The vow-curse in ancient Jewish texts

Avigail Manekin-Bamberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Uttering a vow was an important and popular religious practice in ancient Judaism. It is mentioned frequently in biblical literature, and an entire rabbinic tractate, Nedarim, is devoted to this subject. In this article, I argue that starting from the Second Temple period, alongside the regular use of the vow, vows were also used as an aggressive binding mechanism in interpersonal situations. This practice became so popular that in certain contexts the vow became synonymous with the curse, as in a number of ossuaries in Jerusalem and in the later Aramaic incantation bowls. Moreover, this semantic expansion was not an isolated Jewish phenomenon but echoed both the use of the anathema in the Pauline epistles and contemporary Greco-Roman and Babylonian magical practices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)340-357
Number of pages18
JournalHarvard Theological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 President and Fellows of Harvard College.


  • Aramaic incantation bowls
  • Damascus Document
  • Paul
  • Second Temple literature
  • ancient magic
  • rabbinics


Dive into the research topics of 'The vow-curse in ancient Jewish texts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this