Saturday, 23 May 2009

New Testament Magic?

I was recently contacted by Robert Conner who writes:

I bumped into your fascinating site while looking for Phlegon. There
has been some speculation that the resurrection stories of the New
Testament are ghost stories. If this is of any interest, may I suggest
my own web book, Magic in the New Testament
(, and a recent article in the Journal for
the Study of the New Testament by Deborah Prince (JTNT 29: 287-301).

I haven't had time for more than a cursory look at the web book, and honestly am not sure what to make of it. The article referred to is The 'Ghost' of Jesus: Luke 24 in Light of Ancient Narratives of Post-Mortem Apparitions. Unfortunately, only the abstract is available online.


Amateur Vampirologist said...

Hmm, regarding this Jesus-as-a-ghost theory, one need only consult Luke 24: 36-43:

"And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
"But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
"And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
"Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
"And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
"And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
"And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
"And he took it, and did eat before them."

Doesn't get much more blatant than that.

Leon said...

Off Topic, more on fake vampires:

Robert said...

As a further brief comment, I should point out that the type of ghost involved appears to be a "revenant," or embodied ghost. Oddly enough, embodied ghosts can be "solid" and perform clearly physical activities --in a ghost story by Phlegan of Tralles, a ghost eats a child's body, leaving only the head-- but can also suddenly disappear. The crone/ghost who kills the miller in the Roman novel The Metamorphosis (aka The Golden Ass) is another example that comes to mind. Philinnion, another ghost from a famous Phlegon story, has certain vampiric qualites: she walks by night, disappears during the day, leaves her tomb empty, etc, but is also physical in that she has sex, carries objects back to her grave, speaks, etc. In the gospel stories Jesus appears to be solid, but appears when doors are locked and seems to be most active during "between times," i.e., evening, and places, i.e., the shore. In other words, liminal times and places which suggest he himself is "liminal."

Timo S. Paananen said...

In case you're still interested in Deborah Thompson Prince's article: it is available at along with another article by Jason Robert Combs on ancient beliefs about ghosts and the New Testament.

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