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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Superstition

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(δεισιδαιμονία, damon-terror). Festus, governor of Judaea, informed Agrippa that Paul had disputed with the other Jews concerning matters of their own superstition (Acts 25:19), in which he spoke like a true pagan, equally ignorant of the Christian religion and of the Jewish. Paul, writing to the Colossians (Colossians 2:23), recommends to them not to regard false teachers, who would persuade them to a compliance with human wisdom in an affected humility and superstition; and, speaking to the Athenians, he says, "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious" (Acts 17:22). The heathen idea of religion has always been one of terror. A superstitious man looks on God as a severe and rigid master, and obeys with fear and trembling. Varro says the pious man honors and loves God, the superstitious man dreads him, even to terror, and Maximus Tyrius observes that a man truly pious looks on God as a friend full of goodness, whereas the superstitious serves him with base and mean flattery. In the New Test., however, the word "superstition" or "superstitious" is used in a less offensive sense. Festus, a governor newly arrived in his province, would hardly have paid so ill a compliment to Agrippa, a king of the Jewish religion, as to call his religion superstitious; and when Paul at Athens tells the Areopagites that they are too superstitious, he uses a word no doubt susceptible of a good as well as of a bad sense, as it would have been highly indecorous, nor less unnecessary, to calumniate the religious disposition of his judges whom he was addressing. If we take the word in the sense of worship or reverence, Festus may say, "Paul and: the Jews differ in respect of certain objects of spiritual reverence," and Paul may say, "I perceive ye are greatly attached to objects of spiritual reverence," not only without offense, but as a very graceful introduction to a discourse which proposed to describe the only proper object of such reverence. (See PAUL).

The Hebrews were never given to such gross superstition as the heathen nations of antiquity; yet there are traces of the same weakness of the human mind in their various modes of divination (q.v.) and their views of possessed persons (q.v.). A special instance has been found in the case of Azazel (q.v.); also in the satyr (q.v.) and the night-monster (q.v.). (See SPECTRE). The modern Mohammedans are given to superstitions. Those of Egypt may be found in Lane's Modern Egyptians, 1, 322, 336, 376; 2, 283, 308, 312. In Palestine the peasantry have numerous superstitions: they believe in incantations, in charms, in divination by sand and other means, and in the evil eye, their children being left purposely dirty, or even be soiled in order to avoid the consequences of an envious look. The belief' in spirits is also general. These include, first, the Jan, or powerful daemon, good or bad, the latter kind having for bodies the tall smoke-pillars of the whirlwind, so commonly seen in summer; secondly, the Afrit, who is seemingly equivalent to a ghost; thirdly, the ghoul or hag of the cemetery, which feeds on the dead (a place haunted by one of these daemons is carefully avoided, or at least never approached without the most polite salutations, intended to appease the unseen spirit); fourthly, there are Kerad, or goblins, whose name is akin to the Arabic word for monkey; lastly, there is the Shaitan, or Satan, a name often applied to human beings of an evil disposition. (Conder, Tent Work in Palest. 2, 233). (See DEMON).

On the general subject, see Xavier, De Superstitione. Judaeor. (Hamb. 1720); Reineccius, id. (pref. to Christiani's Werice [Leips. 1705]); Spizelius, Δεισιδαιμονία Hebraeo-gentilis (ibid. 1608); Manzel, De Voce Δεισιδαιμονίᾷ (Rost. 1758); and the monographs cited by Danz, Wö rterb. s.v. Aberglaube." (See WITCH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Superstition'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/superstition.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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