Monday, March 12, 2012

SBL paper accepted

I'VE RECEIVED THE GOOD NEWS that my paper proposal for the 2012 Society of Biblical Literature meeting has been accepted by the Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity Section. Here's the abstract:
The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee

The legend narrated in 4 Ezra 14:19-48 reports that Ezra, at God's command, assembled five scribes and then, having imbibed a fiery spiritual drink, he dictated a series of revelations over a period of forty days. The scribes wrote in characters they themselves did not know and at the end of this period had produced ninety-four lost books. Various ancient parallels to this story have been adduced in the commentaries. In this paper I analyse a remarkable parallel from the sixteenth century in the detailed records of the angelic séances held by the English Renaissance polymath and magus John Dee. In the 1580s Dee worked with a "scryer," named Edward Kelley who purported to receive revelations from angels while gazing into a crystal. In a three-month period between April and July 1584, a complex system of ceremonial magic was revealed to Kelley in the form of a table of letters (the so-called Great Table) containing two sets of names—one of angels and one of aetheric realms—with one system superimposed on the other, and nineteen "Calls" or incantations to be used to invoke these angels. The text of the Calls was dictated by Kelley, sometimes letter-by-letter, backwards, in a language which is otherwise unknown, and written down by Dee. An otherwise unknown script was also revealed in which to write them. English translations of the Calls were provided at odd intervals, demonstrating Enochian to be a reasonably coherent language and the Calls themselves to be interesting compositions with some literary merit. Although the story in 4 Ezra is clearly legendary, central elements of it that appear highly implausible are paralleled in the well-documented reception of the Enochian Great Table and Calls by Dee and Kelley, supporting the possibility, intimated by scholars such as Michael Stone, that the Ezra narrative may be based on actual revelatory praxis in ancient Judaism.
Past posts involving John Dee are here, here, and here. As you can see, that back-burner project mentioned in the third post has been moved closer to the front. A couple of earlier posts also involve the Dee-Kelley system of "Enochian" magic (here and here). This system is unrelated to the ancient apocryphal "Enochic" literature.

UPDATE: Incorrect dates in abstract now corrected.