Would reputed demoniacs considered unreliable witnesses?
Some persons are thought to be possessed by demons. During Biblical times, in Mediterranean society, was their a bias against the testimony of such demoniac’s (or former demoniac’s), such that they held relatively little persuasive value for typical audiences? Was there a general reluctance to regard them as credible witnesses? In reporting events, was their voice largely considered suspect?
- Dale Allison: “From ancient to modern times, critics of Christianity have remarked upon the dubious nature of testimony from a former demoniac.” [Resurrecting Jesus (T&T Clark, 2005), 251.]
Demoniacs would be judged crazy
Those judged to have been Demoniacs will have also been judged to be mentally ill and subject to paranoia. This is reason to think demoniacs were considered unreliable witnesses because...
- Richard Swinburne: “[It could] make them particularly ill suited as witnesses, being as open to the charge of being still under the influence of these spirits, or (by the more secularly minded) of being liable to fantasize.” [The Resurrection of God Incarnate, (Clarendon, 2003), 151.]
For example: Mary was
As an example, Mary Magdalene was dismissed as an unreliable source in virtue of her reputation as a former demoniac. (E.g. Celsus derides Christianity’s origin story because she was a Demoniac who sourced the originating belief.)
- Christians didn’t widely know Mary was a demoniac.1
- At least one skeptic has suggested this (Peter Kirby says Luke’s words “may not have been known to the author of John…”). But Christians were quite unified in their beliefs, in part because they were so well-networked. It truly is reported in Lk 8:2 (“Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”) and is quite memorable. It is also found in Ps. Mk 16:9 — “He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.”