Why do demons/exorcism evolve and diminsh after the gospels?

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K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
I am doing a study on demons, evil spirits, and unclean spirits (with 1 spirit of divination from Acts 16).

It is amazing that in the synoptic gospels, in nearly every instance exorcism is linked to healing a disease, especially if you include the demonic of Garasenes from Mark 5 or Luke 8 as being mentally ill. (Matthew 8:16. Matthew 9:32-33, Matthew 17:18, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 6:13, Mark 9:25, Luke 7:21, Luke 8:2, Luke 9:1, Luke 13:32) Those references that are not about healing revolve around the message and teachings of Jesus as when the Pharisees accuse Him of having a demon. What is clear from the gospels is that Jesus has authority over the demons and can confer that to the 12 and the 70 (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:13-15, Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:1, Luke 10:17-20). With the exception of the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28) that hearkens back to Elijah's widow ( 1 Kings 17:8-24, Luke 4:25-26) all of the healing and exorcism happened for and in geographic Israel.

Here is the question, Jesus had authority over demons before the crucifixion, what changed and happened to that authority after the crucifixion? Colossians 2:13-15 "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." It seems as if after the crucifixion Jesus had MORE authority and had more defeated the evil spirits than before His crucifixion.

In addition, it seems as if there was an evolution relative to exorcism as well. While Acts records exorcism/healings in Acts 5:16 and Acts 8:7 this all happens within the geographical boundaries of historical Israel. As the gospel expands beyond Israel, with one exception the language changes and we continue to see healings but no mention of demons being cast out. In fact, in an interesting contrast, in Acts 19:11-15 we see that Paul's handkerchiefs were "healing" people and in contrast the wicked sons of Sceva were using exorcism (in an attempt to heal?). The one exception is Paul casting out a spirit of divination in Acts 16:16-19. The odd thing here is that the motivation for this exceptional exorcism was not the gospel but that after many days of mocking, Paul was greatly annoyed. And, the only result of the exorcism was a loss of revenue, salvation is not even mentioned. This evolution away from exorcism then extends even to Paul himself regarding the God's gift of a messenger of Satan to afflict him Acts 16:16-18. If Paul's thorn was a physical affliction cause by the demon, the answer for Paul now is to ask God for relief but then trust God to do what is best for him. What would have happened if Paul had attempted to use exorcism to cast out his thorn in the flesh? It seems like it would have been an act of rebellion against God’s purposes.

All of that to say that after Acts and throughout the epistles, demons are no longer linked to sickness but to doctrines, idols and deception. (1 Corinthians 10:20, 1 Timothy 4;1, James 2:19, James 3:15, Revelation 9:20, Revelation 16:13, Revelation 18:2). It is weird that even in the gospel of John, that was written later than the synoptics, there are no exorcisms for healing, the demonic references again point to teaching and the message. (John 7:20, John 8:48-52, John 10:20-21)

In any case, I am curious about the evolution in Jesus' evolution in authority over demons before the crucifixion and after the crucifixion. There seems to have been a change.

Any ideas?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
You are beginning these discussions with a dubious conclusion and then seeing any difference in the text as a "deviation" or "evolution." That is literally the thing to be proven, not assumed.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
There is a more obvious difference that happens after the cross: Jesus returns to heaven and the apostles take on the task of witnessing to him throughout the world. The mission evolves.

The fact that the mission evolves may explain why you see a possible change in emphasis when demons are discussed. Scripture is no longer as concerned with showing Christ's power over all the efforts of demons. Instead, Scripture is more narrowly concerned to show how the devil has been keeping the nations in darkness to the truth, and how this is now changing. There is an enlarged concern for proclamation and doctrine because of the changing mission. Because of this concern, Scripture speaks more about doctrine and truth and the nations kept in darkness.

The fact that the mission has evolved seems to me a more plausible explanation for the shift you seem to detect (if indeed the shift is even there) than any conclusions about how Christ's authority may have evolved. Although we do read about all authority being given to Christ in, for example, Matthew 28:18, we also know that no demon has ever done anything without Christ allowing it. Jesus is God, and his authority has always been absolute.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
This assumes several dubious points:
1) The thorn was a demon.
2) Paul had a demon.

I'm just not sure anyone would grant these points.
Some scholars certainly would, and some would not. Here is what Colin Kruze says in his commentary:

Many suggestions have been made concerning the nature of Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’. They fall into one of three broad categories: (a) some form of spiritual harassment, e.g. the limitations of a nature corrupted by sin, the torments of temptation, or oppression by a demon, (b) persecution, e.g. that instigated by Jewish opposition or by Paul’s Christian opponents, (c) some physical or mental ailment, e.g. eye trouble, attacks of fever, stammering speech, epilepsy, or a neurological disturbance. However, the plain fact is that there is simply insufficient data to decide the matter. Most modern interpreters prefer to see it as some sort of physical ailment, and the fact that Paul calls it a thorn in the flesh offers some support for this. Galatians 4:15 is appealed to by those who want to identify it as an eye problem.

Kruse, C. G. (1987). 2 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 8, p. 199). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Okay. The scholar said that. Doesn't prove anything. But let's pretend that it was a demon afflicting Paul. Many people have this weird view that spiritual gifts operate with 100% accuracy and success, yet anyone who has the gift of teaching or preaching knows this isn't true.

So Paul simply wasn't able to cast it out. Why? God specifically said why: his power is in weakness.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Here is the question, Jesus had authority over demons before the crucifixion, what changed and happened to that authority after the crucifixion?
Once again, this question sounds like you are doubting some of the fundamentals of the Reformed faith--like the authority of Christ in exaltation. Do you agree with the WLC?


Q. 54. How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?

A. Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father, with all fulness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and does gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
There is a more obvious difference that happens after the cross: Jesus returns to heaven and the apostles take on the task of witnessing to him throughout the world. The mission evolves.

The fact that the mission evolves may explain why you see a possible change in emphasis when demons are discussed. Scripture is no longer as concerned with showing Christ's power over all the efforts of demons. Instead, Scripture is more narrowly concerned to show how the devil has been keeping the nations in darkness to the truth, and how this is now changing. There is an enlarged concern for proclamation and doctrine because of the changing mission. Because of this concern, Scripture speaks more about doctrine and truth and the nations kept in darkness.

The fact that the mission has evolved seems to me a more plausible explanation for the shift you seem to detect (if indeed the shift is even there) than any conclusions about how Christ's authority may have evolved. Although we do read about all authority being given to Christ in, for example, Matthew 28:18, we also know that no demon has ever done anything without Christ allowing it. Jesus is God, and his authority has always been absolute.
Jack,

I agree with you that the mission evolved. I still find it odd that an activity that had such a large part of the initial mission preaching the kingdom of God is at hand in Israel is given almost silence in the epistles.

I agree with you that God has always had ALL authority, but then what did He win and conquer at the cross relative to the demonic powers compared to that which He had before the cross? (Colossians 2:15, John 12:31, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Corinthians 15:24, Luke 4:6-8, Ephesians 1:19-22). Even Psalm 110, the most quoted OT passage in the NT speaks of an evolution Acts2:34-36.

As He already had ALL authority, maybe He acquired something else at the resurrection. Revelation 1:18 speaks of His resurrection and links it to the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 3:7 speaks of the key of David from Is 22:22. Were these won at the cross? Did they make an incremental difference to somehow supplement ALL authority? Revelation 5:1-5 seems to indicate this concept.

What do you think?
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
Once again, this question sounds like you are doubting some of the fundamentals of the Reformed faith--like the authority of Christ in exaltation. Do you agree with the WLC?


Q. 54. How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?

A. Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father, with all fulness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and does gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them.
I do agree with this. It seems that the Westminster would mean with the words, "as God-man" that there is an evolution and he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father. As the ascended Christ He is seated at the right hand of God. Prior to the crucifixion, He was not the ascended Christ. That, in fact is the nature of my question. I know and believe that He has "power over all things in heaven and earth" as the God-man ascended to heaven. God too had "all power" before the crucifixion - He is totally sovereign before the crucifixion. What changed?
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
Okay. The scholar said that. Doesn't prove anything. But let's pretend that it was a demon afflicting Paul. Many people have this weird view that spiritual gifts operate with 100% accuracy and success, yet anyone who has the gift of teaching or preaching knows this isn't true.

So Paul simply wasn't able to cast it out. Why? God specifically said why: his power is in weakness.
I agree, the fact there is a scholar does not prove it right, but it is a reasonable data point to consider. I think that the passage indicates that Paul did not even try to cast it out, but appealed directly to God. Based upon God's response, it seems that it would have been rebellious for Paul to try to cast it out. Satan's messenger was God's tool for Paul's good.

What is even more odd is that Paul seems to do something very similar when he delivered an unrepentant sinner to Satan with the goal of the suffering in the flesh driving the sinner to salvation 1 Corinthians 5:5. This is a far cry from exorcism.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
This terminology with reference to God or Christ makes alarm bells go off in my head.
We have a dramatic evolution between the first and second covenant as God's plan unfolded for us over time. It was planned before the foundation of the earth, but it is still an evolution for us to witness. At least, that is how I understand things. Other evolutions would include God's salvation being Israel-centric and then moving to the whole world at Pentecost after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

Even more dramatic is how our relationship with God evolves when we come to faith in Christ. Enemy to Son. Dead to living. Darkness to light....
 
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K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
You are exactly right. That's because it isn't exorcism. Delivering over to Satan is a judicial act by the church. Has nothing to do with exorcism.
This is FAR more than a judicial act by the church,some civil process.

Actually, the concept is that because the church is God's family or "kingdom" on earth, excommunication is expelling the person out of that kingdom/family and placing them under the dominion of Satan and his hostility. Exorcism with Jesus had to do with His right as king over His subjects and Matthew 12:23 links the exorcisms with the legitimacy of His kingship as the son of David. How much more so the claim of the Son of God in Luke 4:41. The son of David and the Son of God was demonstrating His kingdom in a direct confrontation with the kingdom of Satan and his demons. That is what Paul was delivering the persistent sinner into, another kingdom.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
We have a dramatic evolution between the first and second covenant as God's plan unfolded for us over time. It was planned before the foundation of the earth, but it is still an evolution for us to witness. At least, that is how I understand things. Other evolutions would include God's salvation being Israel-centric and then moving to the whole world at Pentecost after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

Even more dramatic is how our relationship with God evolves when we come to faith in Christ. Enemy to Son. Dead to living. Darkness to light....
Your use of the word "evolution" was in reference to Christ himself. That's the issue. When you start talking about Christ "evolving" you had better be precise as to your exact meaning. What you meant by Christ "evolving" may not have been problematic in and of itself, but it wasn't sufficiently clear to me what you meant and that's why I raised the issue.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
Your use of the word "evolve" was in reference to Christ himself. That's the issue. When you start talking about Christ "evolving" you had better be precise as to you exact meaning. What you meant by Christ "evolving" may not have been problematic in and of itself, but it wasn't sufficiently clear to me what you meant and that's why I raised the issue.
Thank you for the clarification. That is important. God does not change.

But even there, there can be evolution. The second person of the trinity took on flesh where there had been no flesh. He did not evolve in his essential attributes, but He did evolve. It would also seem that Jesus evolved in His death upon His spirit leaving His flesh to descend in Ephesians 4:9 and then again at His resurrection when He now has a glorified body. I think that Psalm 110 would indicate an evolution at His ascension as He is seated at the right hand of the Father and a possible coming evolution at the marriage supper of the Lamb (but I don't understand that one very well). There are evoluitions but not in His essential attributes as I understand things and as I understand Westminster.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
God does not change.

But even there, there can be evolution. The second person of the trinity took on flesh where there had been no flesh. He did not evolve in his essential attributes, but He did evolve.
Now you have stated plainly what I feared was implied in the earlier post. No "but" should ever follow the statement, "God does not change." Your statements here are extremely problematic. I would strongly encourage you to undertake a much deeper study of the nature and character of God before saying anything more on the subject.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
Now you have stated plainly what I feared was implied in the earlier post. No "but" should ever follow the statement, "God does not change."
Is the preincarnate Jesus identical and the same as the Jesus who took on flesh? Or, did the preincarnate Jesus always have flesh? This is the discussion of the Marcion heresy that considered Jesus was always a spirit and never actually took on flesh.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This is FAR more than a judicial act by the church,some civil process.

Actually, the concept is that because the church is God's family or "kingdom" on earth, excommunication is expelling the person out of that kingdom/family and placing them under the dominion of Satan and his hostility. Exorcism with Jesus had to do with His right as king over His subjects and Matthew 12:23 links the exorcisms with the legitimacy of His kingship as the son of David. How much more so the claim of the Son of God in Luke 4:41. The son of David and the Son of God was demonstrating His kingdom in a direct confrontation with the kingdom of Satan and his demons. That is what Paul was delivering the persistent sinner into, another kingdom.
Exorcism isn't the same thing as excommunication. This is church polity 101
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Is the preincarnate Jesus identical and the same as the Jesus who took on flesh? Or, did the preincarnate Jesus always have flesh? This is the discussion of the Marcion heresy that considered Jesus was always a spirit and never actually took on flesh.
You are assuming that "having flesh" (or rather, having the property of being human) necessitates that one will be evolving. But that in no way follows.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thank you for the clarification. That is important. God does not change.

But even there, there can be evolution. The second person of the trinity took on flesh where there had been no flesh. He did not evolve in his essential attributes, but He did evolve. It would also seem that Jesus evolved in His death upon His spirit leaving His flesh to descend in Ephesians 4:9 and then again at His resurrection when He now has a glorified body. I think that Psalm 110 would indicate an evolution at His ascension as He is seated at the right hand of the Father and a possible coming evolution at the marriage supper of the Lamb (but I don't understand that one very well). There are evoluitions but not in His essential attributes as I understand things and as I understand Westminster.
We're trying to read you with charity, but it's getting kind of hard.

Is our receiving a glorified body at the resurrection some form of "evolution" in your idiosyncratic way of linguistic framing?
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
Exorcism isn't the same thing as excommunication. This is church polity 101
I agree with you. The meaning of excommunication is the inverse of exorcism, turning over a person to the rule of Satan that occurs outside the church. The is why Paul states it this way in 1 Timothy 1:19-20. It is more than church polity. People are released from the power of Satan through exorcism and placed under that power in excommunication.
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
We're trying to read you with charity, but it's getting kind of hard.

Is our receiving a glorified body at the resurrection some form of "evolution" in your idiosyncratic way of linguistic framing?
Our bodies do evolve/change 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. That change and evolution is a fundamental hope as in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.

Bottom line is that our body is not unchangeable. It does change and evolve from what it was to something new and something more. It is still our body that is "sown" perishable but raised imperishable. The same but changed.

Are you saying that they do not evolve or change, but remain the same?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
People are released from the power of Satan through exorcism and placed under that power in excommunicatio
Even if this is true, I am not seeing how it connects with a supposed "evolution" in the New Testament. Of course, I don't see the "evolution" either.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Are you saying that they do not evolve or change, but remain the same?
I think we are equivocating on concepts. Saying our bodies "change" is one thing. We gain and lose physical properties. That not how "evolve" is being used in this thread.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Are you saying that they do not evolve or change, but remain the same?
The main issue is your insistence on the word 'evolve'. Why not use a biblical words like 'changed' or 'glorified'.

evolve: develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

This simply does not fit Christ, and your continued use of the word is beginning to 'sound' like you have an agenda. (Not saying you do, but again, we don't know you very well.)
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
I think we are equivocating on concepts. Saying our bodies "change" is one thing. We gain and lose physical properties. That not how "evolve" is being used in this thread.
I can ask the question another way,

1. Was there any change in the authority of Jesus before the cross/resurrection compared with after His ascension?

2. Why does the use of exorcism dramatically fade after the synoptic gospels, except for 3 or 4 references in Acts. It was a core element of the preaching of Jesus and the 12 (and even the 70) but it is simply not taught or encouraged in the epistles. That seems like a dramatic change in the ministry of the gospel. Do you disagree that this is the record of scripture?
 

K Jentoft

Puritan Board Freshman
The main issue is your insistence on the word 'evolve'. Why not use a biblical words like 'changed' or 'glorified'.

evolve: develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

This simply does not fit Christ, and your continued use of the word is beginning to 'sound' like you have an agenda. (Not saying you do, but again, we don't know you very well.)
No problem, I can use "change" without the ideas changing.
 
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