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…

St. Augustine’s Three Types of Vision

Before we get down to St. Augustine’s thoughts on ghosts, I need to do some spadework by exploring his understanding of different ways of seeing. He explains this in On Genesis Literally Interpreted (De Genesi ad litteram), his sprawling twelve-part study that is one of his least-read major works. (Don’t confuse it with the minor, earlier…

Ghostly Visions in the Early Church

The early church fathers were acquainted with ghosts and ghostly visions, as the previous entries on ghosts in Old and New Testaments make clear. Two notable examples of ghosts in the literature of the early church show how they tended to function and be regarded. It’s important at this point to note that visions of…