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Topics in Early Jewish History: Divinatory Methods in Early Jewish and Christian Texts

Ancient Jewish authors mention various divinatory methods which aimed at uncovering the divine will and thus helping people better prepare themselves for the future. Prophecy appears to be their preferred method. It allowed selected individuals access divine will almost without any activity of their own. Also, oracle of lot and dream divination were accepted by the authors. Meanwhile, some other methods such as consulting dead (e.g. Deut 18:9-14 and 2 Kings 23:24-25) are strictly prohibited in the ancient Jewish texts. In this seminar we will analyze how various divinatory methods are depicted in the Jewish and Christian texts of the Second Temple period and the first centuries CE. Why are some methods accepted and others forbidden? We will engage with anthropological studies on divinatory rituals. In addition, we will analyze references to divination through the lens of "outsiders" and "insiders" and ask how the authors of the texts want to distinguish Jews from the neighboring cultures.


Unit(s): 3.0 Level(s): Graduate Term(s): Winter Offered?: Yes Language?: No

Hanna Tervanotko

Assistant Professor