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‘To Bless With A Mouth Bent On Cursing’: Patristic Interpretations Of Balaam (Num 24:17)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents the main lines of the reception of Balaam and of Number 24:17. It starts with the most prominent feature: Num 24:17 as foretelling the incarnation. The chapter discusses the link between this verse and the Matthean story of the Magi. It indicates the role of Num 24:17 in the polemic of the Church Fathers against astrological practices. The chapter shows further that the Church Fathers also highlighted negative aspects of Balaam's character and how they address the tension with his undeniably positive contribution to the history of salvation. In his fourth oracle, Balaam prophesies: 'a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel' (RSV). In the Church Fathers' critical reflections regarding astrological practices, the star of the Magi plays a predominantly positive role.

Keywords: Balaam; Church Fathers; Israel; Jacob; Matthean story; star of the Magi



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