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Exorcism and the Defeat of Beliar in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

In the light of a growing consensus that the Testaments is a Christian work, perhaps from Syria and, arguably, from the middle of the second century, it has potential to shed light on the understanding of exorcism in proto-orthodox Christianity of the period. As Beliar’s adverse impact on people is seen to be expressed in terms of inner struggles and broken relationships, rather than physical affliction, his defeat is proposed primarily in terms of acts of the mind and behaviour. The few references to exorcism show its use as part of the defeat of Beliar, though also primarily as a metaphor for the ministry of Jesus and his followers. This locates the Testaments over against those documents that show no interest in the demonic or exorcism, and between those texts that promote exorcism and those that take the demonic to be defeated in other ways.

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