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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 13: Matthew 17:10-21, by Kevin M. Williams

Kordicus2 was one alleged demon believed to cause people to fall down, not unlike today’s mad-cow disease. Another was Shibta who was believed to take a hold of the neck of infants and restrict their nervous system. These are two of a host of names listed in the ancient cult. The key to healing for many was, therefore, to “divine” the name of the demon thereby gaining authority over it, commanding it to leave. This practice appears to have influenced Jewish scholarship and theology during the Babylonian exile, where such “authority” was invoked by the magi. This practice is recorded at length in the pagan book The Necronomicon whose author believed he had control over the demonic realm by use of their names—only to later turn insane, becoming known as the “Mad Arab.”

Obviously, it must have had some deceptive success or the practice would have been abandoned. This may have been part of the mindset of the “Jewish exorcists” in Acts:

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded (Acts 19:13-16).

That our disciples had been practicing such “divination” is highly unlikely, though the father may have attempted this common “cure” among other so-called holy men of Israel.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:19-21).

The answer as to why they could not cast the demon out therefore, was that they lacked faith. We may ask, how could they—the disciples of all people—have lacked faith? Perhaps is was not “faith” per se which they lacked, but the proper focus of their faith. The telling statement is the question of the disciples, “Why could we not cast it out?” (emphasis mine). We read seven chapters earlier, in Matthew 10:1, that Yeshua had given them “authority over unclean spirits.” Casting out demons worked then, why not now?

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2004

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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