Possession comparison between the testaments


I’ve had a really interesting question from a Jewish friend which I have no idea how to answer! I thought you might be able to help. This is what he said:

“I’m reading through the New Testament and is there anything behind the common occurrences of possessions and exorcisms?”

I didn’t really understand what he meant and asked him to clarify. He came back with this:

“There are a bunch of instances of people who are possessed by demons and Jesus exorcises them. Is there a significance to this? Or as to why these exorcism stories are included in the gospels? I’ve only read the Old Testament so one thing that strikes me is the appearance of possessed people.”

Any ideas how to respond?


Exocism by Christ shows his divine nature. To a first century Jew, a man having power over evil spirits would have brought some to realize Jesus was the son of God, but to the religious establishment it would have been yet another blasphemy committed my Jesus, along with healing on the Sabbath and granting forgiveness of sins, which would embolden them to have him executed.


My opinion is that it wasn’t that there were no demon possessions during Old Testament times, it was that they really couldn’t do much about them. Jesus comes along and just commands them to leave period. I don’t know if anyone would consider King Saul as being possessed in the typical sense, but even his soothing/healing was only temporary whenever David played the harp.


After thinking about this a little more, it can also be tied into the prophecy about the Messiah healing the blind, lame, and setting captives free (Isaiah 61:1). The demons hold people “captive” and Jesus sets them free. After Jesus cast out the demons, the person is set free and in their “right mind” (Luke 8:35).

I think the bottom line is that everything Jesus said and did points to who he is as both Messiah and God. Even if they don’t believe his words, his power over sickness, life, death, demons, etc. is “proof” of who he is and that his words are true (John 10:38).


As we see in the OT, there was not much known about hell or for that matter much said about it either. The same goes for those beings in hell possessing people on earth. Much of what possession does to a person can be mistakenly taken for lunacy or insanity. So the treatment of hell and possession was cloudy at best.

But in the NT, Jesus teaches us that there is a war going on between the devil and mankind. And now possession by the devil is identified as distinct from lunacy and insanity by the exorcisms of Jesus. The devil is now known to be a work among men and this is what Jesus specifically taught. So we are now more inlightened about this than the people in the OT. And in the knowledge of what Jesus did, so now his followers do also.

Psalm 118
Let your face shine on your servant; and teach me your statutes.


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