In ancient times there appear to be several types of individuals and groups involved in different kinds of magic.

1. There is a priestly caste from Medea involved in astrology called Chaldeans (cf. Dan. 1:20; 2:2,10,27; 4:7,9; 5:11; Matt. 2:1,7,16).  Herodotus calls them "Medean priests."  They were involved in foretelling and controlling future events based on the movement and configuration of astral gods (i.e., planets, stars, constellations, comets).

2. There is a philosophical, mathematical counterpoint group in Greek life known as the Pythagorians.

3. Most magical groups were made up of persons who claimed to be able to manipulate the supernatural or natural forces of nature (cf. Gen. 41:8,24; Exod. 7:11,22; 8:7,19; 9:11).  Often these forces (or gods) were seen to be in conflict with humanity and by taking the side of this force or that force the possessor of the knowledge could control the forces for personal gain (cf. the magical papyri of the third and fourth centuries a.d.). These individuals would:

a. foretell future events

b. control future events

c. interpret future events and dreams

d. curse or protect other individuals, cities, nations, armies, etc.

4. Magicians, as in Acts 8:9,11, claimed to be able to manipulate the impersonal forces of nature or the personal (demonic) forces to perform their will.  This often involved magical rites and incantation.

5. "True" magicians often attacked other magicians who did not perform the rites and liturgies correctly.  These were called charlatans or deceivers (cf. Acts 13:6,8; 19:13).

6. The power of the gospel is seen in Paul's ministry in Ephesus where former magicians converted to faith in Christ, and burned their expensive magic books (i.e., how to properly perform incantations, rites, and liturgies, cf. Acts 19:19). 

7. For further reading

a. Susan Garrett, The Demise of the Devil, Fortress Press, 1989

b. Merrill Unger, Biblical Demonology, Scripture Press, 1967

c. Hendrik Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, Herald Press, 1977

d. Waller Wink, Naming the Powers, Fortress Press, 1984

e. Clinton Arnold, Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, Baker, 1997


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