Superstition

SUPERSTITION. Superstition may be defined as belief in the supernatural which is motivated by fear, proceeding from ignorance, and reflecting an irrational view of reality. It may denote also the practices consequent upon such belief. Black magic, witchcraft, spirit-rapping, and the like, may be regarded as manifestations of a superstitious frame of mind. In the OT, the prohibition against divination by consulting a necromancer (one who has a “familiar spirit,” Lev 19:31; Deut 18:11) and the record of the practice of soothsaying, augury, and the like (2 Kings 21:6), show that the Israelites were often infected with the superstitious practices of those around them. In NT times the Gr. word δεισιδαιμονία, G1272, and the Latin superstitio are used in an imprecise way that makes the exact meaning in a given instance sometimes difficult to determine. For example, Festus told Agrippa that Paul had been involved in disputes with the Jews “about their own superstition” (Acts 25:19). Considering Agrippa’s Jewish connections, it seems unlikely that the newly arrived governor would have paid the king so ill a compliment as to have designated the Jewish religion a superstition in the modern sense of the term. The same is true of the wellknown remark of the Apostle Paul before the Areopagus: “I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious” (Acts 17:22 KJV). Scholars therefore generally tr. the noun as “religion” and the adjective as “religious” in these contexts, though there is the tacit implication in the Gr., of religion to excess, that which is subversive to true religion. In the NT, then, the word has the meaning of misdirected religious feeling or action, the religious veneration of persons and objects which observe no such reverence, or the worship of God through improper rites and ceremonies. In this sense Christian missionaries have opposed the practices of the heathen, and Protestants have rejected certain beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, esp. in the Middle Ages, as superstitious.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

su-per-stish’-un; su-per-stish’-us (deisidaimonia, "fearing demons"): The Biblical use of these words is limited to that of the former in Ac 25:19 the King James Version, and of the latter in Ac 17:22. In the former reference, Festus speaks of the Jews’ "superstition" (the Revised Version (British and American) "religion"), thus artfully dodging an avowal of his own convictions "respecting the Hebrew faith." In Ac 17:22 the King James Version Paul tactfully refers to the Athenians as being "too superstitious" (the Revised Version (British and American) "too religious"), thus using the term correctly from both their and his point of view. They were truly too "religious" with their superstitions.

Leonard W. Doolan