After Death - Appendix 5

Consulting the Dead

Chambers dictionary defines a necromancer as a sorcerer; necromancy as the art of revealing future events by calling up and questioning the spirits of the dead: enchantment. The IVF New Bible Dictionary defines necromancy as the consultation of the departed. Such practices are strongly condemned in Scripture. The following passages show this:

1. Deuteronomy 18:10-12: "There shall not be found among you... one that inquireth of a spirit of Python (a necromancer), or a soothsayer, or one that consulteth the dead. For every one that doeth these things is an abomination to Jehovah". In Leviticus 19:31 there is also a warning against turning to necromancers and soothsayers and in Leviticus 20:6 God states his opposition to such as are involved in these practices and that he will cut them off. This is the condemnation found in the law of Moses.

2. 1 Samuel 28: Saul who had put the necromancers (those who had a spirit of Python) and soothsayers out of the land (verse 3) went and enquired himself of a woman who had such a spirit (verse 7). This should be a warning to us that, if after having dealt with an evil in others, we should do the same thing ourselves. He required the woman to bring up Samuel which she was found able to do and Samuel spoke severely to Saul (verses 11-20). The consequences for Saul were fatal. " And Saul died... for having inquired of the spirit of Python, asking counsel of it" (1 Chronicles 10:13). Then we have the wicked king, Manasseh appointing necromancers and soothsayers in 2 Kings 21:6 (See also 2 Chronicles 33:6). Later we find that Josiah took them away (2 Kings 23:24).

3. Isaiah 8:19/20: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto the necromancers and unto the soothsayers, who chirp and who mutter, [say,] Shall not a people seek unto their God ? [Will they go] for the living unto the dead ? To the law and the testimony ! If they speak not according to this word, for them there is no daybreak." Then we have the Egyptians turning to necromancers and soothsayers in their hour of need (Isaiah 19:3). God who is above is the one to be turned to, not persons who consult with those below, whether they be evil spirits or the souls of the dead. [It will be noticed that these three paragraphs give (1) the law on the subject, (2) what happened in practice and (3) the prophetic word on the subject. The condemnation is in every case severe.]

4. Acts 16:16-18 Here we have a certain female slave having a spirit of Python. Paul enjoined the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her, which it did.

Of all the passages quoted under (1) above the one in Deuteronomy 18 is the only one that specifically refers to consulting the dead. The AV has necromancer here but the IVF New Bible Dictionary confirms that the correct translation is ' one who inquires of the dead'. See also Young's analytical concordance. Again, for necromancers and soothsayers the AV puts familiar spirits and wizards.

A very common view in evangelical circles is that the dead are either in heaven or in hell and that because of this they cannot be consulted. The conclusion is then reached that if they cannot be contacted in any way, where it appears that the dead are communicating through a medium, it is really an evil spirit that is impersonating the dead. This argument is rather one of the "it can't be, therefore it must be" variety. That some mediums are frauds is very likely and trickery may be involved, but there are still cases where the medium seems to produce reasonable evidence that the person who is sending messages is the one who it purports to be. So far as I am aware it has never been proved that an evil spirit (demon) has in fact impersonated a dead person.

Whatever may be thought of the above, it is clear that there is:-

a. No scripture that says evil spirits impersonate the dead.

b. No scripture that says a communication cannot be received from the dead.

Someone might refer to the verses in Ecclesiastes chapter 9 that tell us the dead have no part in what goes on here on earth. However, this does not necessarily mean that there may not be ways in which a person can communicate with them, even if the communication has no value. However, there is not only what Scripture does not say but what it does say. The law condemns those that consult the dead (see 1 above). It does not say they can't do it, but states that it is wrong for them to do it; quite a