Magic, Sorcery, and Sacraments: Combating and Using the Supernatural in Ancient Christian Literature
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In the first four centuries of this era, Christians of the Greek-speaking Roman world displayed a range of attitudes toward rituals and behaviors that they labeled as "magical," i.e. as mageia, goeteia, or pharmakeia. Christian responses to these phenomena and the related terminology range from outright condemnation to self-description. This thesis examines the use of words pertaining to "magical" practice in literature from the first several centuries of the Church, including passages from the didactic texts of the Apostolic Fathers, the novelistic Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, and the stories regarding Jesus in the Apocryphal Gospels. Patterns of behaviors and contexts associated with Greek "magical" vocabulary are explored in these texts in order to argue that these authors believed their sacraments were in direct conflict, even combat, with the demonically driven, "magical" sacraments of pagan religion.