Occurs only in Acts 16:16, where the Revised Version (British and American) reads, "a certain maid having a spirit of divination (margin "a spirit, a Python") met us." Puthon, or Putho, is the oldest name of Delphi (or the country about Delphi), in which was situated the famous Delphic Oracle. Consequently "Pythian spirit" came to be the generic title of the supposed source of inspiration of diviners, including the slave-girl of the account in Acts. Exactly what facts underlie the narrative it is rather hard to say, but it is evident that the girl was sincere in her conviction that she spoke with Pythian inspiration. Probably she represents some hysterical type, of none too strong mentality, whose confused utterances were taken as coming from some supernatural power. Impressed by Paul's personality, she followed him about, and, when his command came, was in a state of mind that had prepared her to obey it. The narrative, incidentally, gives an interesting sidelight on a society in which a girl with hysteria had a greater commercial value than she had after her cure.
Burton Scott Easton
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