Asclepius and Elijah: Ritual Healing in Roman and Late Antique Palestine


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project identifies four sources of ritual power used in Roman and late antique Palestine to obtain divine intervention for human ailments: holy men, sacred places, performative acts, and amulets. Close cultural contacts enabled pagans, Jews, and Christians to borrow foreign rituals, altering them to fit new cultic frameworks. By examining the full range of literary, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence for ritual healing from the region, it is possible to challenge common scholarly inclinations to compartmentalize the study of Greco-Roman ritual healing according to a putative divide between magical and religious cures, or by focusing on a single cultural or linguistic group. Ultimately, this work contributes to two ongoing debates about religious identity by reevaluating the role that ritual healing played in conversion experiences and by using it as a lens to assess the parting of the ways between Jews and Christians.