Who were the Jewish "magicians" behind the Aramaic incantation bowls?

Avigail Manekin-Bamberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This article focuses on the social and professional contexts of the producers of Jewish Aramaic incantation bowls. Based on the vast amount of legal terminology deployed in the bowls, as well as a reference to bowl writers as 'writers of books' in bowl AMB6, I argue that bowl scribes were part of a professional guild of scribes (soferim) that engaged in a variety of forms of Jewish writing. Furthermore, I suggest that the scribal context of the practitioners of the magic bowls was different from the professional context of the contemporaneous corpus of Jewish metal amulets. Identifying the unique Sitz im Leben of the bowls reveals that for Jews in Sasanian Babylonia the line between magic, law and religion was not rigid, and perhaps non-existent. Further work on the context of ancient Jewish magic may therefore lead to new perceptions of ancient Jewish society.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)235-254
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.


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