The ancients lived in a prescientific time but they weren't stupid.
They developed a reasonable system to explain reality that still works.
In our modern world when an apple falls from a tree we know that it is the gravitational attraction between the apple and the earth that pulls the apple to the ground.
The ancients had no such idea as gravity.
They would say that a spirit pushed the apple to the ground.
And what is a spirit?
They wouldn't know - it is whatever it needs to be to cause the apple to fall to the ground.
It is a place holder for that unknown force. It is like the unknown X in an equation.
It is not so much a matter of believing in spirits - after all you can see that the apple fell - it is a matter of explaining why it fell - which is otherwise unknown.
Some spirits can be good - like those that bring a gentle rain that waters your crops.
Others can be bad - like those that bring a cyclone that flattens your home and kills your family.
The world is in a constant war between the spirits with some building things up and others tearing things down.
I'm not talking about some sort of Faustian deal with the devil for power.
I'm talking about a common sense desire not to have some spirit roll over and squish me like a bug.
What do I need to do to get a long with these spirits? - I'm a reasonable fellow.
People have spirits - after all there is a difference between a corpse and a living person.
Most people are reasonable - perhaps other spirits can be reasoned with as well.
Perhaps flattery - "Oh great spirit"
or sacrifice - making offerings to the spirit that may please him
or perhaps just asking - "please, oh spirit, leave my sickly child alone".
Of course truly evil spirits are not likely to be very reasonable.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that the evil spirits immediately recognize Jesus.
And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!'
But he warned them strongly not to make him known. Mark 3:11-12
That Jesus has power over all of the forces in the world.
And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a great gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, 'Master, do you not care? We are lost!' And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Quiet now! Be calm!' And the wind dropped, and there followed a great calm. Then he said to them, 'Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?' They were overcome with awe and said to one another, 'Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.' Mark 4:36-41
That Jesus can cast out even a "Legion" of evil spirits that bedevil a man and reclaim him whole.
(A Roman army legion was on the order of 5000 soldiers).
They reached the territory of the Gerasenes on the other side of the lake, and when he disembarked, a man with an unclean spirit at once came out from the tombs towards him. The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him any more, even with a chain, because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? In God's name do not torture me!' For Jesus had been saying to him, 'Come out of the man, unclean spirit.' Then he asked, 'What is your name?' He answered, 'My name is Legion, for there are many of us.' And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district. Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding, and the unclean spirits begged him, 'Send us to the pigs, let us go into them.' So he gave them leave. With that, the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand pigs charged down the cliff into the lake, and there they were drowned.
The men looking after them ran off and told their story in the city and in the country round about; and the people came to see what had really happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there -- the man who had had the legion in him -- properly dressed and in his full senses, and they were afraid. And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs. Mark 5:1-16
And that we have access to this spirit through Jesus Christ.
Our spirit can directly commune with the Holy Spirit as a free gift from God.
We can scoff at this primitive model of the world that the ancients had but the reality is there are damaging forces at work in our lives that we cannot control and there is no greater force to dispel them than the Holy Spirit.
Email me at email@example.com
Return to Bible Studies Page
Return to Home Page
(c) 2012 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.