Transformations of "purity" in Christian discourses of demon compulsion through the sixteenth century
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An ongoing discourse about "purity" shared by "Solomonic" magic and theology links Christian antiquity with Martin Luther. An apocryphal narrative about Solomon's demon compulsion recurs to answer questions about purity, the believer, and the practice of religion. Using Malinowski's tripartite definition of magic as rite, formula, and condition of the performer, supplemented with work by Mary Douglas, Jacob Neusner, and Dorothea Salzer, we trace how historical negotiations about theological definitions of "purity" emerge as tools for religious hegemonies differentiating themselves by separating licit acts of demon compulsion (exorcism) from illicit ones ("magic"). The result argues for considering Western magic in tandem with official theologies, acknowledging longitudinal continuities in theological argumentation, and situating even theological texts in the context of historical Christianities. Chapter 1 addresses demon compulsion in Christian antiquity with reference to apologetic and polemical works by Justin Martyr, Origen, and the anonymous fourth century Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila and the Testament of Solomon. Here the initial condition of the performer is purity as absence-of-idolatry. Chapter 2 examines broader Christian theological developments defining "purity" as religious authorization, the rise of "Solomonic" magic as illicit, Aquinas' theological innovations in his De Potentia Dei (a more stable anti-magic theology). Chapter 3 takes up early modern humanist authors, including Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Reuchlin, who obscured their allusion to Solomon in their published works. Their works have striking parallels with texts of "Solomonic" magic as exemplified in comparing Reuchlin's Christian Cabala, De Verbo Mirifico (1494), and the twelfth century grimoire, the Liber Razielis. Chapter 4 compares Aquinas' and Luther' theologies with respect to "purity" as presence-of-faith showing a turn to result from Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone. Luther's Vom Schemhamphoras, arguably Luther's "missing" demonology, instrumentalizes the Jews as demons in an effort to solve the problem of demonstrating the guilt of the magician (corpus delicti). The project thus sets into dialogue a number of neglected texts, thereby situating misconstrued theological arguments within history. Tracking the persistence of altered forms of "purity" within Christianity in this way illuminates how scholars might investigate religious beliefs and practices - even modern Protestantism.