The film The Exorcist

The Exorcist is a famous and influential 1973 American film based on a horror novel by William Peter Blatty, himself a convinced Catholic, which was directed by William Friedkin and starred Jason Miller and Max von Sydow as two Jesuit priests called in to exorcise a demon from a young American girl in an upmarket area of Washington D.C. The film consulted with the Roman Catholic church and also cast two real-life Jesuit priests as the two other supporting priest roles in the film. Consequently there there is some accuracy in the depiction of Roman Catholic exorcism rites, although by the 1970s these had already become highly rare and unusual in real life.

Hollywood returned to the subject of exorcism in many other films, and most recently in the Conjuring series, but The Exorcist marked the first and last time that the Roman Catholic church itself directly cooperated in the making of a major fictional English-language movie about an exorcism.


Paul in Acts 

As for the relation if any of Roman Catholic exorcism practice to the casting out of demons by Paul, we have no actual information on how Paul went about treating those with what were thought to be evil spirits on his journeys beyond the healing of a slave girl prophesying with a Greek demon (the Greek text says ‘Python’, most English Bibles translate as ‘a demon’), and the passing mention by Luke that when in Ephesus even handkerchiefs and cloths which that had touched Paul resulted in healings when when taken to the sick – both of physical and mental illnesses.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

The only actual incident shown in any detail is Acts 16:16 which shows Paul in Philippi simply commanding a spirit to come out of a slave-girl who had been following them. For an account of this see In what sense did the slave girl of Acts 16:16 have “the spirit of Python”?

This leaves us with no accounts of Paul’s practice, and going back to the synoptics to see how Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded Jesus casting out evil spirits. In the case of Jesus’ casting out evil spirit there is no actual rite of exorcism any more than Paul in Philippi. Jesus simply commands the evil spirit to leave and the person is healed – either of madness or epilepsy or physical ailment. The only exception to this, famously, is the case of the demons being sent into the pigs (see links below).

So in conclusion, no, there is no evidence that Paul, nor Jesus, conducted any of the exorcism rites seen in the 1973 film, or the many films before and since.

The difference between the Bible’s attitude to demons and Hollywood’s

The Bible’s view on demons is somewhat different from Hollywood’s (or at least different to the depiction of Roman Catholic exorcism practice in The Exorcist). But the Bible itself presents two radically different views on demons in the Old and New Testaments. It probably is easiest to understand the New Testament demon accounts if the reader first has in mind the attitude of the Old Testament: See Why do OT and NT teachings on demons appear to differ?

Only after having got that background footing in the Old Testament will it make sense to consider New Testament demon accounts:

The following answers on this site are not a complete list:

And so on.



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