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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Acts 16:16

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

Adam Clarke Commentary

As we went to prayer - Εις προσευχην, Into the proseucha : see on Acts 16:13; (note), and on Luke 6:12; (note). The article, την, is added here by ABCE, several others, Origen and Theophylact: thus makes the place more emphatic, and seems to determine the above meaning of προσευχην to be right - not the act of prayer or praying to God, but the place, the oratory, in which these proselytes assembled for the purpose of praying, reading the law and the prophets, and such like exercises of devotion. It appears that the apostles spent dome time here; as it is evident, from this and the following verses, that they often resorted to this place to preach the Gospel.

Possessed with a spirit of divination - Εχουσαν πνευμα πυθωνος, Having a spirit of Python, or of Apollo. Pytho was, according to fable, a huge serpent, that had an oracle at Mount Parnassus, famous for predicting future events; Apollo slew this serpent, and hence he was called Pythius, and became celebrated as the foreteller of future events; and all those, who either could or pretended to predict future events, were influenced by the spirit of Apollo Pythius. As often-times the priestesses of this god became greatly agitated, and gave answers apparently from their bellies, when their mouths remained close, πυθων was applied to the εγγαϚριμυθοι, or ventriloquists. Hesychius defines πυθων, δαιμονιον μαντικον, a divining demon; and it was evidently such a one that possessed this young woman, and which Paul expelled, Acts 16:18. See on this subject the notes on Leviticus 19:31; (note), and Deuteronomy 18:11; (note).

Brought her masters much gain by soothsaying - Μαντευουενη, By divination, or what we call telling fortunes. Our term soothsaying coming from the Anglo-Saxon, truth, and to say, i.e. truth saying, or saying the truth. For, as it was supposed among the heathen that such persons spoke by the inspiration of their god, consequently what they said must be true. However, our translators might have used a term here that would not have been so creditable to this Pythoness; for, what she said concerning the apostles excepted, she certainly could not be supposed to tell the truth, while her inspiration came from him who is the father of lies. But Satan will sometimes conceal himself under the guise of truth, that he may the more effectually deceive. See below.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/acts-16.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

As we went to prayer - Greek: as we were going to the proseuche, ‹the place of prayer, Acts 16:13. Whether this was on the same day in which the conversion of Lydia occurred, or at another time, is not mentioned by the historian.

A certain damsel - A maid, a young woman.

Possessed with a spirit of divination - Greek: Python. See the margin. Python, or Pythios, was one of the names of Apollo, the Grecian god of the fine arts, of music, poetry, medicine, and eloquence. Of these he was esteemed to have been the inventor. He was reputed to be the third son of Jupiter and Latona. He had a celebrated temple and oracle at Delphi, which was resorted to from all parts of the world, and which was perhaps the only oracle that was in universal repute. The name Python is said to have been given him because, as soon as he was born, he destroyed with arrows a serpent of that name, that had been sent by Juno to persecute Latona; hence, his common name was the Pythian Apollo. He had temples on Mount Parnassus, at Delphi, Delos, Claros, Tenedos, etc., and his worship was almost universal. In the celebrated oracle at Delphi, the priestess of Apollo pretended to be inspired; became violently agitated during the periods of pretended inspiration; and during those periods gave such responses to inquirers as were regarded as the oracles of the god. Others, it is probable, would also make pretensions to such inspiration; and the art of fortune-telling, or of jugglery, was extensively practiced, and was the source of much gain. See the notes on Acts 8:8-10. What was the cause of this extensive delusion in regard to the oracle at Delphi it is not necessary now to inquire. It is plain that Paul regarded this as a case of demoniacal possession, and treated it accordingly.

Her masters - Those in whose employ she was.

By soothsaying - Pretending to foretell future events.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/acts-16.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

And it came to pass, as we were going to the place of prayer, that a certain maid having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. The same following after Paul and us cried out, saying, These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation. And this she did for many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour.

As we were going to the place of prayer ... Evidently, Paul and company made daily visits to the place of prayer. This caught the attention of the demoniac girl; and, for some time, she made a habit of following them and crying out an endorsement of their message.

Spirit of divination ... The Greek here has "A Python spirit," thus Luke identified this unfortunate girl as one coming from the pagan temple at Delphi, where the Pythian Apollo was worshiped, the python being sacred to him, and his devotees being said to have the python spirit. Luke's identification of this girl with that pagan establishment contains no suggestion whatever of any validity in their outlandish claims. Rather, Paul's addressing the "spirit" in her clearly indicates exactly the same kind of demon possession so often healed by our Lord.

Servants of the Most High God ... The Gerasene demoniacs used this same expression regarding Jesus (Mark 5:7), this speech of the girl thus proving the fact of her being possessed by a demon.

Paul being sore troubled ... Paul's problem was simple, but difficult as well. The slave-masters who were exploiting this alleged soothsayer were making a lot of money out of her. They knew she was a fraud, else they would have believed it when she identified Luke and Paul and company as servants of the Most High God showing the right way of salvation. Paul therefore knew that if he cast the demon out of her, there would be a sharp conflict with the evil men who owned her. He delayed acting as long as he properly could, hoping perhaps that she would desist; but when she continued, Paul cast the demon out. He, even as the Lord, could not afford an endorsement of one so clearly evil; and furthermore, any sign or miracle that Paul might have performed would have been seized upon by the masters of the girl in an effort to exploit such to their own benefit.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/acts-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And it came to pass as we went to prayer,.... That is, to the house of prayer, or to the oratory, as they were in the way to it; for this is not to be understood of their just going to the act, or duty of prayer; for the damsel that now met them, is said to follow them, and to do so for many days, one after another; and it was by their going to the prayer house, that she knew what they were; and besides, the phrase of "going to prayer", as used by us, for the act or duty of prayer, is a mere Anglicism, and unknown to the eastern writers: now this their going to the oratory, was after they had been at Lydia's house, and had been entertained and refreshed there; whether this was on the same day that she was converted and baptized, is not certain: however, so it was, that

a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination, met us; in the Greek text it is, "the spirit of Python"; the Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read, "the spirit Python"; the same with Apollo, who was called Pythius, as was his oracle, from the people coming to him, πυνθανεσθαι, to inquire of him and consult with him, about difficult mattersF25Phurnutus de natura deorum, p. 94. Vid. Schol. Aristoph. Plut. p. 6. & Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 17. ; or rather from the Hebrew word פתן, which signifies a serpent; and so Apollo is said to have his name Pythius, from his killing the serpent Typhon, or PythonF26Homer. Hymn. in Apollo, v. 372, &c. ; hence the city of Delphos, where was the oracle of Apollo, was called PythoF1Pausan. l. 10. p. 619. ; the prophetess that sat upon the golden tripos, and delivered out the oracles, Pythia; and the feasts and plays instituted to the honour of Apollo, were called the Pythian feasts and plays, and the place of the oracle PythiumF2Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 2. : and so this maid, or the spirit in her, pretended to divine and foretell things to come; and the Arabic renders it, "an unclean spirit, foretelling future things": the JewsF3R. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 36, 38. make this spirit of Python, to be the same with Ob, which we render a familiar spirit, Leviticus 20:27 and the Septuagint by "Engastrimythos", a ventriloquist, one that seemed to speak out of his belly, and pretended to predict future events; and most of the versions in the Polyglot Bible render it by "Python", the word here used: so the Jews sayF4Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 7. , that a master of Ob (as the woman of Endor is called the mistress of Ob), זה פיתום, this is "Python": and so Jarchi on Deuteronomy 18:11 explains the word, and adds, that it is one that speaks out of his arm holes, as those sort of people did from several parts of their bodies, and even from their secret parts: the word signifies a bottle, and they were called masters or mistresses of the bottle; either because the place on which they sat, and from whence they gave forth their oracles, was in the form of one; or they made use of a bottle in their divinations; or as SchindlerF5Lex. Pentaglott. col. 34. observes, being possessed, they swelled and were inflated like bottles; and being interrogated, they gave forth answers out of their bellies, concerning things past, present, and to come: and this speaking out of their bellies might be done, without the possession of a real spirit, and much less was it from God, as PlutarchF6De defectu oracul. p. 691. , an Heathen himself, observes;

"it is foolish and childish, to think that God, as the ventriloquists formerly called Eurycleans, and now Pythonists, should hide himself in the bodies of the prophets, using their mouths and voices as instruments to speak with, for this was done by turning their voices down their throats.'

The first of this sort was one Eurycles, of whom AristophanesF7Vespae, p. 502. makes mention; and the Scholiast upon him says, that he was a ventriloquist, and was said by the Athenians to prophesy by a "demon" that was in him, when it was only an artificial way of speaking; Tertullian affirms he had seen such women that were ventriloquists, from whose secret parts a small voice was heard, as they sat and gave answers to things asked: Caelius Rhodiginus writes, that he often saw a woman a ventriloquist, at Rhodes, and in a city of Italy his own country; from whose secrets, he had often heard a very slender voice of an unclean spirit, but very intelligible, tell strangely of things past or present, but of things to come, for the most part uncertain, and also often vain and lying; and Wierus relates of one Peter Brabantius, who as often as he would, could speak from the lower part of his body, his mouth being open, but his lips not moved, whereby he deceived many by this cunning; and there was a man at court in King James the First's time here in England, who could act this imposture in a very lively mannerF8See Webster's Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, p. 122, 124. : but now whether the spirit that was in this maid was a cheat, an imposture of this kind, is not so easy to say; it seems by the dispossession that follows, that it was a real spirit that possessed her; though some think it was no other than a deluding, devilish, imposture:

which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: divining or prophesying; it seems she had many masters, who had a propriety in her, and shared the gain she brought; unless by them are meant her master and mistress: vast treasures were brought to the temple at Delphos, by persons that applied to the Pythian oracle there; and great quantities were got by particular persons, who pretended to such a spirit, by which they told fortunes, and what should befall people hereafter, or where their lost or stolen goods were, and such like things; and of such sort were the magical boys and servants PignoriusF9De Servis, p. 355. makes mention of, out of Apuleius, Porphyry, and others, who either for gain or pleasure, performed many strange things.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/acts-16.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

10 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of f divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

(10) Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and covets to enter by undermining, but Paul openly stops him, and casts him out.

(f) This is a sure sign of the god Apollo, who would give answers to those that asked him.


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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/acts-16.html. 1599-1645.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A spirit of divination (πνευμα πυτωναpneuma puthōna). So the correct text with accusative (apparition, a spirit, a python), not the genitive (πυτωνοςputhōnos). Hesychius defines it as δαιμονιον μανικονdaimonion manikon (a spirit of divination). The etymology of the word is unknown. Bengel suggests πυτεσταιputhesthai from πυντανομαιpunthanomai to inquire. Python was the name given to the serpent that kept guard at Delphi, slain by Apollo, who was called Πυτιος ΑπολλοPuthios Apollo and the prophetess at Delphi was termed Pythia. Certainly Luke does not mean to credit Apollo with a real existence (1 Corinthians 8:4). But Plutarch (a.d. 50-100) says that the term πυτωνεςputhōnes was applied to ventriloquists (εγγαστριμυτοιeggastrimuthoi). In the lxx those with familiar spirits are called by this word ventriloquists (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, Leviticus 20:27, including the witch of Endor 1 Samuel 28:7). It is possible that this slave girl had this gift of prophecy “by soothsaying” (μαντευομενηmanteuomenē). Present middle participle of μαντευομαιmanteuomai old heathen word (in contrast with προπητευωprophēteuō) for acting the seer (μαντιςmantis) and this kin to μαινομαιmainomai to be mad, like the howling dervishes of later times. This is the so-called instrumental use of the circumstantial participles.

Brought (παρειχενpareichen). Imperfect active of παρεχωparechō a steady source of income.

Much gain (εργασιαν πολληνergasian pollēn). Work, business, from εργαζομαιergazomai to work.

Her masters (τοις κυριοις αυτηςtois kuriois autēs). Dative case. Joint owners of this poor slave girl who were exploiting her calamity, whatever it was, for selfish gain, just as men and women today exploit girls and women in the “white slave” trade. As a fortune-teller she was a valuable asset for all the credulous dupes of the community. Simon Magus in Samaria and Elymas Barjesus in Cyprus had won power and wealth as soothsayers.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/acts-16.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Damsel

See on Acts 12:13.

Spirit of divination ( πνεῦμα Πύθωνα )

Lit., a spirit, a Python. Python, in the Greek mythology, was the serpent which guarded Delphi. According to the legend, as related in the Homeric hymn, Apollo descended from Olympus in order to select a site for his shrine and oracle. Having fixed upon a spot on the southern side of Mount Parnassus, he found it guarded by a vast and terrific serpent, which he slew with an arrow, and suffered its body to rot ( πυθεῖν ) in the sun. Hence the name of the serpent Python (rotting); Pytho, the name of the place, and the epithet Pythian, applied to Apollo. The name Python was subsequently used to denote a prophetic demon, and was also used of soothsayers who practised ventriloquism, or speaking from the belly. The word ἐγγαστρίμυθος , ventriloquist, occurs in the Septuagint, and is rendered having a familiar spirit (see Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27; 1 Samuel 28:7,8). The heathen inhabitants of Philippi regarded the woman as inspired by Apollo; and Luke, in recording this ease, which came under his own observation, uses the term which would naturally suggest itself to a Greek physician, a Python-spirit, presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi.

Soothsaying ( μαντευομένη )

Akin to μαίνομαι , to rave, in allusion to the temporary madness which possessed the priestess or sibyl while under the influence of the god. Compare Virgil's description of the Cumaean Sibyl:

“And as the word she spake

Within the door, all suddenly her visage and her hue

Were changed, and all her sleeked hair and gasping breath she drew,

And with the rage her wild heart swelled, and greater was she grown,

Nor mortal-voiced; for breath of god upon her heart was blown

As he drew nigher.”

Aeneid, vi., 45 sq.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/acts-16.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Went to prayer; were going to the place of prayer, mentioned in Acts 16:13, on some occasion subsequent to their meeting with Lydia.--Soothsaying. It scarcely need be said that these powers of divination were pretended. Paul treats the case as one of demoniacal possession.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/acts-16.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16.Luke prosecuteth the increase of the Church; for though he do not straightway in a word express that thing, yet is it easily gathered out of the text, that many were brought into the faith, or at least that the Church was somewhat augmented, and Paul did not frequent the assemblies in time of prayer in vain. Notwithstanding, Luke doth also report that Satan did interrupt this course; to wit, because after that the apostles were beaten with rods, and cast in [into] prison, they were at length enforced to depart the city; yet we shall see in the end of this chapter, that when Satan had done his worst, there was some body of the Church gathered before they did depart. −

Having a spirit of divination, (or of Python.) The poets do feign that the serpent called Python was slain with the dart of Phoebus; hereupon rose another invention; − (191) that they said, that those who were possessed were inspired with the spirit of Python, and, peradventure, they were thereupon called Phoebades, in honor of Apollo. But Luke followeth the common custom of speaking, because he showeth the error of the common people, and not through what inspiration the maid did prophesy. For it is certain that the devil did deceive men under the visor of Apollo, as all idolatry and subtilty was invented and forged in his shop. But some men may marvel that the devil (through whose motion and persuasion the maid did cry) was the author of such an honorable commendation, wherewith she adorned Paul and Silas, and the rest. For, seeing that he is the father of lying, how could the truth proceed from him? Secondly, how is it that he gave place willingly to the servants of Christ, by whom his kingdom was destroyed? how can this hang together, that he prepared the minds of the people to hear the gospel, whose mortal enemy he is? Assuredly, there is nothing more proper to him than to turn away the minds of the people from the word of the gospel, which he doth now will and wish them to hear. −

Whence cometh such a sudden change, or unwonted emotion? But the devil is the father of lying in such sort, that he covereth himself under the ale and deceivable color of truth. There he played another person through his crafty subtilty, than was agreeable to his nature; − (192) that by creeping in craftily he might do the more hurt; and, therefore, whereas he is called the father of lies, we must not so take it as if he did always lie manifestly and without any color. Yea, rather we must beware of his crafty subtilty, lest when he pretendeth the color of truth he deceive us under a vain show. We see, also, how he useth like subtilty daily. For what can bear a fairer show than the Pope’s titles, wherein he doth not boast himself to be the adversary of Christ, but he doth not boast himself to be the adversary of Christ, but his vicar? What can be more plausible than that solemn preface, In the name of the Lord, Amen? Notwithstanding we know, that whilst the hypocritical ministers of Satan do thus pretend the truth, they corrupt it, and, with a deadly corruption, infect it. Seeing that Satan hath a double way to resist the gospel, to wit, because he doth sometimes rage openly, and sometimes he creepeth in craftily under lies, he hath also two kinds of lying and deceiving, either when he overthroweth the Word of God with false doctrines and gross superstitions, or else when he doth craftily feign that he is a friend of the Word, and so doth insinuate himself subtilely; − (193) yea, he doth never hurt more deadly than when he transformeth himself into an angel of light. Now, we perceive to what end that so gorgeous a title did tend, wherewith he did extol Paul and his companions, namely, because it was not so convenient for him to make open war against the gospel, he went about to overthrow the credit thereof by secret shifts. For if Paul had admitted that testimony, there should have been no longer any difference between the wholesome − (194) doctrine of Christ and the mocks of Satan. The light and brightness of the gospel should have been entangled in the darkness of lying, and so quite put out. −

But the question is, why God doth grant Satan so great liberty, as to suffer him to deceive miserable men, and to bewitch them with true divinations? For, omitting the disputations which some men move concerning his foresight, I take this for a plain case, that he doth prophesy and foretell things to come, and which are hidden only through God’s sufferance. But God seemeth by this means to lay open men who are reckless or careless to his subtilty, so that they cannot beware. For seeing that prophecies breathe out divine power, men’s minds must needs be touched with reverence so often as they come abroad, unless they contemn God. I answer, that Satan hath never so much liberty granted him of God, save only that the unthankful world may be punished, which is so desirous of a lie, that it had rather be deceived than obey the truth. For that is a general evil, whereof Paul complaineth in the first chapter to the Romans,( Romans 1:21,) That men do not glorify God, being known naturally by the creation of the world, and that they suppress his truth unjustly. −

It is a just reward for so great unthankfulness, that Satan hath the bridle given him, that through divers jugglings he may work the ruin of those who turn away maliciously from the light of God. Therefore, so often as you read the divinations of Satan, think upon the just judgment of God. Now, if God so sharply punish the contempt of his light in the profane Gentiles, who have no other teachers but the heaven and earth, how much more sharp punishment do those deserve who wittingly and willingly choke the pure doctrine of salvation, revealed to them in the law and the gospel? No marvel, therefore, if Satan have long bewitched the world so freely with his subtilty, since that the truth of the gospel hath been wickedly contemned, which was made most manifest. But it is objected again, that no man is free from danger when false divinations fly to and fro so fast. For even as well the good as the evil seem to be subject to the cozenage of Satan when the truth is darkened and overcast. The answer is ready, though Satan set snares for all men in general, yet are the godly delivered by the grace of God, lest they be caught together with the wicked. There is also a more manifest distinction set down in the Scripture, because the Lord doth by this means try the faith and godliness of his, and doth make blind the reprobate, that they may perish as they be worthy. Therefore Paul saith plainly, that Satan hath not leave granted him to lead any into error save those who will not obey God and embrace the truth, ( 2 Thessalonians 2:11.) −

Whereby is also reproved their wicked ungodliness, who, under this color, excuse the profane contempt of all doctrine; whither shall we turn ourselves, (say they,) seeing that Satan is so expert to deceive? Therefore, it is better for us to live without any religion at all, than, through the desire of religion, to run headlong into destruction. Neither do they object and pretend this fear for their excuse in earnest; but, seeing they desire nothing more than to wander carelessly, like beasts, without any fear of God, they can be content with any excuse, so they be not tied to any religion. I confess, indeed, that Satan doth no less craftily than wickedly abuse the sacred name of God; and that that proverb is too true which Papistry hath brought forth, that, the Lord doth pronounce that he will be the teacher of the humble, and hath promised that he will be nigh to those which are right in heart; seeing that Paul teacheth that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit; seeing that he doth testify that those who are well-grounded in the faith of the gospel are not in danger to be seduced by man; seeing that Peter calleth the Scripture a light shining in a dark place; seeing that courteous exhortation, or inviting of Christ, can never deceive us, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you;” let Satan do what he can, and let the false prophets seek to darken the truth so much as they are able, we need not be afraid lest the Spirit of wisdom and discretion [discernment] forsake us, who ruleth − (195) Satan at his pleasure, and maketh us triumph over him by the faith of his word. −

Figmento,” fiction.

“ − Egit igitur callido artificio aliam personam quam ferret ejus natura ,” there with cunning artifice he played a character different from that which naturally belonged to him.

Quasi per cuniculos obrepit,” creeps in as if by burrowing.

Salvificam,” saving.

Compescit,” quelleth.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/acts-16.html. 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

spirit

(Greek - Α ,"; ";a Ρ;ython).";

 

 


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Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Acts 16:16". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/acts-16.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

Ver. 16. Possessed with a spirit, &c.] These the seventy seniors usually call εγγαστριμυθους, because the devil spake out of their bellies. For which cause also the Hebrews call them Oboth, or bottles; because the bellies of those women that were thus made use of by the devil were swelled as big as bottles. (Beza in loc.) In the year of grace 1536, a certain damsel at Frankfort in Germany, being possessed with a devil, and stark mad, swallowed down pieces of money with much gnashing of her teeth; which monies were presently wrung out of her hands and kept by various ones, &c. This is a true story, reported by Andrew Ebert, the minister of the place, who wrote the same to Luther, requesting his advice; which was, to pray hard for her, &c. (Bucholc. Chr.)


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-16.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Acts 16:16. As we went to prayer, Or, To the oratory. The manner in which St. Luke relates this history,plainly implies that he considered it as a real possession, and that St. Paul himself considered it in that view: nor can we account either for the woman's behaviour, for St. Paul's, or for that of her master's afterwards, without allowing this to be the case. A spirit of divination, is in the original, a spirit of

Pytho, or of Apollo; concerning which see the notes on Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:11.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-16.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

As we went to prayer, a damsel possessed met us. That is, As the apostles went towards the forementioned place of prayer, a damsel possessed with the devil, by whose inspiration she foretold future things, and revealed many secrets to them that consulted her, followed them, crying out, These are the servants of the most high God, who declare unto us the way of salvation.

Where observe, 1. That the father of lies sometimes speaks the truth, though, never for truth's sake, but for his own advantage: here what the devil said was truth, but it was for devilish ends; he transforms himself now into an angel of light, to draw men on to believe him the prince of darkness.

Observe, 2. How St. Paul refuses the devil's testimony concerning himself, even when he spake the truth. The testimony of truth from the father of lies, is enough to render truth itself suspected.

Observe, 3.the authority which St. Paul takes upon him in the name of Christ to dispossess the devil, and cast him out of the damsel: Paul said, I command thee in the name of Jesus to come out of her: and he came out the same hour.

These words St. Paul uttered by the motion of the Holy Spirit, and relying by faith on the promise of Christ made by himself to his apostles, That in his name they should cast out devils; Mark 16:17 accordingly he received power from on high to cast out this daring devil.

Observe, 4. How Satan seeks to be revenged on Paul for dispossessing of him: he raises up an hot persecution, and soon casts him into prison, who had cast the devil out of the damsel. If we disturb and trouble Satan, he will be sure to trouble and disturb us. Such ministers as make the greatest opposition against Satan, must expect to meet with the greatest opposition from him.

Observe, 5. Who were the instruments which Satan stirs up to raise this persecution against the apostles: they were the rulers and the rabble: The multitude rose up, and the magistrates rent their clothes, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. Thus were the holy apostles, and innocent servants of Jesus Christ, imprisoned, and treated as the vilest malefactors, only for opposing Satan, and seeking the welfare of mankind.

Observe, lastly, That love of money was the root of all this persecution. The damsel's masters perceiving that their gain was gone, and that she could help them to no more money by telling people their fortunes, the devil of discontent possessed them. They stir up persecution against the apostles, they cast them into prison, into the inward prison, and to make all sure, set them in the stocks.


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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/acts-16.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

16.] This happened on other occasions; not on the same day, as Heinrichs and Kuinoel fancy. In that case (besides other objections), if they had gone back from the house of Lydia to the place of prayer, the word would certainly have been ἐξελθόντων, and not πορευομένων. In Acts 16:15 is implied their taking up their abode with Lydia:—in this verse that they habitually resorted to this place of prayer to teach, and that what follows happened on such occasions.

It may be remarked that the E. V. of πορευομένων εἰς ( τὴν) προσευχήν, ‘as we went to prayer,’ has given rise to a curious abuse of the expression ‘going to prayer,’ in the sense of ‘beginning to pray,’ among the lower classes in England.

ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα] On the whole subject of dæmoniacal possession, see note on Matthew 8:32. This was a case in which the presence of the spirit was a patent fact, recognized by the heathen possessors and consulters of this female slave, and by them turned to account; and recognized also by the Christian teachers, as an instance of one of those works of the devil which their Lord came, and commissioned them, to destroy. All attempt to explain away such a narrative as this by the subterfuges of rationalism (as e.g. in Meyer, and even Lewin, i. 243, and apparently Hackett, p. 222), is more than ever futile. The fact of the spirit leaving the girl, and the masters finding the hope of their gains gone, is fatal: and we may see, notwithstanding all his attempts to account for it psychologically, that Meyer feels it to be so.

πύθωνα] Plut. de Defectu Oracul. p. 414, says ὥσπερ τοὺς ἐγγαστριμύθους εὐρυκλέας (from a prophet, Eurycles), πάλαι, νυνὶ πύθωνας προσαγορευομένους. It is difficult to decide internally between the probabilities of πύθωνα and πύθωνος: I have retained the ancient reading, both from its external authority, and because I find so many Commentators explaining πύθων to be a name of Apollo, or the serpent Python, that the alteration into the gen. may thus be easily accounted for. Bp. Wordsworth has an interesting note on the probable reason for this new term appearing in the narrative, now that St. Paul is brought directly into contact with Greek and Roman divination.


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/acts-16.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 16:16. That Paul and his companions accepted this pressing invitation of Lydia, and chose her house for their abode, Luke leaves the reader to infer from καὶ παρεβιάσατο ἡμᾶς, Acts 16:15, and he now passes over to another circumstance which occurred on another walk to the same προσευχή mentioned before. What now follows thus belongs to quite another day. Heinrichs and Kuinoel assume that it attached itself directly to the preceding: that the conversion and baptism of Lydia had occurred while the women (Acts 16:13) were waiting at the προσευχή for the commencement of divine worship; and that, when they were about to enter into the προσευχή, this affair with the soothsaying damsel occurred. In opposition to this it may be urged, first, that Acts 16:15 would only interrupt and disturb the narrative (especially by καὶ παρεβιάσατο ἡμᾶς); secondly, that the beginning of Acts 16:16 itself ( ἐγένετο δέ) indicates the narration of a new event; and thirdly, that the instruction and baptism of Lydia, and still more of her whole house, cannot naturally be limited to so short a period.

According to the reading ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα (see the critical remarks), the passage is to be interpreted: who was possessed by a spirit Python, i.e. by a demon, which prophesied from her belly. The damsel was a ventriloquist, and as such practised soothsaying. The name of the well-known Delphic dragon, πύθων (Apollod. i. 4. 1), became subsequently the name of a δαιμόνιον μαντικόν (Suidas, who has the quotation: τάς τε πνεύματι πύθωνος ἐνθουσιώσαςἠξίου τὸ ἐσόμενον παραγορεῦσαι, but was also, according to Plut. de def. orac. 9, p. 414 E, used appellatively, and that of soothsayers, who spoke from the belly. So also Suidas: ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ἐγγαστρίμαντις, ὅν τινες νῦν πύθωνα, σοφοκλῆς δὲ στερνόμαντιν. This use of πύθων, corresponding to the Hebrew אוֹב (which the LXX. render by ἐγγαστρίμυθος, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; see Schleusner, Thes. II. p. 222), and also passing over to the Rabbins (R. Salomo on Deuteronomy 18:11; Sanhedr. f. 65. 1 in Wetstein), is to be assumed in our passage, as otherwise we could not see why Luke should have used this peculiar word, whose specific meaning (ventriloquist-soothsayer) was certainly the less strange to him, as the thing itself had so important allusions in the O.T. and LXX. suggesting it to those possessed of Jewish culture (1 Samuel 28:7), just as among the Greeks the jugglery which the ventriloquists (the εὑρυκλεῖς or εὑρυκλεῖδαι) practised was well enough known; see Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § xlii. 16. Without doubt, the damsel was considered by those who had their fortunes told by her as possessed by a divinity; and that she so regarded herself, is to be inferred from the effect of the apostolic word (Acts 16:18). Hers was a state of enthusiastic possession by this fixed idea, in which she actually might be capable of a certain clairvoyance, as in the transaction in our passage. Paul, in his Christian view (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:20), regards this condition of hers as that of a demoniac; Luke also so designates it, and treats her accordingly.

τοῖς κυρίοις] There were thus several, who in succession or conjointly had her in service for the sake of gain. Comp. Walch, de servis vet. fatidicis, Jen. 1761.


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/acts-16.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Acts 16:16. πύθωνα) Hesychius explains πύθεν as ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ventriloquist diviner: although πύθων in a wider sense denotes any one whatsoever, from whom one may πυθέσθαι, inquire.— ἐργασίαν) Fraud nourishes such gain: true religion does away with it.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/acts-16.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Went to prayer; went towards the place where their public prayers were usually made.

Of divination; or, of Python, the name of Apollo, from the place where he was worshipped, (which was afterwards called Delphi), and from whom all evil spirits, that pretended to divination, were called Pythons; as that the woman made use of to delude Saul by, 1 Samuel 28:7.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/acts-16.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

To prayer; the place of prayer.

Spirit of divination; an evil spirit, under the influence of which she professed to divine, that is to reveal things beyond the reach of human knowledge.

Soothsaying; professing to foretell future events. Men are often more anxious to know their fortunes than their duty. They more earnestly seek, and more liberally pay for specious delusions and lying vanities, than for substantial realities and momentous truth.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/acts-16.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

16. πορευομένων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν προσευχήν, as we were going to the place of prayer (see on Acts 16:13). This verse must refer to a different occasion from that on which Lydia was converted. In the previous παρεβιάσατο it is implied that they consented to her request. Thus they had already taken up their abode in Lydia’s house.

ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα, having a spirit, a Python. According to Plutarch (De def. Orac. 9) those persons who practised ventriloquism, called also ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, were named Pythons. But the damsel in this history clearly laid claim to some prophetic power, and was used as a means of foreknowing the future. So that the word Python is better here referred to the name of Apollo, the heathen god of prophecy, and the A.V. ‘spirit of divination’ gives the correct idea.

ἐργασίαν πολλήν, much gain. ἐργασία means first the ‘work done’ and secondarily the ‘profit from it.’ Cf. Wisdom of Solomon 13:19, περὶ δὲ πορισμοῦ καὶ ἐργασίας, ‘and concerning gaining and getting’ (A.V.).

τοῖς κυρίους αὐτῆς, to her masters. Some persons who having found a strange power in the maiden made use of it, as has oft been done, for their own purposes of gain, and persuaded the people to resort unto her with their questions.

μαντευομένη, by soothsaying. This word is found nowhere else in N.T., and wherever it is used in the LXX. it is invariably of the words of lying prophets, or those who used arts for bidden by the Jewish Law. Thus of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:8) μάντευσαι δή μοι ἐν τῷ ἐγγαστριμύθῳ, and (Ezekiel 13:6) βλέποντες ψευδῆ, μαντευόμενοι μάταια. Cf. also Deuteronomy 18:10; Ezekiel 12:24; Ezekiel 21:29; Ezekiel 22:28; Micah 3:11. Here therefore we must take it in the bad sense, ‘by pretending to foretell the future.’


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"Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/acts-16.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16. Went to prayer—Went to the proseucha, probably on the following day. But the pythoness repeated this, following the apostles many days, (Acts 16:18.)

Spirit of divination—Literally, a spirit of Python. Python was the name of an ancient mythical earth-born dragon or snake, which in oldest antiquity existed at the Delphic cave in Greece, and gave oracles to men. The god Apollo, son of Zeus or Jupiter, (so says the legend,) slew Python, and became himself the oracular god. Hence he was called Pythian Apollo; and the female priestess who, sitting upon the tripod, over the vapour ascending from the cave, gave prophetic utterance with agitation and frenzy, was called a pythoness. This Delphic oracle, with its pythoness and predictions, was in the zenith of its reputation when the states of Greece were in the zenith of their glory. Princes, statesmen, and philosophers alike reverenced the inspiration of Delphos. But when Christ came, so agreed both pagans and Christians, the oracles became dumb.

But there was no cessation of strolling professional pythons and pythonesses. Generally they were ventriloquists, speaking with deceptive articulations, who, claiming to be possessed with the god, uttered responses from the gastric regions without moving the lips. Whether the maiden thus spoke gastrically is not clear. But when it is said that she had a spirit of Python the words imply possession.

Her masters—Her showmen or exhibiters.

Soothsaying—Uttering predictions as a mantis or pagan prophet.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-16.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And it came about that, as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain maid having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by the giving of oracles.’

We may assume here that some weeks had passed, with the ministry continuing by the riverside, and no doubt steadily growing. And then one week they were met by a woman possessed by a ‘divining spirit’, literally the ‘Python spirit’. The Python was a mythical serpent who was said to have guarded the Delphian oracle and to have been slain by Apollo, and the name had come to be used of those through whom the spirit of Apollo was supposed to speak. Such people generally spoke with the mouth closed, uttering words completely out of their control and were known as ‘ventriloquists’. This ‘gift’ resulted in her bringing much gain to her masters by her fortune-telling. She was one of many people who were seen as having contact with the gods and as being able to foresee the future.

No doubt she was fairly well known, and feared. Here was one who was a portal to the unseen world. Thus when she began to follow Paul and his companions about many would take notice. And they would know that these men whom she was following were Jews. Thus when she began to cry out they would probably interpret it in that light.

‘The giving of oracles.’ A word only here in the New Testament and referring to demonically inspired oracular utterances.


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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/acts-16.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Luke probably recorded the conversion of three very different individuals in Philippi to illustrate the appeal and power of the gospel. The demon-possessed "slave-girl" (cf. Rhoda, Acts 12:13) who met the missionaries on their way to the prayer meeting ( Acts 16:13) was a tool of her masters who used her to make money through fortunetelling. The demon (Gr. pneuma pythona) within her knew of Paul and announced through her who he was and what he was doing (cf. Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:34; Luke 8:28).

"The Python was a mythical serpent or dragon that guarded the temple and oracle of Apollo, located on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus to the north of the Gulf of Corinth. It was supposed to have lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus and to have eventually been killed by Apollo (cf. Strabo Geography 9312). Later the word python came to mean a demon-possessed person through whom the Python spoke-even a ventriloquist was thought to have such a spirit living in his or her belly (cf. Plutarch De Defectu Oraculorum 9414)." [Note: Longenecker, p462.]


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/acts-16.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 16:16. As we went to prayer. This should be rendered as in above verse, ‘to the place of prayer.’

A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us. This was a female slave possessed, to translate the Greek literally, ‘with the spirit of a Pythoness.’ Python was the spirit that traditionally guarded Delphi; it was slain by Apollo, and hence the god’s name Pythias. To be possessed by the spirit of Pythoness was, in other words, to be possessed by a prophetic spirit or demon [ δαιμόνιον μαντίκον]. The name was subsequently given to any supposed soothsaying demon. Hesychius states that the term came to be used for a soothsaying ventriloquist among the ancients; the power of ventriloquism was often misused for the purposes of magic. Augustine even calls this girl ‘ventriloqua femina.’

She was the slave of several joint-owners, who used her unhappy powers as a source of gain for themselves, and appear to have made large sums out of the exhibition of this grievously-afflicted soul.

Paul, when he met her, and had had several opportunities of observing her, recognised that she was one of those many unhappy beings who, in the first days of Christianity, were afflicted with grievous soul maladies. In the Gospels, these wretched ones, called demoniacs, now and again came in contact with Jesus, and at once recognising His power, the indwelling demons set free the soul they were tormenting. On the difficult question of what these demoniacs mentioned in the various books of the New Testament were, and whether they appeared only in that period when our Lord came in the flesh, see the weighty remarks of Archbishop Trench (Miracles, p. 162, etc.), where the whole question of demoniacal possession is discussed at length.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/acts-16.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Acts 16:16. If we add the article τὴν, see critical note: “to the place of prayer,” R.V.— πνεῦμα πυθῶνος: in R.V., accusative, see critical note, “a spirit, a Python,” margin, i.e., a ventriloquist (Ramsay). The passage most frequently quoted in illustration is Plutarch, De defectu Orac., ix., from which it appears that ventriloquists who formerly took their name from εὐρυκλῆς a famous ventriloquist (cf. Arist., Vesp., 1019) were called πύθωνες. The word ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ventriloquist (Hebrew אוֹב), of which πύθων is thus used as an equivalent, is the term employed in the LXX, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, 1 Samuel 28:7, etc., for those that have a familiar spirit (cf. also the use of the two words ἐγγαστρ. and πύθων amongt the Rabbis, R. Salomo on Deuteronomy 18:11, and instances in Wetstein), i.e., a man or a woman in whom is the spirit of divination; Gesenius uses אוֹב for the divining spirit, the python, supposed to be present in the body of a sorcerer or conjurer, and illustrates from this passage in Acts, and adds that the LXX usually render אֹבוֹת correctly by ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, ventriloquists, since amongst the ancients this power of ventriloquism was often misused for the purposes of magic. But in addition to ventriloquism, it would certainly seem from the narrative in Acts that some prophetic power was claimed for the maiden, μαντευομένη, so Blass in describing the ἐγγαστρ. “credebatur dæmon e ventre illorum loqui et vaticinari,” cf. τὴν εὐρυκλέους μαντείαν, Arist., u. s.); so too Suidas explains πύθων as δαιμόνιον μαντικόν, connecting the word directly with the Pythian serpent or dragon, the reputed guardian of the oracle at Delphi, slain by Apollo, the successor to the serpent’s oracular power. If therefore the girl was regarded as inspired by the Pythian Apollo, the expression in T.R. simply expresses the current pagan estimate of her state; this is the more probable as the physicians of the time, e.g., Hippocrates, spoke of the way in which some symptoms of epilepsy were popularly attributed to Apollo, Neptune, etc.; article “Divination,” B.D.2, i., 490; C. and H., p. 231, smaller edition; Lightfoot, Phil., p. 54; Plumptre and Wendt, in loco, and Page on the derivation of the word.— ἐργασίαν: only in Luke and Paul; A. and R.V. “gain,” although primarily the word denotes work done, so Rendall, “business”; Wisdom of Solomon 13:19 well illustrates its use here. The word is used of gain (quæstus), Xen., Mem., iii., 10, 1.— τοῖς κυρίοις αὐτῆς, Acts 16:19, seems to imply not successive but joint owners (on the plural in Luke see Friedrich, p. 21).— μαντευ.: if Luke had believed in her power he would more probably have used προφητεύειν. μαντευ. used only here in N.T., but it is significant that in LXX it is always employed of lying prophets or of divination contrary to the law, e.g., Deuteronomy 18:10, 1 Samuel 28:8 (9), Ezekiel 13:6; Ezekiel 21:29 (34), Micah 3:11, etc. The Greeks themselves distinguished between the two verbs and recognised the superior dignity of προφητεύειν; e.g., Plato contrasts the μάντις who more or less rages (cf. derivation μανία, μαίνομαι, thus fitly used of Pythonesses, Sibyls, and the like) with the προφήτης, Timæus, 71 E, 72 A, , Trench, Synonyms, i., 26.


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/acts-16.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Acts 16:16. As we went to prayer — Or to the place of prayer, mentioned before; a certain damsel met us (that is, met Paul and his three companions) possessed with a spirit of divination — Greek, εχουσαν πνευμα πυθωνος, having a spirit of Python, or Apollo. This title, it is generally said, was given to Apollo, on account of his having destroyed a monstrous serpent that was called Python; or a person who for his cruelty was surnamed Python, that is, serpent or dragon, from whence Apollo had the name of Pythius. Plutarch tells us, that those who were inspired with this spirit were εγγαστριμυθοι, persons who spake as seeming to send the voice from their bellies; and Galen mentions the same fact. The manner in which Luke relates the story, plainly implies that he thought this to be a real possession, and that Paul himself viewed it in that light. Nor can the girl’s behaviour, or his, or that of her masters afterward, be accounted for, without allowing this to have been the case. It is well known that the Hebrews called the spirit with which such persons were supposed to be agitated, אוב, ob, because the bodies of those who appeared to be possessed by it were violently distended, like leathern bottles full of wine, and ready to burst. Compare Job 32:18-19 . Which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying — That is, by pretending, with the assistance of a familiar spirit, to discover stolen goods, and to point out the concealed authors of mischiefs, and to disclose the general good or ill-fortune of the persons who applied to her, and their success in particular affairs, with other secrets, for which many ignorant persons, in all countries, are willing to give money. See notes on Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 1 Samuel 28:7.


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/acts-16.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

A pythonical spirit. A spirit pretending to divination, to tell secrets, and things to come. See 2 Kings xxviii; Isaias viii. 19. (Witham) --- A divining spirit, which pretended to foretell things to come. It is strictly forbidden every where throughout the old law to have any dealings with persons of this description. (Deuteronomy xviii. 10; Leviticus xx. 27; &c.) Hence it would appear that these superstitions were of early practice among mankind. It is lamentable that the present age is still credulous enough to believe in such impostures. The ignorance of mankind, it appears, has always been made a source of emolument to the designing. (Haydock)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/acts-16.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Acts 16:16 "And it came to pass, as we were going to the place of prayer, that a certain maid having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying"

"Going to the place of prayer" Acts 16:13. The first visit had proven successful, with the conversion of Lydia and her household. "They are still using this spot by the riverside as a schoolroom to teach men about Christ" (Reese p. 580). "Having a spirit of divination" The phrase spirit of divination literally means "a spirit of python". "The reference is to the snake of classical mythology which guarded the temple of Apollo and the Delphic oracle on Mount Parnassus. Apollo was thought to be embodied in the snake and to inspire "pythonesses", his female devotees, with clairvoyance" (Stott p. 264). "In the center of the temple at Delphi was a small opening in the ground from whence mind-bending fumes arose. The priestess breathed these, sat down and thence delivered the "oracles". Having breathed the fumes, the priestess became violently agitated, and spoke in a frenzied, ecstatic syllabication...A poet or priest standing by would then "translate" what the Pythoness (priestess) had said" (Reese p. 580). We should first note that in giving such a label (spirit of python), Luke is not suggesting that the story concerning Apollo and the serpent is true, because only one God exists (Acts 17:23-24; 1 Corinthians 8:6). Rather, Luke is pointing out that this woman behaved in the same way that the priestess in Delphi would act, that is "presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi" (Vincent p. 531). Luke could be saying, "If you ever saw the priestess in Delphi perform her trade--this woman acted in the same way." Luke may also be telling us that the people in Philippi attributed the powers in this girl to the same spirit that guided the priestess at Delphi.

"Brought her masters much gain" "She had fallen into the hands of unscrupulous men who used her misfortune for their great gain" (Barclay p. 134). Notice, that all the gain went to those who owned her. "Brought" Indicating a steady source of income. "By soothsaying" "An old heathen word for acting the seer" (Robertson p. 254). "Her involuntary utterances were regarded as the voice of a god, and she was much in demand by people who wished to have their fortunes told" (Bruce p. 332). The Greek word that Luke here uses for "soothsaying", is only found here in the N.T. In the Greek translation of the O.T., it is the word always used of lying prophets or of divination contrary to the Law (Deuteronomy 18:10; 1 Samuel 28:9; Ezekiel 13:6; Micah 3:11).


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-16.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

damsel. Greek. paidiske. See note on Acts 12:13. read "a spirit, a Python". The Python was a serpent destroyed, according to Greek Mythology, by Apollo, who was hence called Pythius, and the priestess at the famous temple at Delph was called the Pythoness. Through her the oracle was delivered. See an instance of these oracular utterances in Pember"s Earth"s Earliest Ages, ch. XII. The term Python became equivalent to a soothsaying demon, as in the case of this slave-girl who had an evil spirit as "control". She would be nowadays called a medium. The Lord"s commission in Mark 16 was to cast out demons (Acts 16:17). To say that the girl was a ventriloquist, who was disconcerted, and so lost her power, shows what shifts are resorted to in order to get rid of the supernatural.

masters = owners. Greek. kurios. App-98.

gain. Greek. ergasia = work; hence, wages, pay. Only here, Acts 16:19; Acts 19:24, Acts 19:25. Luke 12:58. Ephesians 4:19.

soothsaying = fortune-telling. Greek. manteuomai. Only here. In Septuagint used of false prophets. Deuteronomy 18:10. 1 Samuel 28:8, &c.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/acts-16.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

And it came to pass, and we went to prayer , [ poreuomenoon (Greek #4198) heemoon (Greek #2257) eis (Greek #1519) proseucheen (Greek #4335)] It was not as they were proceeding to pray in Lydia's house, but (as the words imply), as they were on their way to the usual prayer-place-probably by the same river-side-that this took place; therefore not on the same day with what had just occurred.

A certain damsel - `a female servant,' and in this case (as appears by Acts 16:19) a slave:

Possessed with a spirit of divination , [ pneuma (Greek #4151) Puthoonos (Greek #4436), but Puthoona (Greek #4436) is the preferable reading] - that is, a spirit supposed to be inspired by the Pythian Apollo, or of the same nature. The reality of this demoniacal possession is as undeniable as that of any in the Gospel history.

Met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-16.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) As we went to prayer.—Better, perhaps, to the oratory, or place of prayer. (See Note on Acts 16:13.) It should be stated, however, that the Greek noun is used without the article, and that this is so far in favour of the Received rendering. On the other hand, we find the noun ecclesia, or church, used without the article in 1 Corinthians 14:4; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:35; 3 John 1:6, and it is, therefore, probable that proseucha might be used in the same way, just as we speak of “going to church, or to chapel,” without the article. This was probably on the following Sabbath, or possibly after a longer interval, when the mission of the Apostles had become known, and had caused some excitement.

A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.—Literally, as in the margin, a spirit of Python, or, as some MSS. give it, a Python spirit. The Python was the serpent worshipped at Delphi, as the symbol of wisdom, from whom the Pythian priestesses took their name, and from whom Apollo, as succeeding to the oracular power of the serpent, took the same adjective. The fact that St. Luke, who in his Gospel describes like phenomena as coming from daemonia, “evil spirits,” “unclean spirits,” should here use this exceptional description, seems to imply either that this was the way in which the people of Philippi spoke of the maiden, or else that he recognised in her phenomena identical with those of the priestesses of Delphi, the wild distortions, the shrill cries, the madness of an evil inspiration. After the manner of sibyls, and sorceresses, and clairvoyants of other times, the girl, whom Augustine describes as fæmina ventriloqua—the phrase probably-expressing the peculiar tones characteristic of hysteria—was looked on as having power to divine and predict (“soothsaying,” as distinct from “prophesying,” exactly expresses the force of the Greek verb), and her wild cries were caught up and received as oracles. Plutarch (de Defect. Orac., p. 737) speaks of the name Python as being applied commonly, in his time, to “ventriloquists” of this type. As she was a slave, her masters traded on her supposed inspiration, and made the girl, whom prayer and quiet might have restored to sanity, give answers to those who sought for oracular guidance in the perplexities of their lives.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/acts-16.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
as
possessed
18; 8:9-11; Exodus 7:11,12; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; 18:9-11; 1 Samuel 28:7; 1 Chronicles 10:13; Isaiah 8:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Timothy 3:8
divination
or, Python. which.
19:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Peter 2:3; Revelation 18:11-13

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Acts 16:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/acts-16.html.

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