Tobit- Mysticism and New Age Religion

Tobit 6:1b-9

Tobias and the angel, Raphael, depart for Media. On the way, they stop to camp and Tobias accidentally catches a large fish. Raphael instructs Tobias to clean the fish, keeping the heart, gull, and liver and throwing away the intestines. This was because the heart, gull, and liver were seen as valuable for casting out demons and healing blindness. The methods described in this text are methods we would identify as mystic or new age religion in our day; such as burning sage, smudging, channeling, witchcraft, sorcery, or some forms of alternative medicine. After Tobias cleans the fish, he eats some of the meat and salts the rest to keep for later. We also see a second reference to Homer’s Odyssey (17.289-327), as the dog runs out to join Tobias on his journey.

There are two interesting notes, here. First, Jewish families, especially those who considered themselves to be righteous (cf. 1:3), would not have tolerated the presence of dogs in their households because dogs were considered to be unclean (cf. Leviticus 11:3-8). Though dogs may have worked in the field with the sheep (cf. Job 30:1), they would not have been in the house or considered to be pets if a Jew was concerned about remaining ritually clean. 

Second, mysticism was explicitly forbidden in the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 18:9-12). In fact, anyone who did so was detestable to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:12). To do so is to not trust in God’s providential work. He has said that He works and communicates in a clear way and according to His own will and purpose, not ours (Deuteronomy 18:18). This is an issue of God’s sovereignty. Again in Tobit, we see God’s sovereignty diminished in favor of handing people the ability to become righteous and of handing people the ability to claim the authority of God for themselves. It is blasphemy. This is why mysticism and new age religion is incompatible with Christianity- we believe in the explicit and holistic sovereignty of God. This is also what makes mysticism and new age religion nonsensical. If there is a God who has created all things, then there can’t possibly be any creation that can override what the creator has done or is working together. It is all subject to Him. Yet, this is what people try to do through mystic and new age arts. Mysticism even creeps its way into Christian exorcisms, prayers, cleansings, and so on. The truth is that if there is an omnipotent God, nothing mystic is required to accomplish the will of God by God’s power. We have a power greater than sage or fish liver or gall. We simply need to ask our Father, and we trust that He will answer according to His own will.

This is the second time we have seen Raphael, an archangel, commit a sin against God (according to this story, not in real life). He is the one who encourages Tobias to do the very thing that is explicitly forbidden in God’s Law. We remember that this book is intended to be a fictional, moral comedy. Yet, the moral example we receive from supposedly righteous characters is contrary to what the Bible actually prescribes for the people of God.

Leave a Reply