Jesus the Magician

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Jesus the Magician
Cover
Author Morton Smith
Subject Historical Jesus
Publisher Harper & Row
Publication date
1978
Pages 222 pp.
ISBN ISBN 978-0-06-067412-0
OCLC 3273846

Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? is a 1978 book by Morton Smith arguing that the historical Jesus was a magician who "sprang from a Galilean strain of Semitic paganism" (p. 68).

Background[edit]

The idea that Jesus was a magician did not originate with Morton Smith. It was previously voiced by the philosopher and critic Celsus (The True Word c. 200 CE) as we know from the rebuttal authored by the Christian apologist/scholar Origen: “It was by magic that he was able to do the miracles” (Contra Celsum 1.6).Hans Dieter Betz (1994) observes that "from early on even Jesus of Nazareth was implicated in that he was said to be mad or a magician possessed by Satan" and R. Joseph Hoffmann writes (1987) that "that the early Christian mission was advanced by the use of magic is well attested."

Reviews[edit]

The relationship between magic and religion is hotly contested in scholarly circles. With regards to this theory about Jesus, H.S. Versnel makes the observation (1991) that "Once again magic is not always magic, depending as it does upon the authority of the person who is using the term." Archaeologist William G. Dever argues (2005) that magic is "precisely what religion is, or at least was, however much that may offend modern sensibilities."

Barry Crawford (Ph.D Vanderbilt University), currently Co-Chair of the Society of Biblical Literature's Consultation on Redescribing Christian Origins, in his 1979 review states that "Smith exhibits an intricate knowledge of the magical papyri, but his ignorance of current Gospel research is abysmal", concluding that the work has traits of a conspiracy theory.

Editions[edit]

References[edit]

  • Hans Dieter Betz, "The Birth of Christianity as a Hellenistic Religion: Three Theories of Origin," The Journal of Religion 74 (1994), pp. 1–25
  • Barry Crawford, Journal of the American Academy of Religion (1979), 321-322.
  • Celsus, On the True Doctrine. A Discourse Against the Christians tr. by R. Joseph Hoffmann (1987), p. 53 n3.
  • William G. Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (2005), 4.
  • H.S. Versnel, "Some Reflections on the Relationship Magic-Religion," Numen 38 (1991), pp. 177–197.
  • Jennifer Viegas, "Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician'" October 1, 2008. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26972493/ Accessed November 2, 2009.