Megan Nutzman is Associate Professor of History at Old Dominion University. She received her PhD in Classics from the University of Chicago and holds an M.T.S. and a Th.M. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Her research focuses on the history and material culture of Greek and Roman cults, Jews, and Christians in the eastern Mediterranean, and especially on interactions among them. Her recent book, Contested Cures: Identity and Ritual Healing in Roman and Late Antique Palestine, was published in 2022 by Edinburgh University Press. It examines the various methods that people used to seek divine healing and the rhetoric of elite authors who used the acceptance or avoidance of certain healing rituals as markers of group identity. Other publications have considered Jewish epitaphs from Rome, hot springs as sites of ritual healing, and the portrayal of Mary in the Protevangelium of James. She has received funding for her research from the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, from the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, from the American Council of Learned Societies, and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At ODU, she teaches course on ancient Greece and Rome and on early Christianity.
Spring Bible & Archaeology Fest 2023
Amulets and Tefillin: What is the Difference?
In late antiquity, people wore many different types of objects on their bodies for protection and healing. Some were inscribed with texts or images, while others were thought to be effective due to their natural characteristics. Regardless of their form, we call these objects amulets, and scholars often study them as examples of ancient “magic.” Tefillin (phylacteries), in contrast, were understood by late antiquity as the literal fulfillment of Deut 6:8 to “Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead” (NRSV). As a normative ritual of rabbinic Jews, scholars generally do consider tefillin within the category of “magic.” Nevertheless, there are clear similarities between amulets and tefillin. Both were understood to offer protection to those who wore them, and both could contain quotations from the Hebrew Bible. This presentation will explore what amulets and tefillin looked like in Roman and late antique Palestine and will consider the implications of using the word “magic” to differentiate between the two.