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The Evil Eye and the Sermon On the Mount

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image of Biblical Interpretation

Belief in the malignant force of the Evil Eye and strategies to ward off its destructive power pervaded the cultures of the ancient Near East and Circum-Mediterranean basin. This belief was shared by the biblical communities who in their writings refer frequently to the Evil Eye, its associated dispositions, and means of protection from its injurious effects. This paper situates one such biblical Evil Eye text within its cultural context. Following a summary of salient features of Evil Eye belief and practices and a review of biblical Evil Eye texts, the focus is on one reference to this belief in the teaching of Jesus: Matt: 6:22-23 in the Sermon on the Mount. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how reference to the Evil Eye was culturally and conceptually appropriate in this segment of teaching, how the Evil Eye here and generally was associated with the vice of envy, and how this Evil Eye allusion functions in both its literary and cultural contexts. A related aim is to use this topic to demonstrate the utility and procedure of social scientific criticism as a necessary supplementation of conventional historical-critical exegesis.

Affiliations: 1: University of San Francisco


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