James D.G. Dunn and Graham H. Twelftree make this interesting observation in an essay titled “Demon-Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament”:
“Had the picture of Jesus as exorcist been entirely the creation of the early Church, we would have expected the form of the exorcism stories to confirm even more closely than they do to contemporary parallels. For example, there is no report of Jesus using physical aids, as in Tobit (burning the heart and liver of a fish), or Josephus (the smell of a root), or magical papyri (use of amulets). He does not even pray, as does Hanina ben Dosa (b. Ber. 34b), or lay his hands on the demoniac, as in the Genesis Apocryphon. Perhaps most striking of all, he does not invoke any authority or power source. The use of a powerful name was very typical in exorcism, and the formula, ‘I adjure you by…,’ is very common in later magic papyri (e.g., PGm 4).” 
Jesus’ exorcisms appear to be quite unique in that he uses no tricks or gimmicks, nor does he appeal to any external authority, but he is remembered/depicted as overcoming evil by his own authority.
 J.D.G. Dunn and G.H. Twelftree, “Demon-Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament” in The Christ and the Spirit: V. 2, Pneumatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 175.
Yet another corroboration of the originality of Jesus and the Gospels…
Interesting observation – very fruitful!
If it was true that other exorcists used these gimmicks such as invoking the authority of others to cast out demons, or employing the power of another, it makes [Matt 9:34][Mark 3:22-23] seem more authentic, but also the contrast more striking. The question Y’shua was being asked also appears to notice that He was not invoking the authority of another to cast out demons, this well in contrast with this contemporaries. (Notice that his critics also seem to accept his ‘casting out of demons’ as authentic – they don’t accusing him of trickery, so the witness must have been compelling).
Moreover, look at Y’shua’s response in [Matt 12:24-28]. He asks the question [vs 27] “ … by whom do your children cast them?“. It seems He’s pointing out the observation further by contrasting the fact He is employed his own authority compared to the action of His contemporaries?
It seems that this observation has theological significance.
Couldn’t the early church have still invented those stories, in an attempt to show that Jesus was superior to the other exorcists? I’m not saying that it did, but I don’t see why there is a necessary connection between Jesus’ exorcisms being unique, and them being historically authentic as opposed to invented by the early church.
Of course, it remains a possibility. I didn’t share it primarily for that argument as much as the point that Jesus was remembered as doing exorcisms by his own authority and how this memory is unique. I think the point made here is one of plausibility though, which is what we have available. It is implausible that these memories have no basis in the perceived actions of Jesus for if they are invented out of thin air it would be far easier to create an exorcist from the know details of other perceived exorcists.
We have non biblical corroboration that Jesus performed miracles and interestingly enough, by those who most hated Jesus and His church and who would have been most likely to know about them.
Like those spiritually blind Jews in John who contended with Jesus, so these post 70 AD rabbinic writings charged Jesus with “sorcery”. They also point out what the “contenders” did, that society except believers believed Jesus was born out of wedlock.
They would have been wiser to not mention Jesus obviously, however, God uses them to corroborate some of the Gospel accounts, IMO. My view is what they did NOT say is important as well.
Not one sentence or academic denigration concerning the basics of the accounts about Jesus, most significantly His lineage. It would have been simple to document Jesus was not in the Davidic line before 70 AD and they didn’t. To me, that speaks a lot since these early non Christian Jews persecuted their fellow Jews who believed, sometimes including murder.
Comments are closed.