Proper understanding between 'owners' and 'spirits of divination'

Acts 16:18 explains to the reader that an annoying girl had a spirit of divination whereby making monetary gain for her masters in some way. Paul is aggravated to the point of his performing a ‘quick exorcism’ in the name of Jesus because she kept following him and repeating the same thing over and over again. It is written that her owners were angry at losing the hope of making money, so then they seized Paul & Silas, dragging them before ‘the authorities’ to be beaten beaten, etc. This is explained after mentioning that the Holy Spirit forbid them to speak the word in Asia.

Question: Were the ‘owners’ of this girl related to the spirit of divination mentioned, and if so, how? How or where does the Roman Catholic Church declare the proper understanding?

Looking at the passage it looks like the girl was possessed. When Peter rebuked the spirit, it left the girl, which would have been an exorcism.

I think that the word “masters” could denote two possibilities: either the girl was a slave, or she was a minor. They were human. In either case the “masters” were exploiting her for their own gain.

Blessings

Is this to imply that the spirit of divination had nothing to do with her ‘masters’ based upon your personal interpretation?

When Peter rebuked

It would appear rather that the “small” one–Paul–and not Peter was doing the commanding.

Sorry about getting Paul and Peter mixed up. My bad.

I suppose that it would be possible for the “masters” to have called down the spirit upon the girl. Or it could be possible that the girl became possessed independently of her “masters” and they just figured out a way to exploit it. The Scripture does say how she became possessed just that she was.

And verse 16 says that she was a slave, so that clears up her relationship with the “masters”.

Blessings

Oh It happens! Thank you for participating

If anyone also sees this knows of a textual-reference during the lifespan of Catholicism speaking of the facts regarding the nature of the relationship, if any, it would be most appreciated. In the mean time, the message gets resounded once again: a person can not serve Mammon and God: one will either hate the one and love the other, or else hold to the one and despise the other.

In the Roman world, people usually wanted their valuable slave property to have skills. So you didn’t just buy someone to clean the house; you bought someone to have sex with, to run errands, and to clean the house. It was relatively common for house slaves to be able to read and write, even if the owner wasn’t all that literate.

So yes, there were slaves who supposedly had occult talents, and there were slaveowners who used them to make money, or consulted them as guides to their own behavior. Such people show up in Roman plays and novels.

And yes, if you were someone full of rage and unhappiness over being a slave, and if you had been forced to have sex with your masters as part of your duties, and if you saw the Roman world of curses, demons, and strange occult rites as your way to get a little of your own back – sure, you could get possessed. You might think it was a good thing, even.

Thanks for your reply Mintaka.

Your last paragraph would seem to imply that the little girl’s being a slave came first, and then she took an interest into divining and became possessed. Is this to say that the girl’s ‘masters’ had nothing directly to do with the divining spirit’s presence but rather exploited her once it happened (and before hand) for their gain after she had already been made a slave? If so, by what authority or background is this claim rather than conjecture? ( this is directly related to the main question )

No. The owners of the girl were human. The spirit of divination emanated from a demonic source.

and if so, how?

Answered above.

How or where does the Roman Catholic Church declare the proper understanding?

In the Scripture text itself. This, the New Testament, is a Catholic writing. There is no additional official interpretation that I’m aware of.

Where does it say, “not Peter”? People were crowding around him even so a bit of his shadow would fall on them.

Acts 5:15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.

So, by what stretch of the imagination do you say, “not Peter”?

Thank you for the input De_Maria.

You wrote that because the spirit was demonic and that the owners were human that there is no relation to each other and that this is biblical to believe this. Understood. At the same time, if the Lord can send an evil spirit to someone, and the Lord is surely not demonic, it wouldn’t follow that they weren’t in relation to each other in any way, as the one who sent was done by one surely non-demonic, yet with command.

1 Sam 19:19 - And the evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul,

The reader is also informed that the disciples have command over them:

Luke 10:17 - Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name.

The purpose of these quotations in this context is to prove that the nature of the commander or sender doesn’t necessitate having no relation at all to the spirits. Also, if we were to say the girl’s desire for possession allowed her to be possessed as Mintaka implied, the question is raised of whether someone else’s desire can affect an other in this regard (God forbid)? One may be reminded that instead of rejoicing, the people told Jesus to leave their district after the Exorcism at Gerasene, although one could argue that the reason was because of the loss of the pigs rather than caring about the well being of the man previously possessed: rather selfish.

De_Maria: "Where does it say “not Peter”? . . . by what stretch of imagination do you say “not Peter”.

What does this question have to do with the fact that the passage under scrutiny is regarding Paul?

Acts 16:18 - She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

For instance, one could easily say “Not Silas” regarding the passage. To question this as being of Peter would seem to be an absurdity unless something is hidden in the text for interpretation. It would seem rather an irrational stretch to mention Peter ten chapters earlier to imply Peter was doing some commanding here in the altogether different setting of chapter fifteen, although maybe the author of Acts was indeed being subtle?

Thanks again for giving attention and input to the topic.

You read a lot into my response that I didn’t say.

Understood. At the same time, if the Lord can send an evil spirit to someone, and the Lord is surely not demonic, it wouldn’t follow that they weren’t in relation to each other in any way, as the one who sent was done by one surely non-demonic, yet with command.

Thats a big if. You have not proven any connection between the two verses.

1 Sam 19:19 - And the evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul,

This is an old Testament verse. What connection does it have to this verse?

The reader is also informed that the disciples have command over them:

Luke 10:17 - Lord, the devils also are subject to us in thy name.

The purpose of these quotations in this context is to prove that the nature of the commander or sender doesn’t necessitate having no relation at all to the spirits.

Nor does it necessitate having any.

Also, if we were to say the girl’s desire for possession allowed her to be possessed as Mintaka implied, the question is raised of whether someone else’s desire can affect an other in this regard (God forbid)?

Thats besides the point. Not part of the OP.

One may be reminded that instead of rejoicing, the people told Jesus to leave their district after the Exorcism at Gerasene, although one could argue that the reason was because of the loss of the pigs rather than caring about the well being of the man previously possessed: rather selfish.

Sounds like a simillar situation.

De_Maria: "Where does it say “not Peter”? . . . by what stretch of imagination do you say “not Peter”.

What does this question have to do with the fact that the passage under scrutiny is regarding Paul?

Answer my question. Why did you bring St Peter into this and denigrate his authority?

Acts 16:18 - She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

For instance, one could easily say “Not Silas” regarding the passage. To question this as being of Peter would seem to be an absurdity unless something is hidden in the text for interpretation. It would seem rather an irrational stretch to mention Peter ten chapters earlier to imply Peter was doing some commanding here in the altogether different setting of chapter fifteen, although maybe the author of Acts was indeed being subtle?

You’re saying a lot but ignoring my question. Why did you bring Peter up?

Thanks again for giving attention and input to the topic.
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You’re welcome.

Re: the desirability of owning a possessed slave, that’s historical. Because normally, one would think that one would wish to rid oneself of a slave that was sick or damaged in any way… but that doesn’t seem to have been the case all the time. (Old slaves usually got sent to the country, to a farm, to die doing harder manual labor than what they used to do in the house or manufactory; or they just got offloaded somewhere. It took a kind owner to free an old slave or pension him off to easy labor.)

There was always somewhere worse to send a troublesome slave, especially if there was a teensy bit of money to make off it.

Re: the reasons why a slave might become possessed, that’s informed speculation.

Humans are the heirs of Adam, made in God’s image. No human, even an unbaptized pagan human, can be possessed by a demon without some kind of consent or opening through sin.

This slave girl was not possessed just because her masters were doing something wrong; at some point, she was doing something wrong herself.

Cursing was a very big business and hobby in the Roman world. You could do it yourself, or you could go to a professional in the neighborhood. Archaeologists are always finding Roman curses on potsherds thrown into wells, and that sort of thing. (If you could write, or if your neighbor could write, it seems to have been regarded as making curses more efficacious.) If you had any kind of grievance against anyone, and you were powerless to do something about it, you would curse him, in the hopes that the gods or demons or magical forces would avenge you.

Re: assuming that a slave was born into slavery – That’s a pretty safe assumption in the 1st century, unless a slave has a Persian or German name. A lot of the Roman Empire’s economic and civil troubles were because they already had tons and tons of slaves from their previous rounds of empire-building, almost all of whom had slave children. Any trafficking in enslaving people was going to either be exotic people (from outside the Empire), or debt-slaves (not super-common in the 1st century, although it became a Really Big Thing as time went on and the Imperial taxes rose).

Now, it is possible that this particular slave girl’s occult possession was exotic enough. But it wasn’t, really; it’s very Greek to be possessed by a “god” and say oracular things. I mean, heck, that’s the Oracle of Delphi right there.

Now, if this “talent” was troublesome to her parents, and her parents were poor, that could lead to being sold into slavery. But again, that would have been a little unusual in the 1st century, because times were pretty good.

Yes, there are a lot of scenarios. But some are more likely than others.

Re: sex as being part of “other duties as required” – Yup. That’s the Roman world for you. Maybe not every household did it; but frankly, it was considered a little weird if the master and his sons weren’t having sex with the help and letting their guests do it too. It wasn’t even considered all that weird for the wife of the house to be having sex with slaves, if the hubby wasn’t all that into his wife and she wasn’t getting pregnant from it. And as time went on, there was a lot of same-sex sleeping with the help, too. Fairly common in the Greek world, too, although not quite as much a thing as with the Romans.

OTOH, if a master let a slave get married, it was considered insensitive to have sex with your married slave. Which isn’t to say it didn’t happen; it was just socially disapproved of.

Probably it wasn’t always rape. Some slaves did pretty well out of such relationships. But it was rape a lot of the time.

@worldwideweary did not bring St. Peter into this discussion, I did. See my posts 2 and 4. When I looked at Acts Chapter 16, I mistakenly thought that it mentioned St. Peter. I misread it. When worldwideweary pointed that out, I apologized. There is NO denigration of St. Peter’s authority since St. Peter is not mentioned in Chapter 16. There was a mistaken read, that’s all.

Blessings

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