In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism among Early Christians

by Graham H. Twelftree

Third in a series of books by Twelftree on exorcism.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 351 pages, $26.99.

Reviewed by Mark W. Anderson, guest instructor, intercultural studies, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

In January 2008, Father Paolo Scarfoni of Regina Apostolarum, the Vatican’s university in Rome, announced the offering of a 10-week class on exorcism. Increasing requests for exorcisms by parishioners is being met by a lack of priests trained in exorcisms, this during a time of interest in Satanism and non-Christian spiritualities in Western cultures.

Graham H. Twelftree reinforces his reputation for studies on exorcism in early Christianity with a third book about Jesus, exorcism, and early Christianity. A first work, Christ Triumphant: Exorcism Then and Now (1985), outlines the perceptions of New Testament authors of Jesus as exorcist and the role of exorcism in their churches. His second work, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus, examines Jesus as exorcist in practice, self-understanding, and audience perceptions.

Book three is an expansion on chapter four from Christ Triumphant. Twelftree explores what Q and the Synoptic Gospels can reveal about exorcism among the early Christians. He then addresses issues related to exorcism that result from a reading of the Gospel of John and the Apostle Paul’s letters. The scope of the area of study is limited to 200 CE, thus confining this analysis to Christians in a largely Greek milieu. A second limitation includes using only authors and works that are considered a part of early orthodox Christianity. Part One provides perceptions of Jesus as exorcist by early believers, then the options present for believers performing exorcisms. Part Two gives exacting detail on the views of New Testament authors about the nature of exorcism among early believers. Part Three studies Apostolic fathers, apologists, and the longer ending of Mark’s Gospel.

The book reflects a personal conceptual journey that has led Twelftree to modify previously-held views on the role and nature of exorcism in the early Church (chapter thirteen). Conscientious reflection and carefully-drawn conclusions reflect personal and academic integrity. This work addresses a time and topic in church history that has needed attention. Interest in the history of Christian exorcism will benefit greatly from this significant foundational contribution.

Check these titles:
Twelftree, Graham H. 1985. Christ Triumphant: Exorcism Then and Now. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Twelftree, Graham H. 1993. Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers.

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