Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Scripture as Talisman, Specimen, and Dragoman
Posted by Jay Larson
"Scripture as Talisman, Specimen, and Dragoman" is the title of Dr. Edwin Yamauchi's Presidential Address to the Evangelical Theological Society on November 16, 2006. Dr. Yamauchi's address now appears in the latest issue of the conservative Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50/3 (March 2007): 3-30. Dr. Yamauchi, an internationally known scholar of the ancient Mediterranean, maintains a long-standing research interest in the uses (and abuses) of Scriptures for magical purposes in the ancient world. Yamauchi highlights several case examples of how the Bible was used as a magical talisman for "prophylactic purposes," and discusses some cultural consequences of this functional purpose. The author also considers how the Bible functions as a "specimen" for scholars, where the text is of interest only for academic criticism and analysis, and notes additional consequences of this function. Finally, Yamauchi argues that the Bible functions as a "dragoman," a word the author adopts to suggest that the Bible acts as an "interpreter" in the way that a diplomat from the Ottoman Empire would interpret the ruler's decrees. Scholars of iconic books will likely find the "Talisman" portion of Dr. Yamauchi's article to be of the most use, as it is the only section where the author explicitly considers material aspects of the Bible, although even here Yamauchi's focus is more on material configurations of the content of the Bible and less on magical uses of the Book itself.