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Nicolotti, Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica (review)
Messo in linea il giorno Lunedì, 08 dicembre 2014
Pagina: 1/1

Nicolotti, Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica (review)


Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica tra II e III secolo. By Andrea Nicolotti. (Instrumenta Patristica et Mediaevalia. Research on the Inheritance of Early and Medieval Christianity, 54). Pp. 808 + 1 colour plate. Brepols, Turnhout, 2011. € 160.
ISBN: 978-2-503-53193-9

From «The Journal of Ecclesiastical History» 64/2 (2013), pp. 374-375

Graham H. Twelftree
Regent University, Virginia Beach

In this revision of his doctoral dissertation, defended in the Faculty of Humanities in the University of Turin in 2005, Nicolotti sets out to analyse and understand exorcism and demonic possession in early Christianity. Recognising that the first-century evidence, all concentrated in the New Testament, has already received considerable attention, his study deals with the texts written between the beginning of the second century and the edict of Decius (249 CE), the point at which Christianity had become sociologically and ideologically significant. After setting out the state of scholarship (ch. i), interpretive issues and concepts (ch. ii) and exorcism antecedent to the period under investigation (ch. iii), the chapters in the body of the book are grouped with an attention to chronology, geography (primarily Africa and Egypt), ideology (Gnosticism) and genre (Apocryphal Acts): Alcibiades of Apamea, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Theodotus the Gnostic, the Second Book of Jeu, Irenaeus of Lyon, the Acts of John, the Acts of Andrew, the Acts of Peter the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Thomas, Celsus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Cyprian of Carthage, Firmilian, Cornelius and Novatian. Due to their uncertain dates, the Apostolic Tradition and the Epistles to Virgins are treated in appendices. Italian translations of the primary material discussed are supported in the footnotes with full critical texts: Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic and Arabic as appropriate. However, some texts, the Longer Ending of Mark, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Gospel of Thomas and the Sibylline Oracles (bks. i and ii), for example, are not treated. Among other things, in this first comprehensive and critical study covering the period, Nicolotti is able to conclude that the distinct rite of baptismal exorcism, first known from Clement's Excerpta ex Theodoto, became fairly widespread, and that in Africa, Rome and Cappadocia there were organised groups of exorcists involved in the liturgical services. In the West exorcism would become a Minor Order; in the East charisma remained the qualification, as it did for the saints whose exorcisms included prayer, chanting and threats. The suggestion that some Christian traditions express no interest in exorcism because the motif appears almost exclusively in apologetic material is not substantiated. Now established as the leading authority in the field, Nicolotti has put us in his debt not only for the reminder that exorcism was more important to early Christianity than its present scholarly neglect suggests, but also for the collection and analysis of the sources. This will encourage more detailed studies of the texts and unanswered questions such as the uneven interest in exorcism in the period. There is a generous English summary (pp. 631-82), though it is unfortunate that a book of this size and breadth of textual treatment is without indices of subjects or ancient texts.


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