Revista Studii Teologice


JA slide show

"„Iar eu, o, duhule, te conjur…” (4Q560 I, 2:5). Practicile magice şi divinatorii în manuscrisele de la Qumran"

„And I, O spirit, conjure thee…” (4Q560 I, 2:5). Magical and divination practices in the Qumran manuscripts

Autor(i): Cristinel IATAN

The Qumran sect was ambivalent about magical practices. While they acknowledged the Deuternomy interdiction (Dt. 18, 9-14) however they employed divination practices in order to regulate community life, for instance to recruit new members. This attitude does not contradict the spirit of Old Testament teachings, since certain divination forms were accepted and used by numerous persons under the Old Law. The Essenes practiced some forms of magic, and although most manuscripts reiterate the Old Testament interdiction against magic and sorcery, they found methods to circumvent the Deuteronomy interdiction, for instance by resorting to exorcisms.
The exorcisms in the Essene system are part incantations, part prayers to cast away devils or the adherents of Beliar (1QS II:4-18). 4Q242 (4QPrNab ar) contains the prayer of Nabonidus, king of Babylon (556–539 î.Hr.), when he is healed by God through an Israelite exorcist exiled from Judea to Babylon. Following this healing, we are told that Nabonidus embraces monotheist religion, although no other document apart from the Dead Sea scrolls describes this event. According to 4Q242, during the exile the Israelites were famous for their exorcists who were able to cast devils away by their special skills, which from the standpoint of old Israelite theology had originally caused illness, diseases and ill will among people. Actually, the Qumranites themselves, giving their own interpretation to the Old Testament, believed that Biblical personalities such as Abraham had been famous exorcists (1QapGen ar XX:12-29). Apparently, some of the sect members fell under the malefic influence of devils, therefore exorcism was also performed over them (4Q444). A key element in any incantation was the uttering the ineffable divine name, which was deemed to have magical power able to counter the harmful influence of all evil spirits (4Q510 (4QShira), 4Q511 (4QShirb). However, in the Essenes’ view, not anyone could invoke the divine name in order to cast devils away, but only a specially trained person or even their leader (Maśkîl). In order to be driven away, demons were called on their names and opposed the powerful divine name, Yahweh. Interestingly, the Essene dualism was also manifest in the case of demons. Thus, there are male and female demons (4Q560 I:I, 3 and 5). Evil spirits were confronted directly and Scriptural texts were quoted in order to lend efficiency and legitimacy to the invocation.
As far as sorcery is concerned, generally the Qumranites rejected it (1QHa or 1QHodayota), however the attitude towards it is also hesitant and ambiguous. Among others, the manuscripts mention „magical ties or knots” (1QHa XIII:28), „charms” (4Q169 frag. 3-4, II:7), as well as „Egyptian magicians” (4Q300 frag. 1, II:1). The numerous fragments of the Book of Enoch, found among the manuscripts, demonstrate that this pseudo-mystical book was highly valued (4Q201 (4QEna ar), 4Q202 (4QEnb ar), 4Q204 (4QEnc ar), 4Q205 (4QEnd ar), 4Q206 (4QEne ar)). This is probably due to the fact that it explains certain enigmatic Biblical fragments of the Old Testament, such as the fall of angels in Gen 6, 1-4, as well as the origin of magical practices. Shemihaza, the head of rebellious angels, is the one who taught women the magical incantations (4Q201 IV:1).
Cleromancy was the favourite divination method of the Essenes. It was employed in making important decisions of general interest concerning the community, and to avoid subjectivity and ambiguity in decision-making. These decisions were deemed to come directly from God. Therefore, it was only necessary to cast lots in order to „intuit” God’s will. Therefore, the Essenes believed themselves to be „God’s chosen”, because entering their community depended on a favorable answer to lot casting (1QS VI:13-23; 1QM XIII:9).
Physiognomancy was a counterpart to the astrological system. Whereas astromancy predicted future based on the position of planets at the moment of one’s birth, physiognomancy took into account individual physical features (teeth, fingers, eye color, etc.) which could be considered as the gods’ imprints on the human destiny. The physiognomancy technique could also be employed in order to identify the persons belonging to the „spirit of light” and, respectively, the „spirit of darkness” (4Q186 1.II:7-9). It is unknown whether the result of this consultation had any effect on the candidates for novitiate into the community.
Necromancy is mentioned in three texts: 4Q267 (4QDb), 4Q270 (4QDe), 4Q271 (4QDf), all of them belonging to the writing known as „The Damascus Document (CD)”. For the time being, there is no evidence that the Essenes accepted it or practiced it in some way or another. Necromancers are mentioned alongside the profaners of the divine name (4Q270 2.I:10).

Pagini: 153-189