Lecture: Joseph Sanzo, "At the Crossroads of Magic and Anti-Magical Discourse: The Classification of Ritual in a Late-Antique Coptic Codex (Leiden, Ms. AMS 9)"

Apr 3, 2019, 4:30 pm4:30 pm
Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103



Event Description

Scholarship over the past several decades has properly recognized that slanderous statements against magic were not typically meant to describe accurately the practices depicted (e.g., the use of amulets or curses). Instead, individuals (e.g., ecclesiastical leaders) seem to have used such accusations and condemnations of magic to consolidate their power, to divide religious insiders from outsiders, or to support their preferred taxonomies of proper and improper rituals. Accordingly, scholars have tended to draw a firm distinction between those who condemn magic, on the one hand, and practitioners of magic, on the other hand. This talk investigates an intriguing Coptic codex (Leiden, Ms. AMS 9 [VI–VIII CE]), which both refers to itself as an amulet (phylaktêrion) and utilizes highly theological polemic against ritual experts and various ritual practices. With late-antique ritual objects as well as monastic and patristic discourses against magic as comparative sources, this paper argues that artifacts, such as Leiden, Ms. AMS 9, do not blur the boundaries between religion and magic (as is often claimed), but simply reflect different configurations of such categories – no less stringently defined than those of ecclesiastical leaders.

Joseph E. Sanzo is a WIRL Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Fellowat the University of Warwick. His research focuses on Christianity during late antiquity, with a particular emphasis on early Christian ritual practices in lived contexts. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles (2012). Joseph is the author of Scriptural Incipits on Amulets from Late Antique Egypt: Text, Typology, and Theory (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014) and the edited volumes Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World (with Jacco Dieleman and Ra‘anan Boustan; special issue of the journal, Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 2015) and Dangerous Books: Scribal Activity and Religious Boundaries in Late Antiquity and Beyond (with Flavia Ruani; special issue of the journal, Henoch 2017). He also has published his research in several refereed journals, such as The Harvard Theological Review, The Journal of Theological Studies, The Journal of Early Christian Studies, and Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.