In late antiquity, Christians started to use diverse methods of divination. One of them consisted in opening the Bible at random and taking the first words upon which one’s eyes fell as a God-sent hint. The fact that Jews and pagans also used sacred books for divinatory purpose can lead to the conclusion that Christians simply borrowed their practice from either of these groups. This paper argues that although diverse religious groups indeed considered some texts to be holy and believed that an apparently random choice of a passage (from Homer or the Bible) could be divinely-inspired, the specific way in which Christians held their consultations shows that opening books at random developed chiefly among them. This, in turn, suggests that the emergence of Christian divination in general was a complex process which cannot be reduced to the pattern of one side taking over customs of other religious groups.


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pp. 553-568
Launched on MUSE
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