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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Origin and definition. -It is pointed out in the articleDivination that man, at a very early period, came to think of himself as surrounded by innumerable spirits, many of whom could enter into and influence him. He realized that it was his duty, and for his advantage, to cultivate friendly relations with these spirits, and one of the forms which this effort took developed into divination . The coming of a spirit into close relations with a man brought on him either calamities or blessings, and from these opposite results the spirits came to be grouped into good and bad. The entrance of a good spirit-a spirit of purity or truth-caused health of body or clearness of mind. Such indwelling in its highest form is inspiration ( Job 32:8). The entrance of a bad spirit-a dumb, unclean, or evil spirit-caused disease of body or disorder of mind. In its most decided form this is Possession ( q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ). The spirits, and the divinities into which some of them developed, were free to enter into or leave a person, but their freedom was limited. As ‘the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets’ ( 1 Corinthians 14:32), so certain persons came to know how, by a proper use of special words and acts, to make the spirits, within certain limits, obedient to them. 1 Such experts were able to bring a person into such close contact with a spirit, or the thing in which a spirit or divinity dwelt, that the spirit could deal effectively with the person. Such bringing into contact developed, ( a ) where the person was able or willing, into administering to him an oath; ( b ) where unable or unwilling, into solemnly adjuring him. 2 An expert could call up, call upon, or permit a spirit to enter another person, to work his will in him; or enter into him-self to work with him or reveal secrets to him. 3 He could compel a spirit to come out of a person or thing into which it had entered; with the result, if the spirit was an evil one, that the baneful consequences of possession immediately ceased. The expert who could do this was an exorcist, and his work was exorcism .

2. Derivation. -The word ὄρκος seems primarily to have referred to a spirit, or an object made sacred by the indwelling of a spirit, and so came to mean the thing that brought a spirit into effective touch with a person, hence ‘an oath.’ ὁρκίζειν, in the same way, came to mean to bring these two together, hence ( a ) ‘to administer or cause to take an oath’ ( Genesis 50:5,  Numbers 5:19); or ( b ) ‘to adjure’ ( Joshua 6:26,  1 Kings 22:16,  2 Chronicles 18:15,  Acts 19:13). When the high priest said to Jesus ὁρκίζω*[Note: This, not ἐξορκίζω, is the reading of D L. The reading in  Genesis 24:3 is ἐξορκιῶ.] σε κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος ( Matthew 26:63), he thereby brought the prisoner into such effective touch with Jahweh that the latter could punish him if he did not speak the truth. ἐξορίζειν, on the other hand, meant the separating of the spirit from the person, and from it comes ἐξορκισμός, the Latin exorcismus , and the English ‘exorcism.’

‘The formula ἐξορκίζω is of Oriental origin. It is absolutely unknown in Greek and Italian tabellae from the fifth century b.c. to the second century a.d.; and, when it does appear, it appears only in tablets which make mention of Oriental deities’ (F. B. Jevons, ‘Defixionum Tabellae,’ in Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religions , 1908, vol. ii. p. 138). A heathen amulet has the inscription ἐξορκίζω ὑμας κατὰ τοῦ ἁγίου ὀνόματος θεραπεῦσαι τὸν Διονύσιον; and ‘the adjective is of constant occurrence in the magic papyri’ (Moulton and Milligan, ‘Lexical Notes from the Papyri’ in Expositor , 7th ser. vii. [1909] 376).

3. History. -As the cause of disease was the incoming of an evil spirit, so the cure of the disease consisted in its expulsion. All exorcists were not equally clever at their work; but, though a patient might, like an old Babylonian, complain that ‘the exorcist has not handled my illness successfully’ (F. B. Jevons, Comparative Religion , 1913, p. 7), still failures were overlooked and forgotten, and exorcism prevailed among all the nations of antiquity, and prevails among all uncivilized peoples to-day (G. T. Bettany, Primitive Religions , 1891, pp. 20, 113, 128; The Book of Ser Marco Polo , translationH. Yule, 1871, vol. ii. pp. 71, 78).*[Note: For a psychological explanation of exorcism see W. McDougall, Psychology, 1912, p. 196; Andrew lang. Making of Religion2, p. 129; T. J. Hudson, The Law of Psychic Phenomena, 1893.]Sometimes, as in the lustratio of the Romans (W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People , 1911, p. 209) and the Anthesteria of the Greeks (Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion , 1912, p. 30), the exorcism was national and periodic.

In private life, when a person became ill (‘was possessed’), an exorcist was at once called in who by various means attempted a cure. David by music expelled the evil spirit from Saul ( 1 Samuel 16:14-23), though, when the spirit came mightily, he failed ( 1 Samuel 19:9; Jos. Ant . vi. viii. 2 and xi. 3). Embracing (another form of exorcism) is mentioned in  1 Kings 17:21,  2 Kings 4:34,  Acts 20:10. Solomon, according to tradition, acquired a great reputation as an expert practitioner of the art-‘a science,’ says Josephus ( Ant . viii. ii. 5), ‘useful and sanative to man.’ He composed incantations by which cures were effected, and also formulas by which demons could be expelled. These were used as late as the time of Vespasian, a notable instance being recorded by Josephus ( loc. cit.  ; see also his account of the root of Baaras [ Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) vii. vi. 3]). In the OT Apocrypha there are such references to the art as that in  Tobit 6:16-17;  Tobit 8:2-3. Our Lord†[Note: Dearmer, Body and Soul, 1909, p. 146; T. J. Hudson, op. cit., chs. xxiii., xxiv.; G. J. Romanes, Thoughts on Religion6, 1896, p. 180 and Gore’s note.]accepted the beliefs of His time on this as on other matters. His words and deeds show us the evil spirits going out of a patient ( Matthew 17:18,  Mark 5:8,  Luke 8:29,  Mark 9:25-26); entering into lower animals ( Matthew 8:32,  Mark 5:13,  Luke 8:33); wandering through waterless places ( Matthew 12:43,  Luke 11:24); cooperating with other spirits ( Matthew 12:45,  Luke 11:26); and re-entering the patients from whom they had been expelled ( Matthew 12:45,  Luke 11:26). In contrast to the exorcists of His time ( Matthew 12:27,  Luke 11:19), our Lord exhibited exceptional skill and unbroken success in the expulsion of evil spirits. He healed ‘all who were tyrannized over by the devil’ ( Acts 10:38).‡[Note: καταδυναστενομένους. The word here employed is used in the papyri thus: ‘I am being harshly treated in prison, perishing with hunger,’ and indicates the physical suffering arising from possession (Moulton and Milligan, loc. cit. p. 477).]Exorcism, it must be observed, is not nearly so prominent in the First Gospel as in the Third, and all instances of its use are omitted in the Fourth (J. Moffatt, The Theology of the Gospels , 1912, pp. 13, 120; J. M. Thompson, Miracles in the NT , 1911, p. 63). It is especially noteworthy that our Lord in expelling evil spirits employed no outward means (except once, the spittle [ John 9:6]); He simply commanded and it was done.*[Note: Dearmer, op. cit., p. 168.]Perhaps the secret of His power, His triumphant and universal success, and of the failure of others, is revealed in His words, ‘this kind cometh not out except by prayer’ ( Mark 9:29).†[Note: à and B omit καὶ νηστείᾳ and along with A the whole of  Matthew 17:21.] Prayer is the complete opening up of one’s entire personality to the incoming of the entire personality of God. Jesus was able to do this and did it; others failed and fail.

The Twelve, after being chosen, were ordained to be with Jesus in order that they might go forth ( a ) to preach, ( b ) to have power to heal diseases, and ( c ) ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια ( Mark 3:14-15,  Matthew 10:1). When He did send them forth, He gave them power to cast out all unclean spirits ( Matthew 10:1,  Mark 6:7,  Luke 9:1). St. John reported to Jesus that he and other disciples saw one casting out daemons in His name ( Mark 9:38,  Luke 9:49); while, on the other hand, the disciples sometimes failed in their efforts at expulsion ( Matthew 17:19). Our Lord sent out the Seventy ( a ) to heal, ( b ) to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom ( Luke 10:9). When they returned, they reported that the spirits were subject to them in His name‡[Note: See art. Name.]( Luke 10:17). Finally, Jesus bequeathed to those who should believe power in His name‡[Note: See art. Name.]to cast out daemons ( Mark 16:17). After the death of Jesus the apostles continued to cure those troubled (or ‘roused,’ ὀχλουμένους,  Luke 6:18) with unclean spirits ( Acts 5:16), and a similar power was exercised by other Christians over spirits which came out ‘shouting with a loud cry’ ( Acts 8:7).

When the Christian missionaries penetrated into the Roman Empire, they met the victims of possession, and had to deal with them. At Philippi, St. Paul and Silas encountered a young girl, the slave of a group of masters, who was possessed by a spirit-a Python,§[Note: The correct reading, according to à AB, is πύθωνα; see art. Python.]which enabled her to utter predictions.||[Note: | μαντευομένη; see art. Soothsaying.]The girl so forced herself upon the missionaries’ attention that at last St. Paul, ‘in the name‡[Note: See art. Name.]of Jesus Christ,’ commanded the spirit to come out of her, which it immediately did ( Acts 16:16-18). Again, at Ephesus, a city in which exorcism flourished, St. Paul seems to have cast out spirits in the name‡ of Jesus. Further cures of a somewhat uncommon (οὐ τὰς τυχούσας) character were effected, for on certain articles of dress which had been in immediate contact with the body (ἀπὸ τοῦ χρωτός¶[Note: χρῶς, literally ‘the skin.’ See Nestle in ExpT, vol. xiii. [1901-02] p. 282, and art. Apron.] ) of St. Paul being applied to those afflicted, the evil spirits came out of them ( Acts 19:11 f.).

Such success roused a competitive spirit in the minds of other exorcists and revealed to them the power which lay in the use of the name of Jesus. Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, who formed a company of strolling exorcists, determined to utilize the new power. Over a man afflicted with an evil spirit they pronounced this formula: ὁρκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν Ἰησοῦν ὅν Παῦλος κηρύσσει. The effort proved more than futile, for the recitation of the formula, instead of bringing Jesus into such effective touch with the man that the evil spirit had to yield possession to Him, roused the spirit to stir into activity that abnormal muscular strength often possessed by those mentally deranged (cf.  Luke 8:29), and, leaping on the exorcists, the man assaulted them and drove them out of the house stripped and wounded ( Acts 19:13-16). The men who had become Christians realized the incompatibility of loyalty to Jesus and the practice of such magical arts, and they publicly burned their copies of the famous Ἐφέσια γράμματα ( Acts 19:19).

That this did not mean the absolute abandonment of exorcism the subsequent history of the Church all too clearly proves. The reference to ‘doctrines of daemons’ ( 1 Timothy 4:1) and ‘the spirits of daemons performing signs’ ( Revelation 16:14) shows how exorcism still lingered in the Church. The words which shed light on the struggle from the higher Christian standpoint are those in  James 4:7 : ‘resist the devil, and he will flee from you’-words which were an exhortation to the Christians not to resort to exorcism, but to rely on the successful resistance which sprang from a strong exertion of their sanctified wills aided by the power of God. The means employed by exorcists differ in different times and countries. Four only are referred to in the Apostolic Age-hands, cloths, the name of Jesus, and shadowing.

When we pass to the literature of the Fathers, we cannot help being struck with the almost total absence of references to exorcism. This is possibly to be accounted for by the fact that the work of these writers forced them to think more of evangelism and apologetic than of combating the evils of the heathen world. In the spurious Ignatian Epistle to the Philippians (ch. v.) Christ is by way of honour called ‘this magician’ (μάγος αὑτος), and in the spurious Epistle to the Antiochians (ch. xii.) we find ‘the exorcists’ (ἐπορκιστάς) mentioned among the Church officials.

The practice of exorcism continued in the Church. The ordinary Christian practised it, Gregory Thaumaturgus even casting out devils by sending letters to the person possessed. As a rule, however, the practice was confined to the clergy, and by a.d. 340 the ἐπορκιστής constituted a special order, some of whom were ordained, others merely recognized. The rescripts of the Emperors granted to them, as well as to the other orders of clergy, exemption from civil offices. Their work was the care of the possessed, the εὐεργούμενοι, the catechists, heretics, and schismatics, the exorcism being in each case connected with the rites of exsufflation and insufflation (see J. Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae , 1843, vol. i. p. 362ff. and vol. iii. p. 277ff.; Smith and Cheetham, Dict. of Christian Antiquities , 1875, vol. i. p. 650; Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , article‘Abrenuntio,’ vol. i. p. 38). The office of exorcist continued to be important: we read, e.g. , of St. Patrick landing in Ireland with a number of officials among whom were skilled exorcists (A. R. Macewan, History of the Church of Scotland , vol. i., 1913, p. 36).

Literature.-See the Literature mentioned in the foot-notes of articleDivination, and in addition W. M. Alexander, Demonic Possession in the NT , 1902; H. A. Dallas, Gospel Records interpreted by Human Experience , 1903, p. 201; Andrew Lang, The Making of Religion 2, 1900, p. 128; R. C. Thompson, The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia , 1903-04, vol. i. p. liii; J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough 3 ‘The Magic Art,’ 1911, i. 174ff.; E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture 3, 1891, ii. 124ff.; articles in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , i. 438ff., and Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , iv. i 565, 578, 612, with the Literature there mentioned.

P. A. Gordon Clark.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

EXORCISM . The word may be defined as denoting the action of expelling an evil spirit by the performance of certain rites, including almost always the invocation of a reputedly holy name. An anticipation of the later methods occurs in David’s attempt to expel Saul’s melancholia by means of music (  1 Samuel 16:16;   1 Samuel 16:23 ); and in the perception of the benefit of music may possibly be found the origin of the incantations that became a marked feature of the process. A more complicated method is prescribed by the angel Raphael ( Tob 6:16 f., Tob 8:2 ). In NT times the art had developed; professional exorcists had become numerous (  Acts 19:13;   Acts 19:19 ), whilst other persons were adepts, and practised as occasion needed (  Matthew 12:27 ,   Luke 11:19 ). An old division of the Babylonian religious literature (cf. Cuneif. Texts from, Tablets in Brit. Mus ., pts. xvi., xvii.) contains many specimens of incantations; and the connexion of the Jews with that country, especially during the Exile, is an obvious explanation of the great extension both of the conception of the influence of demons and of the means adopted for their treatment. Exorcism was a recognized occupation and need in the Jewish life of the first century, as it became afterwards in certain sections of the Christian Church.

In the procedure and formulæ of exorcism, differences are traceable in the practice of the Jews, of Christ, and of His disciples. An illustration of the Jewish method may be found in Josephus ( Ant . VIII. ii. 5), who claims Solomon for its author, and describes a case that he had himself witnessed. Other instances occur in the papyri ( e.g . Dieterich, Abraxas , 138ff.), and in the Talmud ( e.g. Berakhoth , 51 a  ; Pesachim , 112 b ). The vital part of the procedure was the invocation of a name (or a series of names, of a deity or an angel, at the mention of which the evil spirit was supposed to recognize the presence of a superior power and to decline a combat, as though a spell had been put upon him. Christ, on the other hand, uses no spell, but in virtue of His own authority bids the evil spirits retire, and they render His slightest word unquestioning obedience. Sometimes He describes. Himself as acting ‘by the finger of God’ (  Luke 11:20 ) or ‘by the Spirit of God’ (  Matthew 12:28 ), and sometimes His will is indicated even without speech (  Luke 13:13;   Luke 13:16 ); but the general method is a stern or peremptory command (  Matthew 8:16 ,   Mark 1:25;   Mark 9:25 ,   Luke 8:29 ). He does not require any previous preparation on the part of the sufferer, though occasionally (  Mark 9:23 f.) He uses the incident to excite faith on the part of the relatives. His own personality, His mere presence on the scene, are enough to alarm the evil spirits and to put an end to their mischief. In the case of His disciples, the power to exercise was given both before and after the resurrection (  Matthew 10:1;   Matthew 10:8 ,   Mark 3:15;   Mark 16:17 ,   Luke 9:1 ), and was successfully exercised by them (  Mark 6:13 ,   Luke 10:17 ,   Acts 5:16;   Acts 8:7;   Acts 19:12 ); but the authority was derived, and on that ground, if not by explicit command (cf. ‘in my name,’   Mark 16:17 ). the invocation of the name of Jesus was probably substituted for His direct command. That was clearly the course adopted by St. Paul (  Acts 16:18;   Acts 19:13-16 ), as by St. Peter and the Apostles generally in other miracles (  Acts 3:6;   Acts 4:10 ,   James 5:14 ). The name of Jesus was not recited as a spell, but appealed to as the source of all spiritual power, as not only the badge of discipleship but the name of the ever-present Lord of spirits and Saviour of men (  Matthew 28:19 f.,   John 14:13 ).

R. W. Moss.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

 Leviticus 17:7 Deuteronomy 32:17 Isaiah 13:21 Isaiah 34:14 2 Chronicles 11:15 Psalm 106:37 shedim shedu  Deuteronomy 32:17 Psalm 106:37

In the New Testament the demons were earthly powers or spirits allied with Satan. Jesus' power to exorcise is demonstration in the Synoptic Gospels of His power over Satan ( Matthew 15:21-28;  Mark 1:23-38;  Mark 5:1-20;  Mark 7:24-30;  Mark 9:14-29 ). Exorcism is included in the list of wonders Jesus performed at Capernaum and in the Galilee ( Mark 1:34 ,Mark 1:34, 1:39 ).  Mark 3:11 reports that Jesus had to silence the unclean spirits because they recognized Him and proclaimed Him Son of God.

Jesus gave His disciples authority over unclean spirits ( Mark 3:14-15;  Mark 6:7 ) which they generally exercised with success ( Mark 6:13 ), but not always ( Mark 9:18 ).  Mark 9:38-41 makes reference to someone who did exorcisms in the name of Jesus even though he was not a follower of Jesus. Jesus told the disciples not to forbid him. In another vein,   Acts 19:13-16 tells of wandering Jewish exorcists in Ephesus who attempted to exorcise demons in the name of the Jesus preached by Paul but without success.

John says nothing of Jesus exorcising demons, but the issue of demons is not lacking in that Gospel, for His opponents often accused Jesus of being possessed ( John 7:20;  John 8:48-49 ,John 8:48-49, 8:52;  John 10:20 ). Similarly, in the Synoptics, the scribes accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons ( Mark 3:22 ).

The usual technique of exorcism, as shown by contemporary magical papyri, was to adjure the demon (by name, if possible) through the power of one or more gods to depart the one possessed. This was often accompanied by preparations of herbs and the imposition of amulets. Magical words of extended, repeated syllables were also part of almost all exorcistic formulas. By contrast, the exorcisms of Jesus in the Synoptics involved His command without reference to other divine beings ( Mark 1:25;  Mark 9:25 ) and with only a single reference to anything like technique in saying about the boy the disciples could not exorcise that the demon involved could only be cast out by prayer ( Mark 9:29 ). Something close to the usual technique of exorcism was demonstrated by the Gerasene demoniac who tried unsuccessfully to exorcise Jesus, calling Him by title and adjuring Him in the name of the Most High God to leave him alone ( Mark 5:7 ). Jesus relied on His own unique power to demonstrate demons had no place or power in His Kingdom. See Miracles; Magic; Healing; Demon.

Fred L. Horton, Jr.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [4]

The expelling of devils from persons possessed, by means of conjuration and prayers. The Jews made great pretences to this power. Josephus tells several wonderful tales of the great success of several exorcists. One Eleazer, a Jew, cured many daemoniacs, he says, by means of a root set in a ring. This root, with the ring, was held under the patient's nose, and the devil was forthwith evacuated. The most part of conjurers of this class were impostors, each pretending to a secret nostrum or charm which was an overmatch for the devil. Our Saviour communicated to his disciples a real power over daemons, or at least over the diseases said to be occasioned by daemons.

See Daemoniac Exorcism makes a considerable part of the superstition of the church of Rome, the ritual of which forbids the exorcising any person without the bishop's leave. The ceremony is performed at the lower end of the church, towards the door. The exorcist first signs the possessed person with the sign of the cross, makes him kneel, and sprinkles him with holy water. Then follow the litanies, psalms, and prayer; after which the exorcist asks the devil his name, and adjures him by the mysteries of the Christian religion not to afflict the person any more; then, laying his right hand on the daemoniac's head, he repeats the form of exorcism, which is this: "I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ: tremble, O Satan, thou enemy of the faith, thou foe of mankind, who hast brought death into the world; who hast deprived men of life, and hast rebelled against justice, thou seducer of mankind, thou root of all evil, thou source of avarice, discord, and envy." The Romanists likewise exorcise houses and other places supposed to be haunted by unclean spirits; and the ceremony is much the same with that for a person possessed.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

(See Devil ; Divination Practiced with spells, as the name of Solomon, magic charms, and incantations among the Jews.  Acts 19:13-16; the profane use of Jesus' name as a mere spell was punished by the demon turning on the would be exorcists; these "vagabond Jews" were pretenders. But our Lord implies that some Jews actually cast out demons ( Matthew 12:27), probably by demoniacal help; others in the name of Jesus, without saving faith in Him ( Matthew 7:22;  Mark 9:38). He gave the power to the twelve, the seventy, and to other disciples after His ascension ( Matthew 10:8;  Luke 10:17-19;  Mark 16:17;  Acts 16:18). The term "exorcise" is never up. plied in Scripture to the Christian casting out of demons. In the end of the 3rd century "exorcists" were made an order in the Christian church, much to the fostering of superstition, especially in connection with baptism.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) Conjuration for raising spirits.

(2): ( n.) The act of exorcising; the driving out of evil spirits from persons or places by conjuration; also, the form of conjuration used.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [7]

See Demon

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [8]

Conjuration by God or Christ or some holy name, of some evil spirit to come out of a person; it was performed on a heathen as an idolater, and eventually on a child as born in sin prior to baptism.