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Jesus the Magician, by Morton Smith

Reviewed by Gesigewigu’s

[Snip] This book does an excellent job of appealing to both “scholarship and literate laity,”1 both in structure and content. The breakdown of the book is clearly outlined so you can see how Smith will tackle the subject in a way that makes the text flow seamlessly, starting with the details of Jesus’ life, his miracles and magick as outlined in the gospels and in Jewish and Pagan sources, moving into what it means to be a magician and comparing that term between Biblical and non-Biblical sources.

A central point of Smith’s work, as evidenced by the title, is the idea that Jesus would have been considered a magician at the time by the common person, and that the separation of religious miracle and magick was something emphasized later in order to distinguish Jesus from others. Most people in any magical community will be familiar with this (non)division, but for the secular or Christian audience, it’s a point worth exploring. To illustrate these similarities Smith looks at the miracles attributed to Jesus, and then looks at magical texts (such as the Greek Magical Papyri) and other hagiographies (such as The Life of Apollonius) to show how the same themes, the same expressions, and the same miracles show up across these sources. Healing, exorcisms, controlling the weather, talking with and raising the dead — all of these are attributed to Jesus, but also to any competent magician of his era, and Smith shows how this plays out in the depiction of Jesus in his life and after.

Read the full review

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