Miracle-workers and magicians in the Acts of the Apostles and Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana
The miracle-workers and magicians we meet in the Greco-Roman world and on the pages of Greco-Roman narratives are among the most difficult characters for modem scholars to understand. While Greco-Roman writers presume their readers will share their socio-cultural script and understand how one distinguishes between a legitimate miracle-worker and an illegitimate magician, this script is lost on modem scholars. Hindered first by absolute definitions for miracle and magic from social anthropology and then by relative definitions from the sociology of knowledge, this thesis calls for a re-engagement of the "historic imagination" with respect to these sorts of characters. In particular, this thesis suggests that a detailed investigation into the operation of characters labelled as performers of miracles or magic can reveal the criteria which distinguished the two in the minds of Greco-Roman Mediterraneans as well as revealing the practical outworking of the criteria themselves. Two narratives are chosen for this task-the canonical Acts of the Apostles, representing a Jewish- Christian angle, and Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana, representing a pagan angle. Methodologically the study proceeds by converting these narratives into "narrative worlds" and then subjecting the narrative worlds to a social investigation using models suggested by the work of Mary Douglas and Peter Brown. Under the rubric of "gaining power, " "intersecting power, " and "defending power" the two narrative worlds projected by these texts are compared and contrasted with respect to the criteria being used to distinguish miracle-worker from magician. The conclusion reached is that in both texts legitimacy for a mediator of divine power is found especially in demonstrating power without appearing desirous of personal gains. A miracle-worker is successful in this regard; a magician is one who fails in this regard.