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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Beelzebub or Beelzebul

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BEELZEBUB or BEELZEBUL.—It is strange that this name has never yet been satisfactorily explained; stranger still that no trace of it has been found as yet among the scores of Jewish names for angels and spirits. The first part of the name is clear enough; it is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ‘Baal’; nor is there anything strange in the dropping of λ before ζ the MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] followed by modern editors like Westcott-Hort and Weiss [Cheyne in his art. ‘Beelzebul’ in the Encyc. Bibl. finds ‘this scepticism as to λ in βεελ paradoxical,’ ‘the word βεεζεβουλ inexplicable and hardly pronounceable,’ and urges against it ‘the famous passage Matthew 10:25, where the οἰκοδεσπότης implies the speaker’s consciousness that בִּעִל is one element in the title,’ but his objection completely misses the mark. The dropping of the λ is merely phonetical; cf. in Josephus βεζέδελ in codd. MVRC for βελζέδεκ (BJ iii. 25), Βάζωρος for Βαλέζωρος (circa (about) Apion. i. 124), Βαζαφράνης for Βαρζαφρ. (Ant. xiv. 330); Ἀμεσάδ in Cod. Q of Daniel 1:11 [Theod. [Note: Theodotion.] ] for Ἀμελσάδ; ‘Philadephia’ in the Syriac Version of Euseb.’s Historia Ecclesiastica, etc.* [Note: The best analogy is the Syr. Name ברבעשמין, ‘son of the Bel of heaven,’ explained by Barheb. as ‘he with four names.’] More difficult is the change of β into λ at the end of the word, supposing the common explanation to be correct, that the name comes from 2 Kings 1:2. It has been explained as an intentional cacophonic corruption (= ‘god of the dung’) or a dialectical or phonetic variation (cf. Beliar for Belial or Bab el-Mandel for Mandeb). The spelling with b was retained in the NT by Luther, though his Greek text had λ, and by Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 in text; it was introduced by Jerome in the Vulgate, see the Index of Wordsworth-White, where 15 Latin spellings of the name are given, and cf. Jerome’s remark in OS 66, 11: ‘in fine ergo nominis b litera legenda est, non 1; musca enim zebub vocatur.’ λ is even found in Cod. 243 of the text of Symmachus in 2 Kings 1:2; but see the Syriac Hexapla in v. 6, and note, what has generally been overlooked, that the Septuagint took זבוב not בעל זבוב for the name of the god of Ekron: ἐπιζητῆσαι ἐν τῇ Βάαλ (dative) Μυῖαν (accusative) θεδν Ἀκκαρών; likewise Josepheus.: πρὸς την Ἀκκαρὼν θεὸν Μυῖαν, τοῦτο γὰρ ἧν ὅνομα τῷ θεῷ.

On the fly in worship and legend see Plin. HN x. 28. 75; Pausan. Deser. Gr. v. xiv. 1; aelian, Nat. Anim. v. 17, xi. 8; Usener, Götternamen, p. 260. There were Jewish legends about flies, such as that there were none in the temple (Aboth v. 8); Elisha was recognized as a prophet by the woman of Shunem, because no fly crept over his place at the table (Berakh. 10b); on the yezer ha-ra’ as a fly see Berakh. 61a, Targ. [Note: Targum.] Jer. on Ecclesiastes 10:1). The supposition that the name corresponds to Aramaic בעלדבבא = ‘enemy’ is not very likely, nor the other that it is the Baal of the heavenly mansion who became the Baal of the nether world (JAS, 1878, pp. 220–221). Later Jews identified Baal-zebub with Baal-berith, and told that some would carry an image of him (in the shape of a fly) in their pockets, producing it and kissing it from time to time (Shab. 83b. 63b). Procopius states (ad 2 Kings 1); πλὴν ἔστι μαθεῖν ἑξ ὦν Εὐσέβιος ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς Εὐαγγελικῆς Προπαρασκευῆς ἐκ τῶν Φίλωνος παρατίθεται, ὡς δαίμων ἧν, οὔτω λεγόμενος· μᾶλλον δὲ γυνὴ παλαιά τις, ἤν ἑθεοποίησαν. Zahn (on Matthew 12:34) lays stress on the fact that the article is missing before ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμόνων (‘a prince of the devils, not the prince’); but the definite article is found in Mark and Luke, and in Matthew 9:34 (if this verse be not a later addition) where several Latin documents have the name.

How scanty is our knowledge of NT times, when such a name, which appears quite popular in the NT, defies as yet all explanation, and is not found anywhere else! Origen on John 19 (p. 315, ed. Preuschen) remarks: πάντως γὰρ περὶ δαιμόνων τι μεμαθήκεισαν καὶ τοῦ ἄρχοντος αὐτῶν, ᾦ ὄνομα Βεελζεβούλ· ταῦτα δὲ οὐ πάνυ τι ἐν τοῖς φερομένοις κεῖται βιβλίοις.

Literature.—In addition to works cited above, see A. Loisy, ‘Beelzeboul’ (Rev. d’hist. et de lit. rel. 1904, v. 434–466).

Eb. Nestle.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Beelzebub or Beelzebul'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/b/beelzebub-or-beelzebul.html. 1906-1918.

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