Tertullian: Ghosts are Really Demons

In De anima, Tertullian acknowledges the extensive literature about ghosts, but rejects it as a “fraud.” He has specific pagan lore in mind: the idea that some could “call back from Hades the souls of those who are sleeping out their destined time, those who died through violence and those deprived of burial.” His explanation…

Ghosts in the Bible: New Testament

There are no ghosts in the New Testament. We do, however, find the language of spirits and references to death that can illuminate the subject. When we read passages such as Matthew 8:22 (”Let the dead bury the dead”) and 22:32 (”God is not the God of the dead but of the living”) we may…

Ghosts in the Bible: The Old Testament

Ghosts posed a problem for the early Church because they seemed to reflect a holdover of pagan belief and superstition. Yet reliable witnesses continued to report encounters with what to appeared to be spirits, and witnesses were not so easily dismissed as they are now. As we head into Halloween, I hope to do a…

St. Augustine’s Rejection of Ghosts

One final look at Augustine’s theology of the dead comes from On the Care to be Taken For the Dead (De cura pro mortuis gerenda), written in 421 to Paulinus, Bishop of Nola. The text was a response to a question from Paulinus, and is quite touching in places. A woman had asked for her…

St. Augustine’s Ghost Story

St. Augustine was the first Church Father to consider at length stories of ghostly apparitions that appeared in various strands of hagiography, legend, scripture, and eyewitness testimony. It’s not truly a “theology of ghosts,” but it’s a more developed consideration of the subject that anyone else, even Tertullian, had attempted, or indeed would attempt for centuries. Augustine…