Biblical and Multicultural Accounts of Spirits and Exorcism
Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2023-08-15
275 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.04 in
- Published: September 2023
Today, the conception of spirits and demons has been mostly consigned to pop culture in films and novels. Any notion of supernatural possession is often derided as outdated belief or legend. The Western world has essentially "cast out" stories of exorcisms that persist throughout much of the world today. Consequently, Western Christians have a limited framework to interpret the exorcism accounts scattered throughout the Synoptic Gospels and Acts in their depictions of the ministry of Jesus and his followers.
With Phenomenal Phenomena, Joy L. Vaughan maps the hermeneutical problem readers of biblical spirit possession and exorcism stories might face. Vaughan communicates how the intersection of Western and global perspectives is a fruitful frame through to compare modern stories of spirit phenomena compare to ancient accounts. She surveys interreligious and global perspectives through three relationships: spirit possession and illness; spirit possession and violence or extraordinary strength; and spirit possession and vocalic activity/alteration, demonic speech, and oracular activity. These global perspectives challenge reductionist readings that pervade Western scholarship and allow the actuality of spirits to contribute to our collective interpretive task.
Considering the complexity of global experiences of spiritual and demonic activity, a variety of interpretive options are needed to understand the transcultural occurrences of these phenomena. Vaughan demonstrates that listening to global voices opens up a wide horizon of modern spirit possession and exorcism stories that have comparable characteristics to New Testament accounts. A fresh opportunity arises to read both sets of data as eyewitness testimony to extraordinary events.
Ben Witherington III
Part One: Reading through Multicultural and Genre-Specific Lenses
1. Demythologizing the Demythologizers: The Need to Hear Multicultural Voices
2. When Two Worlds Meet: The Hope of a Multicultural Approach
3. History or Hysteria?: Reading the Gospels and Acts with Genre Criticism
Part Two: Characteristics of Spirit Possession in Biblical and Multicultural Perspectives
4. Spirits Make Me Sick!: Spirit Possession and Illness
5. Spirits Make Me Violent and Strong!: Spirit Possession, Violent Acts, and Extraordinary Strength
6. Spirits Make Me Speak!: Spirit Possession, Vocalic Alterations, Demonic Speech, and Oracular Activity
7. A Vision of Transcultural Phenomena: Summary, Implications, and Conclusions
What do we do with the possession and exorcism stories in the New Testament? From David Strauss to John Pilch to Todd Klutz to Richard Horsley, the call has been for a multicultural approach to understanding the stories. In this richly informed text, Vaughan engages with material from the ancient world, and with modern analogies from Africa, Asia, South America, and the Western world to argue that, however these stories are interpreted, these stories are to be taken as part of the eyewitness testimony to the activities of Jesus and his followers.~Graham H. Twelftree, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, London School of Theology
How plausible is it historically that Jesus exorcised the possessed? To discuss this issue, Joy L. Vaughan utilizes multicultural reading involving interdisciplinary voices to consider the phenomenology of possession and exorcism throughout much of history. While, especially for Western people, possession implies beliefs of a strange and alien tradition, copious modern accounts of spirit possession experiences heard through the voices of those who have testified to their experience challenge this view. This excellent overview allows readers to reconsider their suppositions about the existence and function of evil.~Marius Nel, Research Professor, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Drawing deeply on the anthropological evidence, Vaughan compares reports of spirit possession and exorcism across cultures to those in the gospels and Acts, demonstrating the historical evidence for the widespread nature of these phenomena. This study lends further weight to the growing realization that Western rational explanations cannot account for these phenomena and to the need for New Testament scholars to take seriously reports of spirit possession and exorcism in the Gospels if we are to understand fully the historical Jesus and his mission.~Amanda Witmer, Adjunct in Religious Studies, University of Waterloo
Phenomenal Phenomena is an excellent compendium of scholarship and an interdisciplinary study of spirit possession in the Gospels and Acts. No other book offers such a cogent, concise, and compelling treatment of exorcism in modern biblical studies with global perspectives.~Daniel K. Darko, Dean for Global Engagement and Professor of Biblical Studies, Taylor University