“You Have a Demon!” – An Anthropological Reading of the Notion of Possession in the Gospel of John
In this article, the passages about demon-possession in John (7:20; 8:44, 48; 10:19-21) are considered from an anthropological perspective. Scholars often interpret these passages by referring to Johannine theology. Yet, the anthropological theories of possession show that the notion of possession has sociological aspects as well. To be possessed by a demon and be filled with a spirit can be regarded as two dimensions of possession, and they serve to enhance social status. Viewed in this light, by accusing Jesus of being demon-possessed, Jesus’ opponents reinforce their established status. On the other hand, John depicts Jesus as being possessed by the Holy Spirit. Similarly, Jesus’ followers have enhanced their social status by claiming to be possessed by the same spirit and identifying themselves as a spirit-possessed community. The article concludes that the Johannine notion of possession is not simply a description but much more than that, it is a language of identification.
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