Carol A. Newsom: Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism

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Professor Carol A. Newsom (Emory University) gives a lecture on “Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism”, delivered on April 22, 2013 at The University of Texas at Austin:

Although classical Israelite religion has very little to say about demons and other evil forces, but popular religion took it for granted that evil demons existed, haunting desert ruins and sometimes preying on people. In the late Persian and Hellenistic periods (4th—2nd centuries BCE) speculation about these types of figures proliferates. Incantations against demons, protective amulets, and practices of exorcism are all attested. Mythic accounts of the origin of evil spirits are developed, and the names and occasionally even the appearance of the demons are described. This talk will examine the origins and functions of speculation on demonic forces in early Judaism, a worldview with profound and lasting cultural effects. Although rabbinic Judaism largely rejected it, this worldview strongly shaped Christian religious beliefs. And while modernist Christians do not take the mythology of evil spirits literally, variations on these beliefs remain common among conservative evangelical and Pentecostal Christians throughout the world.

The lecture is available in mp3 audio format. It is also available on video, at an earlier rendition of the paper, at the Carolina Centre for Jewish Studies, November 2012:

Carol A. Newsom is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She has written seven books and scores of articles, book chapters, translations, encyclopedia articles, and reviews. She has received several prestigious research fellowships, including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Henry Luce Foundation, and has won several awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring. She recently served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature and is a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

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