religion, being different from that of the majority, may be regarded as magic, and its magical practices, because unfamiliar, may be represented as carrying unusual power. It is likely enough that for some time the Jews of Alexandria were credited by native Egyptians with special knowledge of magic; and even if they were feared for that reason, the Egyptians would not be the less disposed to avail themselves of Jewish magical skill.
There are, in fact, some sections of the Graeco-Egyptian magical books that purport to be of Jewish origin. A formula designed to throw a medium into a trance is called “Solomon's Trance Spell” (Σολομῶνος κατάπτωσις);21
but it contains nothing Jewish except the word “Amen” in a series of voces magicae
, where, as Preisendanz suggests, it may have been introduced in the belief that it was an angel name. Actually the spell contains much that is Egyptian, and the invocation seems to be directed primarily to Osiris. Conversely, the recipe of Pibeches for the treatment of demoniac patients goes under an Egyptian name, yet some of its phrases are reminiscent of Hebrew poetry and prophecy.22
It alludes to incidents in the Old Testament, the plagues sent upon Pharaoh, the passing of the Red Sea, the manifestation of God in the pillar of light; moreover, the demon is to be adjured by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus. In spite of this name, some scholars have accepted the spell as genuinely Jewish. To me it seems equally possible that a non-Jewish practitioner who had learned something of Jewish religious history, and who had heard from Christians that wonders were worked in the name of Jesus, simply borrowed from this alien lore in order to enhance the authority of his recipe with new and strange elements.23
There is a somewhat similar situation in a famous curse tablet from Hadrumetum, where the spirit of a dead man is adjured by the God of Abraham to aid a lovesick woman.24
The powers and attributes of God, as recited in the long invocation, clearly show the influence of the Old Testament, although there are no direct quotations. But there are so many errors in names that must have been on the lips of every Israelite from childhood that it is hard to believe that a Jew actually wrote the charm. Yet it seems to go back to a Jewish source; the fact that the text contains no names of pagan deities and demons points definitely to such an origin. The actual inscriber of the charm and the person who used it (if she was not the writer) were willing enough to use Jewish formulas, doubtless believing that they would make the spell work better.
The “Ogdoad or Eighth Book of Moses,” which appears in two recensions in one of the Leyden papyri, has been analyzed by several scholars, with little agreement about its origin; 25
but it is at least certain that it is not a piece of pure Jewish magical literature, and that the title was devised merely to give the work the prestige of an ancient and revered name.
24 The text may be conveniently consulted in Audollent, Defix. Tab., pp. 374–375, or in Wünsch, Antike Fluchtafeln (Kleine Texte, 20), pp. 21–25. See also Blau, Das altjüdische Zauberwesen, p. 101.