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Graham H. Twelftree: In the Name of Jesus

In the Name of JesusGraham H. Twelftree, In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism among Early Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 352 pages, ISBN 9780801027451.

The world’s leading expert in the subject of exorcism in the Jesus tradition has now turned to exorcism in the early church, covering the period from the earliest traditions to the end of the second century (the last figure he treats [Galen] died in the year 199). This volume is as detailed and as apparently exhaustive as Twelftree’s work on the Jesus tradition.

Twelftree discusses, in turn, exorcistic narratives and ideas in Paul, Q, Mark, Luke-Acts, Matthew, “1 Peter, Hebrews, and James” (considered together), Johannine Christianity, the apostolic fathers and second-century apologists, and Mark 16:9-20, as well as a number of second-century critics of the faith. Much of the material on the gospels, of course, overlaps with Twelftree’s earlier work on the historical Jesus. Twelftree finds that, in many cases, exorcism serves a theological end greater than the simple depiction of Jesus as an expert exorcist, as when he interprets the exorcisms in Matthew as the inbreaking of God’s kingdom, yet finds in Matthew evidence of disagreement with the practice of exorcism in the late first-century Antiochene church. In methodology, therefore, this work stands in the tried tradition of redaction criticism, with a sensible mix of a more broad literary analysis.


Graham H. Twelftree, Charles L. Holman Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Regent University School of Divinity.

As this volume treats the various streams of tradition separately, it could be used as a (rather thorough) reference work. It was not intended as a reference work, of course, but as something approaching the final word (in a sense) on the topic of first and second century Christian exorcism. Twelftree would deny, of course, to have written the final word on the topic, but he has given it a sort of top-down treatment that it has not had in an English work until now.

I have a minor quibble on one point: as one who doubts the Q hypothesis, I would have preferred more engagement with the issues underlying that theory. Instead of giving reasons for believing in Q, Twelftree simply gives a nod to its detractors by mentioning, in a footnote, a single work doubting Q’s existence.

The style of Twelftree’s discussion is reminiscent of David Aune’s work on prophecy: he provides an extremely thorough discussion of the details of the text, together with thorough discussion of past scholarship, although the latter is never allowed to control the discussion too much. In spite of the depth of his analysis, Twelftree does not allow the reader to get too bogged down. If a book can be said to have a pace, this one seems to have a spring in its step.

I heartily recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the topic of exorcism.

Reviewed by John C. Poirier

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Spring 2009

About the Author: John C. Poirier, Th.M. (Duke Divinity), D.H.L. (Jewish Theological Seminary), is an independent scholar who has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics. He is the author of The Invention of the Inspired Text: Philological Windows on the Theopneustia of Scripture (2021).

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