, was this found peculiar to early Christians? (If someone today said I'll see you in three days, I certainly wouldn't expect them a scant 36 hours later.)

But those passages don't say he would rise after three days. They say he would rise "on the third day". That's not the same thing. Friday was the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third.

After the 4 century, what non-abrahamic religion do you think has had the most influence on Christian theology? I know Hinduism had a pretty big role on 19th century American philosophy, would you say that's it?

I think it would depend very much on what part of the world you're talking about. Confucianism has had a big influence on (some forms of) Chinese Christianity; Buddhism has had a big influence on (some forms of) Japanese Christianity; Hinduism has had a big influence on (some forms of) Indian Christianity; tabu has had a big influence on (some forms of) Pacific Christianity; "fetishism" has had a big influence on (some forms of) African Christianity. And all of these forms have had theologians who have sought to systematise the influence by giving a rigorous account of Christianity in terms drawn from the other culture or religion. That is one of the interesting things about Christianity - how it has fragmented and adapted to very different cultures, much more than (say) Islam has done.

What is the question you least like being asked?

Any question that shows that someone hasn't at least thought a bit about it.
 

Masada

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Plotinus said:
tabu has had a big influence on (some forms of) Pacific Christianity

Eh, tapu describes only a part of the religious tradition though.

Plotinus said:
That is one of the interesting things about Christianity - how it has fragmented and adapted to very different cultures, much more than (say) Islam has done.

I'm not so sure. Abangan Muslims in Java mix Hindu-Buddism, pre-Indic religions, adat (local customs) and Islam together in something that makes Ratana and Ringatū look rather drab by comparison.
 

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On the soul, most modern Christian thinkers had largely given up on that idea before any significant physiological discoveries were made, I think.

Eh? This seems like it would throw a wrench in some key Christian doctrines. Barring some form of conditional immortality, how does the afterlife work in these systems? Some more questions:
1) What's the gist of Plantinga's response to the problem of evil?
2) Does Kallistos Ware have the best voice of all contemporary theologians?
3) Are there any questions about theology you'd like to be asked but have yet to be asked in any of these threads?
4) You once mentioned that if you were a Christian you'd probably be a liberal Anglican. Is this based on idle musing or have you seriously considered converting at some point?
 

Plotinus

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I'm not so sure. Abangan Muslims in Java mix Hindu-Buddism, pre-Indic religions, adat (local customs) and Islam together in something that makes Ratana and Ringatū look rather drab by comparison.

Of course there are examples of such things, and one could add others. But I think it's far more common with Christianity. It's happened in every country and every culture where Christianity has spread to. Just consider: one of the first things that happens when Christianity arrives in a new culture is that the Bible gets translated into the local language. That doesn't happen with the Koran, because Arabic is theologically significant to Muslims in a way that Hebrew and Greek are not to Christians. So right from the start Christianity has an in-built willingness to translate itself which isn't typical of Islam.

Eh? This seems like it would throw a wrench in some key Christian doctrines. Barring some form of conditional immortality, how does the afterlife work in these systems?

It works on the Jewish, biblical supposition of resurrection. There is life after death because God raises the whole person, not because some part of the person survives by its own power. Theologians today are typically much more comfortable with the idea of the resurrection of the body than they are with that of the survival of the soul, an idea whose presence in the Bible is negligible.

1) What's the gist of Plantinga's response to the problem of evil?

There are various different versions of the problem of evil. Plantinga, as I understand him, considers only one - the "logical" problem of evil, which states that the existence of evil is completely incompatible with the existence of God. Plantinga's answer is that there could be explanations for the existence of evil which are compatible with God's existence. E.g. moral evil could be caused by the misuse of human free will, which God permits for some reason of his own. Natural evil (earthquakes etc.) could be caused by malicious fallen angels, also misusing their free will. The point is not that that explanation is probable but that it is merely possible, and this is enough to show that the the existence of evil is compatible with the existence of God. Of course, it doesn't show that God's existence is very likely given the existence of evil, but Plantinga isn't concerned with that.

2) Does Kallistos Ware have the best voice of all contemporary theologians?

He is quite awesome. He is the Tom Baker of Orthodox theology:


Link to video.

Kallistos Ware is actually a convert to Orthodoxy - his real name is Timothy and he's from Bath. I heard a story about him giving a lecture at Oxford once and he mentioned "we Easterners". Some wag in the audience shouted out "East Enders more like!" Very drole, but as you can hear, he hardly sounds like a Cockney.

3) Are there any questions about theology you'd like to be asked but have yet to be asked in any of these threads?

I can't think of any off-hand.

4) You once mentioned that if you were a Christian you'd probably be a liberal Anglican. Is this based on idle musing or have you seriously considered converting at some point?

No to both, because when I was a Christian I was a liberal Anglican, and it still seems to me the most reasonable form of Christianity. I couldn't consider converting back because it's a matter of belief. If I believed in the doctrines of Christianity, then of course I would - in fact there would be no choice to make because it would already have happened. If I don't believe them, I can hardly choose to do so. So conversion isn't really something to consider.
 

Eran of Arcadia

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I couldn't consider converting back because it's a matter of belief. If I believed in the doctrines of Christianity, then of course I would - in fact there would be no choice to make because it would already have happened. If I don't believe them, I can hardly choose to do so. So conversion isn't really something to consider.

Would you say, then, that belief isn't really a matter of choice? That it doesn't make sense to say "I choose to believe X"? Or are there people who do choose to believe X, but they are being illogical in making a choice?
 

Plotinus

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Would you say, then, that belief isn't really a matter of choice? That it doesn't make sense to say "I choose to believe X"? Or are there people who do choose to believe X, but they are being illogical in making a choice?

The former, absolutely.

The notion that it's possible to choose what to believe is known as doxastic voluntarism, and some people hold it, but it seems to me to be almost completely incomprehensible.

Certainly there are some beliefs I can choose to have, but only indirectly. E.g. I currently believe that the window is open. I can choose to acquire the belief that the window is closed, because I can choose to go over and close it. But if I do that, I only acquire the belief that it's closed because I've actually changed the situation (i.e. closed the window). I can't, while sitting here, just decide I'm going to believe that it's closed.

More subtly, I can perhaps choose to acquire a belief not by changing the world but by changing my situation within the world. E.g. it's a well documented fact that people often acquire the beliefs, or at least the attitudes, of societies that become immersed in. The anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard wrote about his experience studying the Azande on the upper Nile, who had a strong belief in magic - he found after a while that, even though he officially didn't believe in anything of the kind, he found himself just slipping into a sort of habit of believing in magic or at least acting as though he did. So I suppose that I might choose to start believing in something by going and immersing myself in a culture where it is believed, and hoping that it rubs off in this way. Similarly, there might be measures I can take to affect myself psychologically over the long term and indirectly change my beliefs that way.

But I think that's as far as it goes. If I believe something, that just means that it seems to me that the thing in question is true. I don't see how I can choose for things to seem differently to me. I could, perhaps, choose to test my beliefs by exposing myself to new information which could result in things seeming different to me. E.g. perhaps I believe that the French are dangerous drivers, although I have never been to France. I decide to go and drive in France. As a result, perhaps I discover that they're not dangerous drivers at all, and so my belief changes as a result of the choice I made. But even then, all I chose was to expose my belief to testing - I didn't choose to disprove it. Because if I thought it was going to be disproven, I didn't really believe it at all.

In the case of belief in God, how could anyone choose to change it? If I don't believe in God, that's because it seems to me that God doesn't exist. Now I might be willing to consider new evidence or new arguments that God does in fact exist. To that extent, I am willing to test my belief or modify it. So I'm open to having my belief changed. But I can't just decide I'm going to believe something different without any new reason for the new belief.

As it happens I was talking to a friend of mine about this a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that whenever he encounters doxastic voluntarists (I can't imagine this happens all that often) he always says: "Go on then. Change one of your beliefs right now." And he hasn't met anyone yet who can do it.
 

ParkCungHee

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Well if you're allowing the first two, couldn't one consciously guide ones thought process in a way similar to example two?

I mention this because of first hand experience because I kind of made the decision to convert to Christianity before I did. In the manner of the second example I gave, I began acting as if the beliefs in question were true, and soon found myself believing that they were.
 

Plotinus

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Well if you're allowing the first two, couldn't one consciously guide ones thought process in a way similar to example two?

I mention this because of first hand experience because I kind of made the decision to convert to Christianity before I did. In the manner of the second example I gave, I began acting as if the beliefs in question were true, and soon found myself believing that they were.

I don't discount the possibility of deliberately acting in a way that you anticipate will cause your beliefs to change, with the primary goal of having your beliefs change. But I think it would usually be a difficult and lengthy process with no surety of success. You say yourself that in your case it you "found yourself" believing in the doctrines in question - so it wasn't like you just made the decision to believe them. Rather, it sounds like the belief just emerged as a sort of by-product of your behaviour. So you didn't really choose to develop these beliefs - at least not in any direct way, analogous to typical deliberate choices that we make.

The oddest thing about the process is that it would involve wanting to believe something that you think is not true. If (say) I am not a Christian, and I believe that the doctrines of Christianity are false, and I formulate a plan of action with the intention of ending up believing that the doctrines of Christianity are true, then I'm trying to cause myself to believe something that I think is false. Why on earth would I do that? If I think that God doesn't exist, why would I want to make myself believe that he does? As far as I'm concerned, that would be an exercise in self-deception.

In your case, why did you begin acting as if the beliefs in question were true? Did you anticipate that you would end by believing that they were true? Was this your goal? Or was it an unexpected effect? Certainly our beliefs may change as a result of our actions. I may join an army out of idealistic faith in some cause, only to find that the experience of fighting leaves me embittered and disillusioned, no longer believing in the cause. Perhaps all the significant choices we make end up changing our beliefs one way or another. I don't have a problem with that. The problem comes in when we start envisaging someone making a choice with the intent of bringing about a change in his or her beliefs. As I say, I think that would be a very weird thing to do, and it would be difficult, uncertain, and lengthy.
 

Elrohir

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Yes, I'm sure that some gnostic groups were probably like this, although we don't know the details. Also, it may well have been the case that mainstream early Christianity in Syria required celibacy from all Christians, although again this is uncertain. The ancient Christians tended to think that sex was generally bad and avoided it even among married couples, but the Syrians were more extreme when it came to asceticism.
Thanks! Do you know any particular reason why the Syrians may have been more extreme in this area? (Did they have more desert pillars to hang out on than, say, the Egyptians?) The only thing in particular I can think of particular to the Syrian church was the significantly increased popularity of the Diatessaron there, but since as far as I can tell that didn't have many doctrinal differences from the canonical gospels, I doubt there's a link.


Another question, if you don't mind! What was the early Christian idea about when the soul entered the body after conception? As far as I can tell, there wasn't much of an idea of ensoulment at conception until much, much later, but there were ideas floating around of a couple of weeks (40 days?) in the middle ages. But I'm not aware of anything from the Church Fathers on this topic. Can you think of any references for me? (I realize that they found it somewhat academic, since abortion was prohibited for other reasons, anyway, even though that's mostly why it's argued about today.)
 

ParkCungHee

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If I think that God doesn't exist, why would I want to make myself believe that he does? As far as I'm concerned, that would be an exercise in self-deception.
It's only a case of self-deception if you oppose the belief in the existence of God on a rational basis. To take the example of the window, it is self deception to believe the window is closed if you know, reasonably, it is open. If you have a compulsion to close the window, and on that irrational basis you believe it is open, is it really self-deception to convince yourself that it is closed?
Similarly, I think most people, myself included, didn't reject the existence of God on the basis of reasoned opposition, but on a vague sense of him not existing. In my case, a general pessimism that we, and particularly I, would not be lucky enough to live in a universe with god.

In your case, why did you begin acting as if the beliefs in question were true?
Largely because I always professed that the church did important work, and I wanted to take part in that.
Did you anticipate that you would end by believing that they were true? Was this your goal? Or was it an unexpected effect?
I admit it's an unintended effect, which I suppose undermines my claim of it as an example of a choice to believe.
 

Eran of Arcadia

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I suppose there is always subconsciously making choices that will tend to reinforce a belief that we would find easier or more convenient to hold, as well.

Still, for most people I don't really think there is any level of conscious choice, so in that sense it makes no sense to speak of "choosing to believe".
 

Masada

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Plotinus said:
Of course there are examples of such things, and one could add others. But I think it's far more common with Christianity. It's happened in every country and every culture where Christianity has spread to. Just consider: one of the first things that happens when Christianity arrives in a new culture is that the Bible gets translated into the local language. That doesn't happen with the Koran, because Arabic is theologically significant to Muslims in a way that Hebrew and Greek are not to Christians. So right from the start Christianity has an in-built willingness to translate itself which isn't typical of Islam.

That seems a rather poor explanation though, for a couple of reasons.

(1) People weren't literate enough for it to matter. Consider that in 1940 the number of Indonesians who graduated from Dutch East Indies high schools was only 240. As a result, Indonesian literacy was probably in the single figures and remained so till after the war. Malaysia which is usually considered to a beacon of literacy in the pre-war period still only had a literacy rate in the vernacular(s) of something like 40% and even that's misleading because it often meant little more than being able to recognise one's own name... And I shouldn't think that the Muslim world, in general, was much better.

(2) The absence of the Qur'an in the vernacular was hardly an impediment to the production and translation of Islamic texts. Qur'anic commentaries, Hadith compilations, works on the Sunnah and even original works all occurred. Indonesia has the Babad Tanah Jawi, Sejarah Banten, Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai and Sejarah Melayu all vernacular works, widely disseminated across the whole of the Archipelago, all of which continue to have an impact on popular culture. The best example of this would be the Babad Tanah Jawi which are focused almost wholly on the Wali Sanga (Nine Saints) of Java. These guys are still popular figures of veneration even today and historically were the (almost) sole focus of not just Javanese literature, but also poetry, dance, theatre and song.

(3) Islamic education often wasn't all that concerned with the Qur'an per say. Sufi's in particular often never read it in full, part reading was common, or they might never read it and rely on vernacular literature to compensate. Given that some of the larger Qur'anic commentaries go through each and every single verse in the Qur'an in full, it isn't that much of an impediment. Those were amongst the first things to be translated. Even then, it was still quite common in the Muslim world for people to rote memorise the Qur'an until fairly recently.

(4) The lack of a standard accessible religious text would seem to suggest to me that the scope of deviation from a text that nobody has read, and that people perhaps only know in part, or through a few verses, is significant. The diversity of Southeast Asian Islam and more broadly world Islam would suggest just this.
 

The Strategos

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In the story in John 9, the formerly blind man says he thinks Jesus is a prophet, not that he's divine. This story is also notable in that Jesus is presented as performing the miracle in a quasi-magical way, involving the application of mud to the person's eyes and the need for washing. To my mind that would detract from any suggestion of divinity, since an omnipotent God should not require such means to accomplish his ends.

There is nothing distinctly “magical” about the healing in John 9. No less an ancient authority than Pliny devotes a chapter in Natural History to the medicinal benefits of human spittle (and Pliny was a self proclaimed enemy of the magical arts see, Natural History XXX.1).

Pliny Natural History XXVIII.7 said:
On the same principle, it is the practice in all cases where medicine is employed, to spit three times on the ground, and to conjure the malady as often; the object being, to aid the operation of the remedy employed…
We may well believe, then, that lichens and leprous spots may be removed by a constant application of fasting spittle; that ophthalmia [inflammation of the eye] may be cured by anointing, as it were, the eyes every morning with fasting spittle; that carcinomata may be effectually treated, by kneading the root of the plant known as "apple of the earth," with human spittle; that crick in the neck may be got rid of by carrying fasting spittle to the right knee with the right hand, and to the left knee with the left; and that when an insect has got into the ear, it is quite sufficient to spit into that organ, to make it come out.


I know this is old, but I was just searching around to see if you have said anything about magic.

Plotinus said:
I don't think those forms of paganism and magic were very influential on early Christianity. The early Christians thought all such things were wrong and avoided them. Now some later magical theory proved to have some influence. Iamblichus, for example, tried to use Neoplatonic principles to show how magic (theurgy) worked. Pseudo-Dionysius later incorporated some of these into his own work, and borrowed the very term theurgy itself - but for him it referred to the sacraments. However, I think this sort of thing was really a borrowing of details rather than the main outlines.

Christians avoided magic only insofar as they avoided calling what they did magic. But of course, self-identification of your practices as magic is extremely rare, it is almost always someone else who is performing magic. At a superficial level, they borrowed imagery, Igantius’ “medicine of immortality,” (though this could also come from Isis mystery religion or medical terminology) Clement of Alexandria designating God as the “holy charmer of sick souls” who places a “love-charm” within man (Paed 1.2-3).

Origen’s theory of the power of names has in basic theory an affinity to the power of words expressed in magical incantations, to which he himself draws notice:

If, then, we shall be able to establish, in reference to the preceding statement, the nature of powerful names, some of which are used by the learned amongst the Egyptians, or by the Magi among the Persians, and by the Indian philosophers called Brahmans, or by the Samanaeans, and others in different countries; and shall be able to make out that the so-called magic is not, as the followers of Epicurus and Aristotle suppose, an altogether uncertain thing, but is, as those skilled in it prove, a consistent system, having words which are known to exceedingly few; then we say that the name Sabaoth, and Adonai, and the other names treated with so much reverence among the Hebrews, are not applicable to any ordinary created things, but belong to a secret theology which refers to the Framer of all things. These names, accordingly, when pronounced with that attendant train of circumstances which is appropriate to their nature, are possessed of great power; and other names, again, current in the Egyptian tongue, are efficacious against certain demons who can only do certain things; and other names in the Persian language have corresponding power over other spirits; and so on in every individual nation, for different purposes...

And a similar philosophy of names applies also to our Jesus, whose name has already been seen, in an unmistakeable manner, to have expelled myriads of evil spirits from the souls and bodies (of men), so great was the power which it exerted upon those from whom the spirits were driven out. And while still upon the subject of names, we have to mention that those who are skilled in the use of incantations, relate that the utterance of the same incantation in its proper language can accomplish what the spell professes to do; but when translated into any other tongue, it is observed to become inefficacious and feeble. And thus it is not the things signified, but the qualities and peculiarities of words, which possess a certain power for this or that purpose.

John Chrysostom complains that members of his congregation in Antioch use magic, specifically golden coins as amulets (coins used as amulets was common in the ancient world, evidently the older the coin, the more power it was thought to posses). In addition, he accuses certain members of bringing in Christian women to practice magic.

John Chrysostom Instructions to Catechumens 2.5 said:
And what is one to say about them who use charms and amulets, and encircle their heads and feet with golden coins of Alexander of Macedon. Are these our hopes, tell me, that after the cross and death of our Master, we should place our hopes of salvation on an image of a Greek king? Thou dost not only have amulets always with you, but incantations bringing drunken and half-witted old women into your house, and are you not ashamed, and do you not blush, after so great philosophy, to be terrified at such things? And there is a graver thing than this error. For when we deliver these exhortations, and lead them away, thinking that they defend themselves, they say, that the woman is a Christian who makes these incantations, and utters nothing else than the name of God. On this account I especially hate and turn away from her, because she makes use of the name of God, with a view to ribaldry.

Many of these “Christian” magical spells have been preserved and several Coptic ones have been collected into a book called Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power edited by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith. Some of these are distinctly syncretic, for example the Great Magical Papyrus of Paris (4th century) which reads in part:

Great Magical Papyrus of Paris said:
Hail, Osiris, King of the Underworld…
Hail Althabot; bring Sabaoth unto me.
Hail Althonai, great Eou, very valiant; bring Michael unto me, the mighty angel who is with god…
Hail gods, Achnoui Acham Abra Abra Sabaoth.

Like other magical traditions, the Christian magical traditition is aimed at accomplishing different things, some ask about the future, some ask for healing, some are love spells (even one example of a male-male love spell) and some, such as this example, are a curse against a third party.

Untitled from Aberdeen said:
Maira
Michael, Gabriel, Souleel! You must bring her away by the method of an ulcerous tumor. Arise in your anger, bring her down to a painful end, to put aside marriage, and send forth punishment, she pouring forth worms, (that is) Martha. My lord Jesus Christ, you must bring her down to an end. Yea, Jesus Christ, you must dissipate her hope so that no one desires to assist her.
 

madviking

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Is there a contradiction between the following two passages?

John 15:15 (KJV) said:
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

madviking translation: "You guys aren't servants since I've told you everything."

John 16:12 (KJV) said:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

madviking translation: "Err...actually there are a few things I haven't told you guys yet cause you can't handle the truth."
 
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