PYTHON (πύθων, G4780, spirit [πνευ̂μα, G4460] of divination in Acts 16:16). The giant mythical serpent later named Python first appeared in Hymns of Homer III. 300ff. It was said to have been produced from the mud left after the deluge of Deucalion and to live in caves of Mt. Parnassus. It was killed by Apollo, who then received the surname Pythius. In Hel. belief, the Python was a spirit of divination that possessed certain persons and made them prophesy, unconsciously and usually with the mouth closed. The chief oracle was at Delphi, which stressed the idea of Apollo as a god of prophecy. This has no connection with the genus of giant snakes to which this Gr. name is given, and it is interesting that in Dahomey, in W Africa, the python-deity is regarded as the god of wisdom and earthly bliss.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

pi’-thon: Occurs only in Ac 16:16, where the Revised Version (British and American) reads, "a certain maid having a spirit of divination (margin "a spirit, a Python") met us." Puthon, or Putho, is the oldest name of Delphi (or the country about Delphi), in which was situated the famous Delphic Oracle. Consequently "Pythian spirit" came to be the generic title of the supposed source of inspiration of diviners, including the slave-girl of the account in Acts. Exactly what facts underlie the narrative it is rather hard to say, but it is evident that the girl was sincere in her conviction that she spoke with Pythian inspiration. Probably she represents some hysterical type, of none too strong mentality, whose confused utterances were taken as coming from some supernatural power. Impressed by Paul’s personality, she followed him about, and, when his command came, was in a state of mind that had prepared her to obey it. The narrative, incidentally, gives an interesting sidelight on a society in which a girl with hysteria had a greater commercial value than she had after her cure.

See Divination.

See also

  • Animals