The diverse and seemingly disparate corpus of curse tablets (defixionum tabellae) and prayers for justice have so far been widely neglected in New Testament scholarship. Defixiones and prayers for justice were used by individuals in Antiquity in the context of magical practices in order to rectify injustices, moderate competitive situations or to influence a broad variety of situations in life in their favor. These realia are – in our view unjustly – rarely considered when seeking to deepen our understanding of New Testament texts.

Therefore the focus of our colloquium will be on „Verflucht und zugenäht. Antike Fluchtafeln und das Neue Testament“. It will take place at the University of Mainz from April 5th-7th 2018, and will be organized by Dr. Michael Hölscher (Mainz), Dr. Markus Lau (Freiburg [Schweiz]) and Dr. Susanne Luther (Mainz).

The objective of our colloquium is twofold:

  1. On the one hand we want to explore the fascinating world of ancient defixiones and prayers for justice and render it accessible for our exegetical work. As New Testament scholars, we are interested in applying the methods of critical exegesis along with hermeneutical reflection in order to focus upon a group of texts which are both part of the immediate temporal and local context of the New Testament and were widely used and firmly established in day-to-day life in Antiquity.
  2. On the other hand we want to pursue an interpretation of New Testament texts and textual details in the light of defixiones and prayers for justice. As such, we will search for points of contact between defixiones/prayers for justice and the New Testament, which are reflected e.g. in parallel phenomena, in the participation in common pretexts, in New Testament allusions to as well as in influences of New Testament texts on ancient defixiones and prayers for justice. In short: We will ask whether we can detect an echo to the defixiones and prayers for justice in the New Testament texts and if so, how such an echo may be interpreted with a view to production or reception.

Website header: Picture of a leaden tablet wrapped round a bone, found in Mainz, sanctuary of Isis and Mater Magna (by Martin Bahmann [Own work] [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons)