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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Curious Arts


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(τὰ περίεργα, literally the sedulous things, hence the term is applied to an over-officious person, e.g. a "busy-body," 1 Timothy 5:13), prop. overwrought, hence magic (see Iren. adv. Haeres. 1:20; Isidor. iii. 139; comp. curiosus, Horace, Epod. 17:77); spoken of the black art as practiced by the Ephesian conjurors (Acts 19:19; see Kuinol, in loc.). The appropriateness of the term is shown by Deyling (Observatt. Sacr. iii. 277 sq.). The allusion is doubtless to the famous Ephesian spells (Ε᾿φέσια γράμματα ), i.e. charms or scraps of parchment (originating or most used at Ephesus) whereon were written certain marks and formulae, which, like amulets, were worn upon the person as a safeguard against diseases, demons, and other evils (see Wagenseil, Tela Ignea, preface, p. 33; Ursinus, Analect. 2:46; Dietric, Antt. Biblic. in loc.; Cellarins, Disputt. A cadem. p. 441; Wolburg, Observatt. Sacr. p. 470; Laur. Rannires, in Penteconcarch. p. 214). (See DIVINATION). They are frequently referred to in ancient writings (see Wetstein, Kype, etc. in loc.), e.g. Eustathius (ad Hom. Odyss. i, p. 994, 35), "Ephesian letters: some say these were incantations which were of very great assistance to Croesus when used by him at the stake; in the Olympic games, however, it is said that a certain Milesian failed to outstrip an Ephesian till the charm worn by the latter was discovered and removed" (comp. Erasmus, Adagg. Center. 2:578). The phrase appears to have been applied to any talismanic inscription (Kister, ad Suidam, 1:919; Gale, ad Jamblichum, p. 290). Ortlob, however, in his Diss. de Ephesiorum libris conbustis (Lips. 1708), § 9, contends that the arts in question were rather methods of promoting the worship of the patron goddess of the city (see Wolf, Curae, in loc.). The other and usual view is maintained by Siber (Disputatio de περιεργίᾷ Ephesiorum, Vitemb. 1685; also in Thesaur. Dissertationum super N.T. 1:484 sq.), and Schurzfleisch (Dissertat o de libris Ephesiis, Vitemb. 1698). (See EPHESUS).


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Curious Arts'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/curious-arts.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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