Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism among Early Christians

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism among Early Christians

Article excerpt

In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism among Early Christians. By Graham H. Twelftree. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, 351 pp., $26.99 paper.

Graham Twelftree, an expert on the subject of Jesus as an exorcist and miracle worker, presents us here with a meticulously detailed exegetical study on exorcism in the early church. The aim of his book is twofold. First, it examines the place of exorcism among early Christians. Second, it explores the importance of exorcism and how it was practiced. The book contains thirteen chapters and concludes with a select bibliography and helpful indexes on ancient writings, authors, and subjects.

Part 1 (chaps. 1-2) sets the stage for the book. In chapter 1, Twelftree outlines the problem, highlighting that while some scholars contend that exorcism played a significant role in early Christianity, others disagree. Besides, the NT itself seems to present divergent, if not contradictory, views on the place of exorcism in Jesus' ministry-while the Synoptics give a prominent place to exorcism, John is completely silent on the matter, and Paul appears to say nothing about it either. Twelftree investigates the writings of both the NT and the second century, using the latter writings as a lens to help us see aspects of the former that might otherwise escape us. Chapter 2 describes how Jesus' followers perceived him as an exorcist and sets out the options and models of exorcism that were available to the early Christians. Twelftree shows that exorcism was prevalent in antiquity, ranging from exorcists of ancient magic (where what was said and done was important) to charismatic magicians (whose presence combined with what was said and done was critical) to charismatic exorcists (whose success was solely dependent on their identity). Twelftree argues that, while Jesus is best described as a charismatic magician, his followers fit better into the category of magicians since their method of exorcism ("in the name of Jesus") shows that they were dependent on an outside power-authority rather than on their own identity.

Part 2 (chaps. 3-9) scrutinizes the NT documents in chronological order. Although Paul makes no clear reference to Jesus being an exorcist or to himself performing exorcisms, Twelftree argues that there is some evidence that, modeled on Jesus' ministry, Paul also had a miracle-working ministry that probably included exorcism (chap. 3). Regarding Q, the material common to Matthew and Luke that is absent from Mark, Twelftree discovers that for the Jesus of Q exorcism has a relatively low priority. Exorcisms are only mentioned late in Q and are visible expressions of the coming of the kingdom of God (chap. 4). For Mark, exorcism is empowered by the Spirit and is the most important aspect of Christian ministry, wherein the demonic and exorcism are interpreted in spiritual rather than socio-political categories. Thus, Jesus and his followers are engaged in a battle with Satan (rather than the Romans), and exorcism is liberation from demonic oppression. For Mark, an exorcism performed "in the name of Jesus" by a follower of Jesus was an exorcism done by Jesus himself (chap. 5).

Luke, Twelftree observes, broadens the scope of the demonic so that all sickness is given a demonic dimension and healing stories are exorcisms. For Luke, exorcism among early Christians is the ongoing activity of Jesus himself, bringing eschatological salvation. However, unlike Mark, exorcism is not the most important aspect of Christian ministry but part of a wider mandate involving word and deed (chap. 6). Matthew gives low priority to exorcism since it is the proclaimed word that is given importance in the ministry of early Christians. Nevertheless, Matthew perceived exorcism as part of the evangelistic activity of the early Christians, signifying both the first stage of the defeat of Satan and the eschatological realization of God's powerful presence (chap. 7). Regarding 1 Peter, Hebrews, and James, Twelftree discovers only hints of exorcism (chap. …

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