ek’-sor-siz’-m, ek’-sor-sist (Exorkistes, from exorkizo, "to adjure" (
One who expels demons by the use of magical formulas. In the strict etymological sense there is no exorcism in the Bible. The term "exorcists" is used once (
2. Method of Expelling Demons in the:
The method of Jesus in dealing with demoniacs was not that of the exorcists. While it is said (
3. Exorcism in Ethnic and Jewish Writings:
Exorcism among ancient and primitive peoples rests largely upon faith in the power of magical formulas, ordinarily compounded of the names of deities and pronounced in connection with exorcistic rites, upon the bodies of the afflicted. The words themselves are supposed to have power over the demons, and the mere recital of the correct list of names is supposed to be efficacious.
Attention should be called again to the incantation texts of the Babylonians and Assyrians (see, for translations and full exposition of texts, Rogers,, 146 ff). In this direction the absurdities and cruelties of superstition have carried men to extreme lengths. In the case of Josephus we are amazed to see how even in the case of an educated man the most abject superstition controls his views of such subjects. In Ant, VIII, v, in speaking of the wisdom of Solomon, he says that "God enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanitative to him." He also describes, in the same connection, a cure which he alleges to have seen, "in the presence of Vespasian and his sons," performed in accordance with methods of incantation ascribed to Solomon. A ring to which was attached a kind of root mentioned by Solomon was placed at the nostrils of the demoniac and the demon was drawn out through the nostrils. The proof that exorcism had actually taken place was given in the overturning of a basin placed nearby.
The absurdities of this narrative are more than equaled by the story of exorcism told in the(see Lunge, Apocrypha, 151-53) where the liver and heart of a fish, miraculously caught, are burned upon the ashes of incense, and the resulting smoke drives away a demon. This whole story is well worthy of careful reading for the light it throws upon the unrestrained working of the imagination upon such matters.
In the rabbinical writers the very limit of diseased morbidness is reached in the long and repulsive details, which they give of methods used in exorcism (see Whitehouse, HDB, article "Demon," I, 592b; compare 593b; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II, 775-76).
4. Contrasts of New Testament and Popular Methods with Demons:
In most striking contrast with this stand the Biblical narratives. The very point of connection which we have noted is also the point of contrast. The mighty and efficacious word with which Jesus rebuked and controlled demons was no exorcistic formula spoken by rote, but His own living word of holy power. "In the name of Jesus" did not mean that the sacred name formally uttered possessed magical power to effectuate a cure. The ancient Semitic formula, "in the name of," given a deep ethical meaning in the
This fundamental difference between the ideas and methods of Jesus and His disciples and current conceptions and usages becomes the more striking when we remember that the lower range of ideas and practices actually prevailed among the people with whom the Lord and His followers were associated. The famous passage (
It is most suggestive that we have in
Here as elsewhere, the chastened mental restraint under which the New Testament was composed, the high spiritual and ethical results of the intimacy of the disciples with Jesus, are clearly manifest.
Our Lord and His disciples dealt with the demoniacs as they dealt with all other sufferers from the malign, enslaving and wasting power of sin, with the tenderness of an illimitable sympathy, and the firmness and effectiveness of those to whom were granted in abundant measure the presence and power of God.