Jesus Christ, No Exorcist -- By: William Wallace Everts
BSac 81:322 (July 1924) p. 355
Jesus Christ, No Exorcist
The first reference in Jewish literature to the exorcism of demons is found in the book of Tobit which was written in the second century B. C.1 The second is found in Josephus who tells of a performance of an exorcist named Eleazar in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian about 70 A. D.2 There is but one verse in the Bible which uses the word exorcist.3 Luke tells of seven sons of Scaeva at Ephesus who were vagabond Jews and Exorcists.
The Lord Jesus knew of the practice, for he asked the Pharisees, “by whom do your sons cast them out?” Not receiving an answer he added, “they shall be your judges.” Harnack was greatly perplexed because Paul in his letters makes no reference to exorcism, and he said that no explanation of this omission has yet been found.4
Those scholars who are inclined to believe that the Jews borrowed everything, whether true or false, from surrounding nations, maintain that they learned exorcism from the magicians of Egypt. Do not the rabbis say that Jesus took under his skin, before he left Egypt, their rules and formulas?5 Many say that the Jews learned the black arts while in Babylon, but H. Duhm6 finds no trace of such assimilation. The later prophets make no mention of the daevas of Persia, and C. H. Toy7 says that there is no proof of a direct influence of Greece. M. Dibelius8 claims that exorcism was autochthonous and indigenous with the Jews. The condition of that people foreshadowed that which was to come as described in the book of Revelation.9 “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down unto you having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” It is described as an evil and adulterous generation, a generation of vipers. As the people were led by the blind they both fell into the ditch. As they had lost the fear of God they naturally feared demons.10
As they were dispersed over the earth they made a business of spreading this fear among the nations. They taught them to use in incantations the names of Abraham,
BSac 81:322 (July 1924) p. 356
Isaac, and Jacob, of Sabaoth, Adonai, ...
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