Virgil Eclogues 3

The Bucolics

Round up the sheep, lads; if the heat of the day dries up their milk, as it did of late, in vain will our fingers press the teats. Alas, alas! How lean is my bull on that fat vetch! The same love is fatal to the herd and to the master of the herd. With mine at least – and love is not to blame – their skin scarce clings to the bones. Some evil eye bewitches my tender lambs. Tell me in what lands – and to me be great Apollo – heaven’s vault is but three ells wide. Tell me in what lands grow flowers inscribed with royal names – and have Phyllis for yourself.

Galatians 3:1

New Testament

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing?—if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

 Notes and References

"... The idea of the evil eye is known in earlier Jewish literature (cf. Deuteronomy 28.54; Sirach 14.6, 8; Wisdom of Solomon 4.12) and it is common in the papyri (cf., e.g., P. Oxy, II. 292) from about A.D. 25 cf. P. Oxy. 6.930)." Basically the concept is that certain persons (or even certain animals or demons or gods) have the power of casting an evil spell on someone or causing something bad to happen to them by gazing at them. The eye was seen as the window of and to the heart, the channel through which one's innermost thoughts, desires, intentions could be conveyed.!2 This concept was closely connected with notions about envy, jealousy, greed, stinginess, as Plutarch makes clear (Quaest. Conviv. 680C 683B). In first-century society there was great fear of the evil eye, and there were various practices, such as curses, the use of amulets, spitting, that were thought to ward off or neutralize the effects of the evil eye. Especially children or the unwary were thought to be vulnerable to the malign influence of the evil eye. For example Virgil bemoans what has happened to some children saying 'I do not know what eye is bewitching my tender lambs' (Ecol. 3.103). Broadly speaking the casting of the evil eye fell under the category of sorcery, and there was of course a widespread belief in these sorts of black arts in the Greco-Roman world ...

Witherington, Ben Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (p. 202) William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

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