You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘demons’ tag.

After interviewing the demons, Solomon is visited by the Queen of Sheba, who is a witch in the Testament of Solomon 19. The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and marvels at the glory of the Temple and Jerusalem and she is certainly not a witch. Testament of Solomon says she came before Solomon with “much arrogance” and was humbled before the king. Since the chapter is unrelated to the next, it is possible this is an insertion into the manuscripts.

Later, the queen tours the temple, including the innermost parts of the Temple. She sees the altar, including the cherubim and seraphim over the mercy seat. She contributed a great deal to the building of the temple (ten thousand copper shekels, in 1 Kings 10:10 she gave 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices and precious stones). This paragraph serves as brief summary of Solomon’s building activities in 1 Kings 7:13-51.

In chapter 20 Solomon demonstrates his wisdom in a variation of the biblical narrative in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Two men bring a case to Solomon an elderly son and his violent son.  The demon Ornias is laughing and explains to Solomon that the old man wants to kill the son. Solomon sends them away for three days, after which time the old man “has become childless.” The interesting element of this story is the source of the demon’s information. When Solomon asks him how he knew wha the father intended, Ornias explains that demons go up into the firmament of heaven, “among the stars,” and they hear the decisions of God concerning men.

Solomon then receives a request from the king of Arabia to deal with an evil spirit afflicting his kingdom (chs. 23-25). After seven days, Solomon sends a servant boy with a leather flask to entrap the Arabian wind demon, Ephippas. He is interrogated and placed in the “immovable cornerstone” of the Temple. Solomon asks the demon what he can do for him, in the service of the temple. He promises to raise a pillar of air from the Red Sea and set it wherever Solomon should ask. Ephippas does what he promised, and delivers the pillar to the temple, an enormous stone pillar which is floating in the air “to this day.”

The book returns to Solomon’s interrogation of demons in chapter 25. This final demon is called Abezethibou and came out of the Red Sea as a great pillar. This demon once sat in the first heaven and was responsible for hardening Pharaoh’s heart and the rebellion of Jannes and Jambres. Like Paul in Romans 9:16-17, this the presence of a demon absolves God of the guilt of hardening Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Romans 9:16-17. The tradition of two magicians in Egypt is found in 2 Tim 3:6-9. Although Exodus 7:11-13 mentions magicians, there are no names in the text. There are several rabbinic sources for Jannes and Jambres (b.Men., 85a; Exodus rabba, 7 on 7:11) and in Targum. Ps.-Jonathan. on Exod 1:15. This demon was engulfed in the waters to the crossing of the Red Sea and has been there ever since.

The final chapter of the Testament recounts Solomon’s many wives, especially his great love for a Shummanite woman. It is possible this is an allusion to Abishag, David;s concubine who was a Shummmanite, or to the woman in Song of Solomon 6:13 (a “maid of Shulam”). But the story more likely alludes to Samson’s demand for a Philistine wife in Judges 14. The woman’s parents require Solomon to worship the gods Raphan and Molech, but he refuses. They threaten their daughter with violence if Solomon does not marry her and worship these gods, so Solomon relents because he so loves the girl and does not want harm to come to her. As a result of Solomon’s compromise, the glory of the Lord departs from him.

This story provides an explanation for Solomon’s idolatry in 1 Kings 11. The canonical text indicates Solomon’s heart was not completely devoted to the Lord and he worship the gods of his wives. Here in the Testament of Solomon, Solomon is more or less forced to worship these gods in order to save his beloved from abuse and death. Nevertheless, Solomon describes himself as a “wretched man” who has become a laughingstock of demons. The phrase “wretched man” is similar to Paul’s in Romans 7, a man who knows what is right and chooses the evil instead.

Acts 19:11-17 reports the amusing story of the Sons of Sceva who attempt to cast out demons in the name of Jesus and Paul. Jewish exorcists are well known in the ancient world. Legends about Solomon’s great power of demons were well-known. Josephus says God gave Solomon great wisdom, but also remarkable magical powers (Antiq. 8.42-49).

“God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day.”

He goes on to describe a Jew by the name of Eleazar who cast out demons in the presence of the emperor Vespasian and many other witnesses. The method Eleasar used to cast out the demon was strange: “He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed.”

Solomon is not the only Jewish name thought to have magical powers. In Paris Papyri 574, the exorcist says to the demon, “I abjure you by Jesus the God of the Hebrews,” and “hail God of Abraham, Hail God of Isaac, hail God of Jacob, Jesus Chrestus, Holy Spirit, Son of the Father.”

seven-sonsIn Ephesus, at least some Jewish exorcists attempted to use the names of both Jesus and Paul as “power words” to cast out demons. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek ἐξορκιστής (exorcist) is used.  When commanded, the demon reverses the usual process and “exorcizes” the exorcists! This humorous scene shows that the God of Paul is not to be manipulated like the other gods of the ancient world.

The news of beating of the sons of Sceva spreads quickly.  The text says that the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor (μεγαλύνω).  This does not necessarily mean people became believers. The word appears in Acts 5:13 to refer to the reputation the apostles gained in Jerusalem (“held in high regard by the people”), but certainly in that context people were not converted to Christianity.

What are the implications for modern evangelism and/or church life? While I suspect this will have a different application in the West as opposed to other parts of the world where a belief in demons is more vivid, American Christianity is not immune from using the name of Jesus as a quasi-magical word that someone guarantees we “get what we wished for.” This kind of neo-paganism is common, but very dangerous.

As with his healings, Jesus commands the demons to leave without invoking an authority (Matt 8:28-34).  Later exorcisms in Acts are done in the name of Jesus, but Jesus simply command the demons and they leave the victim.   In fact, knowing the name of the demon was consider the first step in an exorcism.  In Luke 7:26-36 Jesus encounters a man with a demon living among the tombs near Gerasenes.  This demon speaks to Jesus and calls him “Son of the Most High God.”  This ought to have given the demon power of Jesus since he knows Jesus’ true name.  But Jesus simply commands the demon to give his name, then commands the demon to come out of the man.  No other authority is necessary for Jesus to cast out the demon, they simply obey him.

Also absent from Jesus’ exorcisms are the elaborate preparations for an exorcism described in contemporary literature. [Tobias] took the live ashes of incense and put the heart and liver of the fish upon them and made a smoke. And when the demon smelled the odor he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him (Tobit 8:2-3).  The Testament of Solomon is more or less a manual on how to cast out demons written in the third century A.D., although it may contain material from much earlier.  In this story, workers in the Temple find a ring which is able to control demons.  Solomon then captures and interrogates a series of demons.  They are forced to give there name and what they are in charge of as demons.  Then Solomon forces them to explain how they are cast out.  For example, in chapter16  Solomon interrogates a demon called Kunopegos, a spirit in the shape of a horse in front and a fish in back (a sea-horse?)   He can change himself into a man and causes seasickness.  In order to thwart this demon, one must go through a complicated ritual involving bowls and hemp ropes. Solomon sealed him with his ring and stored the demon away.

What is the point of Jesus’ exorcism ministry?  Twelftree argues that there is a two-stage defeat of Satan being described in the gospels, the first mission of Messiah render the power of Satan useless, it is in his second coming that he will judge him and consign him to the Lake of Fire (270).  Satan is trying to hinder Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus constantly defeats him with no struggle whatsoever.

Bibliography:
G.  H.  Twelftree, “Demons, Devil, Satan,” in DJG 163-172.

Wendy Cotter, Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories (Routledge, 1999).

Follow Reading Acts on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,199 other followers

My book Jesus the Bridegroom is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle


Christian Theology

%d bloggers like this: