Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

A Syrian Exorcist

Introduction: This brief excerpt is taken from a satirical dialogue by the second-century A.D. Syrian author, Lucian of Samosata, dealing with the way people readily believe all sorts of things concerning the supernatural world.


Lucian, The Lover of Lies 16

“You act ridiculously,” Ion said to me, “by your constantly doubting everything. I would like to ask you what you say about those who free the demonpossessed from their terrors, thus plainly exorcising the ghosts. I hardly need to go into it—everyone has heard of the Syrian from Palestine,1 so skilled was he in these things. Whomever he received, those who were moonstruck and rolled their eyes and filled their mouths with foam, they arose, when they were free of the terror, and he sent them away healthy, for a large fee. When he stands by them as they lie there, he asks (the demons) from whence they came into the body. The sick man is silent, but the demon answers in Greek or some barbarian tongue, or in the language of the country from which he comes, how and from whence he came into the man. The Syrian then levels oaths at him (to drive him out), but if the demon is not persuaded, he threatens [even worse punishments] and expels the demon. I actually saw one coming out, black and smoky in color.”

“It is nothing for you to see such things, Ion,” I replied, “to whom the Eternal Forms plainly appear, which the father of your school, Plato, points out; but to us with weak eyes these things are rather vague!”

1. The identity of this healer is unknown.

-156-

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