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Jesus und die Christen als Wundertter: Studien zu Magie, Medizin und Schamanismus in

Antike und Christentu by Bernd Kollmann


Review by: Dale B. Martin
Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 117, No. 3 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 533-534
Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3266458 .
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Book Reviews 533

familiarmanuscripttitlesandtheirmanuscript numbers(asin bothVermes'sandGarcia


Martinez'stranslations),as well as some categorization
of textsby genre,wouldhave
been helpfulforthe non-specialistwhowishesto pursuefurtherstudyfromthiswork.
Monica L. W. Brady,Universityof Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556

Jesusunddie Christenals Wundertdter:


Studienzu Magie,Medizinund Schamanismus
in Antike und Christentum, by Bernd Kollmann. FRLANT 170. Gottingen: Vanden-
hoeck & Ruprecht, 1996. Pp. 438. DM 138,00.
This work is Kollmann's1995 Gottingen Habilitationsschrift.As a work in the best
German philological tradition, the study is thorough and wide-ranging. It provides a
useful survey of ancient healing practices, including attention to Greco-Roman
medicine and magic, and Jewish as well as Christian sources. Its main thesis is that
miraculoushealings, and especially exorcisms,were an importantpart of early Christian
life and contributed in significantways both to Christianself-representationand its suc-
cess in winning over large numbers of people in a relativelyshort period of time.
The second chapter is a typical history of research, beginning with Reimarus and
proceeding through the rationalist-naturalistaccounts of various Enlightenment schol-
ars, the "mythological"explanationsby Strauss, the history-of-religionsapproach, and
later interpretationsof Jesus as a typicalJewishhealer or magician.The surveyends with
a rehearsal of Theissen's interpretation of early Christian "wanderingcharismatics."
(The account, until the middle of the twentieth century, is centered on German scholar-
ship. Various English and Scottish skepticaltreatments, such as those by Hume, which
were importantinfluences also on the Continent, are not treated.) Much of the opening
survey concentrates on debates about the historicalworth of the miracle accounts.
Chapter 3 is a survey of all sorts of healing and wonder-working in the ancient
world-necessarily cursoryand with little social-historicalcontextualizationor analytical
depth. It is divided into the ratherpredictable"Hellenism/Judaism" dichotomy.Included
under "hellenism"are: "scientific"medicine (mainly Hippocratic),Asclepian materials,
magicalpapyri,and traditionsaboutvariousparticularhealers (theioiandres, Pythagoras,
Simon Magus, et al.). Under "Judaism"are surveyed magical-pharmacologicalhealings,
accounts of healings in nonbiblical Jewish texts, rabbinic traditions about Honi and
Hanina, and Jewish magic in later, mysticalJewishsources (e.g., "The Swordof Moses").
Chapter 4 turns its attention to Jesus, whose miracles are divided into exorcismsof
demons, healings, and "naturemiracles." Each Gospel text that recounts a miracle is
studied minutely. First, Kollmannprovides form-criticalanalysisof each pericope, sug-
gesting historical origins and a possible Sitz im Leben for each. Interests are concen-
trated on the historicalJesus. The subsequent redaction-criticalsection makes expected
points about each Gospel. Matthew is found, for example, to play down "magical"ele-
ments he finds in Mark;John eliminates (whether consciously or not is unclear) exor-
cisms and uses the miracles to make theological points. An interesting exception to the
expected conclusions is Kollmann'sinsistence that Markdoes not tone down "magical
elements" in his stories of Jesus' healings and exorcisms,contraryto the interpretations
of some other scholars.
Kollmannthen addressesthe place of miraclesin the early church. He covers Acts,

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534 Journalof Biblical Literature

Paul, James, and later, nonbiblicalwriters in the first two centuries. He closes this sec-
tion, the last major one of the book, with suggestions about the social significance of
healing and exorcism in early Christianityin comparison with contemporary miracles
and healings being performed by professional ("scientific"or "rational")doctors, Ascle-
pian sanctuaries, magicians, and popular, "folk"healers. The book concludes with Koll-
mann's advice that moder scholars be more careful about their own prejudices, both
those inherited from the Enlightenment as well as those from Protestantismin general,
that have tended to ignore or underestimate the importance of miraculoushealings and
exorcisms for the historyof early Christianity.
Although different in details from the practices of various other healers in antiq-
uity, Christian healings and exorcisms played very important roles in the daily life of
early Christian communities. From the beginning, in the ministry of Jesus himself,
through at least the first two centuries of Christianity,miracles were seen by Christians
and non-Christians alike as constituting an indispensable aspect of early Christian life
and especially its "missions strategy." (Notably missing is any mention of Ramsay
MacMullen's Christianizingthe RomanEmpire [1984], which famouslyproposed a sim-
ilar thesis.) Healing in Christianitywas unique in some ways. According to Kollmann,
scholars have overemphasized the practice of healing for free in the ancient world, that
is, without financial remuneration.The availableevidence suggests that almost all heal-
ing, whether that of Hippocratic-styledoctors, magicians,market-placepharmacists,or
sanctuaries,cost money, often much money. Most Christianhealers, on the other hand,
healed without charge. According to Kollmann, this was possible for them because, as
"wanderingcharismatics,"they could depend on the support of local Christiancongre-
gations. This healing free of charge, though, constituted also a self-conscious missionary
strategy. And it worked. In its heavy competition-with all healers and especially the
powerhouses like the god Asclepius-Christianity gained an advantageby being able to
claim that it healed without financialmotives.
The strengths of Kollmann'sbook lie in its thoroughness and encyclopedic scope.
Its weaknesses consist of its ratheruncriticalacceptance of traditionalmethods of inter-
pretation and lack of historiographicalor theoretical innovation(straightforwardhistory-
of-religions methods with no interest in the sorts of"cultural studies"or anthropological
questions that many North Americanscholarswill bring to the material,such as connec-
tions of healing practices to different structuresof knowledge, world-formation,power,
or ideology). Nonetheless, Jesus und die Christen als Wundertiter is an important and
impressive book and makes a significantcontributionto the study of healing, magic, and
miracle in ancient Christianity.
Dale B. Martin,Duke University,Durham, NC 27708

ApocalypticEschatologyin the Gospelof Matthew,by DavidC. Sim. SNTSMS88.


Cambridge:Cambridge UniversityPress, 1996. Pp. xviii + 282. $54.95.
Call it millennial fever if you like, but the hitherto neglected topic of Matthean
eschatology is suddenly receiving a lot of attention. "Eschatology"was the theme for the
1996 meeting of the SBL Matthew Group, and recent works by Blaine Charette,

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