Monday, August 03, 2015

The Spirit Of Python Is A Spirit Of Divination And Nothing More

Over the past few weeks, I've heard references regarding something called the "spirit of python." This teaching has obviously been around for a few years, so I thought I'd take a closer look at what this is all about. I've taken the time to read what people have had to say online and I've watched some videos on the subject. I've been sitting on this article, tweaking it here and there and waiting for someone to respond to my social media posts, offering up some information that I haven't yet considered; something... anything that would add to what I've already learned about this subject. None has been forthcoming, so here is my opinion on this subject.

The teaching I've heard starts off, simple enough, with a scripture that makes mention of the subject of this article:

"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. 18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. 19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains were gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans." Acts 16:16-21

The first thing someone will tell you when discussing this subject is that the word "divination" that is found in verse 16 isn't the proper translation of the Greek word being used here. The Greek word is puthón.

Vine's Expository Dictionary describes the word puthón this way: 

(Eng., "python"), in Greek mythology was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon, dwelling in Pytho, at the foot of mount Parnassus, guarding the oracle of Delphi, and slain by Apollo. Thence the name was transferred to Apollo himself. Later the word was applied to diviners or soothsayers, regarded as inspired by Apollo. Since demons are the agents inspiring idolatry, 1Cr 10:20, the young woman in Acts 16:16 was possessed by a demon instigating the cult of Apollo, and thus had "a spirit of divination."

What does that mean? It means that spirit of puthón is associated with a false religion. This demonic spirit has a major role in the protection and assistance of those who practice divination. So in Acts, when it's said that the woman had a spirit of puthón, it's referencing the demonic spirit that protected and assisted those who practiced divination. That's why KJV translates that word as divination instead of the word python. Although python is the English translation of this word, it's difficult, scripturally, to connect it's behavior with that of an earthly python.

Let's look at the behavior of this woman. We know that she:
  • is possessed by a demon.
  • can tell people about things in their personal lives and predict their future.
  • is a slave being used to make money for her masters.
  • is exalting Paul and Silas instead of God.
  • is making herself equal with them by associating with brethren who exhibit supernatural abilities just as she does, and with no official rebuke from them.
How does Paul handle the situation? Well, at first he does nothing but ignore her. Why is that? Scripture isn't clear about why he waited to cast out that demon, but an educated guess would be that it was probably because the Holy Spirit was instructing him to wait.

Days later, Paul's heart becomes grieved. Again, why? Once again, scripture isn't clear why, but we can take another educated guess. I can think of several reasons:
  • Here we have a slave woman who Paul can see is under a demonic influence. Her greedy masters, are using her spiritual state to make themselves rich. 
  • The demon who is possessing this woman knows who Paul and company are, and declares it openly. Do her masters repent and ask for forgiveness and for the Apostle to drive the demonic spirit from her? No.
  • This demon tries to blend in with the Jesus crowd in order to deceive the populace. If he can make himself out to be a spirit of light, when he is in fact a spirit of darkness, he can deceive an even greater number of people and pollute the message of salvation with it's own brand of false religion.
  • Like Satan in the Garden of Eden, this spirit of puthón mimics it's master and speaks just enough truth to deceive people into believing that it's the author of truth. God alone is the source of all prophecy and revelation. He alone is the Author of truth.
Whether it was one or a combination of these things, or something else entirely, that caused Paul's heart to grieve, he takes care of the situation by casting out the demon. Once the slave woman's masters realize what's happened, they panic. They've just lost their moneymaker and they're not happy about that. They complain to the local authorities, who then punish Paul and Silas by whipping them and throwing them into prison.

"And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charing the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." Acts 16:22-24

The spirit of puthón is a demon that protects and assists those who practice the sinful act of divination. This demon, under Satan's direction, seeks to displace God as the author of truth. Satan knows that mankind responds more readily to something that is seen than something (or someone) that is unseen. We see examples of that in the scriptures all the time. One that sticks out in my mind is 1 Samuel chapter 8, where Israel rejects an unseen God in favor of being led by a king that they can actually see. 

Satan takes advantage of this human desire by providing mankind with a flesh and bone individual who practices divination under the influence and protection of what cannot be seen, the spirit of puthón.

I guess I interpret this scripture differently than the mainstream python crowd. I see this as a warning. It's an example of how the enemy wants to destroy mankind's faith in God. Satan attempts to deceive us by demonstrating his power through humans, who most don't understand are operating under the influence of the spirit of puthón. This demonic spirit speaks enough truth to be believable while still deceiving the victim. This is what we see in this portion of scripture. This demon possessed woman was making a lot of money for her masters. Business was good because her clients believed she had the supernatural power of prophecy. This demon was proving itself to be successful in its purpose... to take people's eyes off of an unseen God, who alone is the source of all prophesy and revelation, and instead focus their eyes on him.

We have educated Christians taking this portion of scripture and using the word "python" to create a whole new, and in my opinion un-biblical, teaching. We go from a bible study to story telling. We go from the word of God to the word of man. We go from discussing the spirit of puthón as being one that protects and assists in the act of divination and one that tries to create an alternate belief system, to being one that is blamed for many of the ills of Christians worldwide.

We leap out of the bible and take the physical nature of a python and transpose that into Christian teaching related to this portion of scripture. In any other circumstance, it would be considered a false teaching and maybe even the teachings of cults, but because it's being taught in the mainline Christian community, it's being lauded as solid biblical teaching.

Here are some of the things I've read and heard:

"One of the only named spirits in the Bible, the python spirit is a coiling spirit that works to squeeze out the breath of life (the Holy Spirit) and cut off your lifeline to God (prayer)." Charisma Magazine - Sep 25, 2014

"It's not just natural things, you know, keeping you from prayer. I'm busy, I gotta do this, I gotta do that. It's a spirit called python that wants to choke your prayer time out of your life..." Jentezen Franklin. This gentleman has a teaching called, "Spirit of Python: Snake Eggs in Your Head." The description reads, "Sin begins in the mind. Not as an act of the body, not with the act of the soul. It begins with a thought that lies in the mind like a snake egg until it is hatched. What we continually think on, we eventually act on. In this message we learn that we may not always be in control of what enters our minds, but we do have control over how long it stays. But we can get victory. We can renew our minds and get the snake eggs out." 

That's right, folks. Now we're being told we have snake eggs in our mind, which, of course, means that this "spirit of python" is the sole reason for our negative thoughts. It doesn't come from any other demon or even from our own flesh. No, it's the dreaded python spirit. Sorry, I don't mean to be flippant, but spiritual snake eggs? Really? It seems like the spirits of fear, lust, anger, confusion, etc... are out of a job because all these attributes are now assigned to the spirit of puthón.

This demonic spirit seems to be receiving plenty of notoriety as of late. If there's one thing that this spirit has not been lacking, it's the attention that Christians have been giving it and the growing list of things that they have accused it of being responsible for.

This teaching states that this "spirit of python" doesn't strike outwardly with venomous fangs. On the contrary. It's reported that this demon quietly seeks out it's prey and warps itself around them and ever so slowly and subtly squeezes the spiritual life out of them. You know, like an actual earthly python. That is in direct conflict with what the bible says happened in this instance. This demonic spirit was everything but subtle when it had its run-ins with Paul and Silas. It made itself known immediately and it was large and in charge (until it was cast out, of course). Taking this attribute of an earthly cobra and trying to transfer it to this demonic entity just doesn't fit in with this particular scripture, now does it? Unfortunately, this entire teaching is wrapped around (no pun intended) this one portion of scripture because there aren't any other scriptures concerning this demon to support this teaching.

This teaching also includes the idea that this demonic spirit can choke a marriage, choke a ministry, choke your joy, choke your finances, choke your prayer life, choke your spiritual relationship with God... choke, choke, choke. An attribute of a python is once again erroneously transferred to the spiritual description of this demon in a way to make you believe that when you've reached a point of stagnation in your walk with the Lord or you become limited in other areas of your life, it must be because of this particular demon's influence.

It seems that this demon can slowly squeeze the Holy Spirit out of you. Ready to jump some hoops? 
  • An earthly python squeezes you until you have difficulty breathing. This attribute is incorrectly transfered to the spirit of puthón.
  • Breath is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
  • Since the demon is supposedly squeezing the spiritual breath out of you, he's actually squeezing the Holy Spirit out of you.
I wasn't aware that any demon had authority over the Holy Spirit. In fact, I'm positive that none of them have the authority to "choke" Him out of our lives. 

As this teaching reveals, anything that goes awry in your life can be attributed to this demonic spirit. Demons must love getting credit for things they don't do. Are we so busy trying to shift the blame for the negative situations in our lives that we're actually willing to give credit to a demon that has nothing to do with it? Just as the populace was giving credit to the demon for the prophecies it was giving through the woman in the related scripture, are we giving credit to him for things that he doesn't even do? Are we building up this demon to be more than what he is? I believe the Christian community is doing just that.

Don't feel like praying? It's not your own spiritual laziness, it's the fault of that python spirit who wants to cut off your breath and prevent you from speaking with God.

Feeling the financial squeeze and don't want to tithe? It's not your reluctance to rely on God to provide for your needs, it's that python spirit that's strangling your finances so that you can't tithe. 

The congregation of your church isn't growing? It can't be the perception that others have of your church, or that the Holy Spirit isn't providing the increase, it must be that python spirit strangling church growth.

Your children have become rebellious? It can't involve the spirit of rebellion or the fact that you're not paying enough attention to them or giving them proper discipline in their lives. It must be the spirit of python coming in to strangle all the joy out of your life.

You must see where I'm going with this. When we begin labeling the attributes of a python in the physical world and use those attributes to describe this spirit of puthón in the spiritual world, we're going a bit too far. Where does it end? Negative thinking, fear, depression, etc... it's all being attributed to this "spirit of python." What negative thing in a Christian's life can NOT be attributed to this demon?

I know I'm going to get some serious heat about this. Too many Christians are too invested in this teaching to stop and give what I have to say serious thought. There are Christians that I respect who are spreading this teaching throughout the body of Christ. I don't believe it's scriptural and because of that, I have to speak up. My concern can't be about how it will be received or whether people will block me on their social media sites. Sometimes in a battle it's only you and the Lord. I've experienced that more than once in my lifetime. I know that there are others out there that just can't seem to make the connection between the story in Acts 16 and this teaching on the "spirit of python," but they are unwilling to go against the flow and speak out. That's okay. I'll do it for you.

To Recap

Here is what I believe the spirit of puthón to be:
  • It is a demonic spirit.
  • It's name is descriptive of its association with divination.
  • It deceives mankind and takes their attention off of God by promoting a different belief system.
  • It is subtle, like it's master, Satan.
  • It's main purpose is to entangle people in the occult (palm reading, tarot card readings, séances, occult rituals and chants, crystal ball reading, etc... which all forms of divination). This can lead to participation in other occult practices, like voodoo, incantations, witchcraft, etc...
  • It exhibits no other power or influence but that which is associated with divination.
    Here is what I do not believe the spirit of puthón to be:
    • It is not the cause of almost every negative thought.
    • It is not a spiritual being with the attributes of a physical reptile (other than being subtle/crafty, as it was in the Garden of Eden).
    • It does not operate in "restricting" or "choking" or "crushing" Christians in almost every area of their lives. If I was hard pressed to use that type of symbolism to describe this demon, I would have to say that as one delves deeper into the occult, this demon slowly chokes off your Christian walk.
    Personal Experience: I have to admit that I have had experience with this demon in the past. I now know what his name is, and that's a plus. As a young Christian, I experienced the temptation of becoming involved with something that would give instant gratification... the occult. I thought about it, purchased a book on the subject, tried to make contact with ghosts (which are just demons in disguise) and even purchased and used a Ouija board (with results). The answers I received frightened me, which prompted me to repent and throw all of that demonic stuff away. This preceded what was to happen years later...

    Second Hand Experience: Twenty-six years ago, I was married. Three years later, my wife left me and the children so that she could live her life the way she wanted, which included alcohol and marijuana. What I didn't find out until a few year later was that my wife, who was a new born again believer when we were married, was becoming involved in the occult. She was seeing a "witch" and was participating in tarot card readings. She eventually purchased a set of these cards for herself. From what I understand, she used them often.

    Why am I sharing this with you? Because I know from personal experience that this "spirit of python" acts just like it did in the scripture quoted at the beginning of this article. It didn't come in quietly and start squeezing and choking me, nor did it seem to have that effect on my wife. The spirit of puthón's influence made us believe that we could have power of our own and have it in this world. It was a seductive temptation that both she and I fell to in different times in our lives. It is not difficult for me to understand how this woman described in Acts 16 made so much money for her masters. 

    We fight against powers and principalities all the time. I just don't believe that this particular demon is responsible for everything that people want to attribute to it. I believe that it's function is clearly stated in scripture and that people have taken the "python" thing totally out of context and given it a meaning it was not intended to have. They have taken a spirit whose sole purpose is in protecting and assisting one who uses the satanic power of divination and has built that demon up to be more than what he actually is. 

    If I had to boil all of this down to one sentence, it would be this: The spirit of puthón is a demon of the occult that exhibits no other ability other than those associated with divination.

    Here is my hope, that either:
    • I am right and that what I consider to be a false teaching will be shown for what it is.
    • I am wrong and have somehow missed a mention of other scriptures that would reaffirm this teaching of a "spirit of python," at which point I will update or delete this article.
    If you believe that I have the wrong end of the stick, then please share your thoughts below with scripture to back up your statements. These scriptures must apply to the subject of this article. All other comments may be deleted. I know that this subject can be a divisive one, so I'm hoping we can have a calm discussion about this subject.

    Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!


    1. This is a really great article. I appreciate your perspective on this. This has become personal to me for reasons I will not share, but this offers helpful insights as I try to make sense of things.

      1. I'm blessed that it helped you in seeking the truth.

    2. I agree - also notice what happened to Paul & Silas after - the "trail" did not end - casting out the demon resulted in jail and prison => praying and praising set them free from this jail - not rebuking! Also notice this python spirit was cast out of a person NOT a church body or a territory ...

      Another very similar subtle related teaching is "rebuke the devil and he will flee" from james 4:7 ...
      I think there is a subtle difference between initiating an attack with a rebuke and resisting or standing firm during an uninitiated attack. Do you have any thoughts on this?

      1. Actually, it's, "resist the devil and he will flee from you." As to your question, how we resist an attack depends on the type of attack we're under. Generally, I think it's prudent to rebuke the enemy first (if you can pinpoint the type of attack, such as lust, depression, etc...) and then enter the throne room of God.

    3. Thank you for doing the research on this. I agree with your take on the issue. I believe it stems from a similar mindset of blaming everything bad that happens on Satan, when in fact "bad things" that happen may only be "bad" in our earthly perspective. I pray daily for an eternal perspective and God's discernment so that I would not be deceived.

      1. We need to be careful what we attribute to any demonic spirit because by doing so, we are creating something that is not real. How the demons must laugh when we make them out to be more than what they truly are.

    4. Hi Ken, I'm a Bible teacher and I've always found that it's wise to consult a variety of perspectives and interpretations of a particular phrase in Scripture when the contextual Biblical evidence is scanty. Such is the case with the "python spirit." In my investigation I ended up buying an e-booklet that basically says that the python spirit is one that's out to suffocate the Holy Spirit. It's parallel to Jentezen Franklin's teaching -- with the additional twist that the python spirit is over other demon spirits. After reading the author's take on the python spirit I thought to myself: "You could just as well substitute the word 'satan' for 'python spirit' and everything the author said would be true. If the python spirit was THAT important, I'm sure that there'd be other references in Scripture to it and Jesus likely would have been recorded in the gospels as having taught on python spirit as well."
      My conclusion before reading your article was that the popular, contemporary teaching may sound good to most folks but it's off-base. And having read your article I can say that you, brother, are quite accurate in your teaching -- and that you've ably and thoroughly expressed it so that others can come to the knowledge of this truth. Thanks.

      1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I often have issues with some of the things that come down the Christian pipeline. I find that some things just don't sit well with me, and although something may seem biblical on the surface, it's when you really pray and dig deeper that you come to see that it's just the latest gimmick to sell more books. Unfortunately, it brings false teaching into the body of Christ, which can also bring division. I'm glad this article reaffirmed what God was already speaking to your heart.

    5. It blew my mind brother God bless. All praises to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    6. Thank you, ken for your article. I also dabbled in the occult when I was in my 20' Now in my 70's I'm witnessing fortunetelling under the guise of Christian prophecy in the church. The people are loving it as it gives them attention, while believing that they are receiving a word from God. It is entertaining, but horribly deceptive, and discouraging when the prophecy does not come to fruition. There is this false occupation to realize ones destiny in the church today, and false prophecy is the means to obtain it. In understanding that our destiny is being in Christ and walking in the Spirit, there will be no need to support these self proclaimed prophets. There is a huge movement today in which prophets are "trained" and sent out to the church to flatter and deceive those who have not spent ample time in the Word of God where is found all that we need to know about our destiny. Janice Curcio

      1. Thank you for what will become an eye-opener for some who read your response. I have known for years that those who give themselves titles like "prophet" "prophetess" and "apostle" were charlatans. They are the wolves in sheep's clothing. They give themselves these titles to puff themselves up and to receive the praise of men. I, for one, steer clear of them. I believe in the gift of prophecy, but I have not had the experience of ever meeting a true "prophet" in all my 57 years on this Earth.

    7. When you rightly divide the word, this makes perfect sense. I've heard the Jentzen Franklin teaching on this spirit years ago but never in all my years as a Christian was I ever taught this. The enemy is a deceiver. Thsnk you for this explanation that makes perfect sense.