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13/07/2010 / John Hanna

Paul the octopus

Paul the octopus

Many things are taught as part of the ministry preparation course at IBC, however how to deal with a ‘psychic octopus’ called Paul is not one of them.

Paul (hatched January 2006) is a common octopus living in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, who is an animal oracle and now retired predictor of football matches, usually international matches in which Germany was playing. He came to worldwide attention with his accurate predictions in the 2010 World Cup.

His predictions have thus been 100% (8/8) correct for the 2010 World Cup and 86% (12/14) correct overall. Paul was retired after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. But even though Paul the psychic octopus (retired) has stopped working, the superstition created by him will be around us for some time to come, Paul the apostle (not the octopus) has some words to remember:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

See to it that no one takes you captive (Gk. sylagōgeō, commonly used of the plundering of cargo from a ship). The false teacher(s) in Colossae pose a very real threat to the church.philosophy. The Greek for this word includes the article (tēs philosophias), suggesting that the ringleaders of the faction called their teaching “the philosophy.” When Paul speaks of “filling” and “fullness” in this letter (see v. 10), he is clearly echoing the jargon of the erring teachers, and he may be doing the same here. The term “philosophy” was used much more broadly in the ancient world than it is today. Josephus, for instance, could call the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees “philosophies.” Even a magician could be called a philosopher. Paul is not making a blanket condemnation of the traditional Greek philosophical schools (e.g., Platonism, Stoicism, Aristotelianism, etc.). His remarks are focused on the particular factional teaching being disseminated at Colossae. He makes the incisive claim that this teaching is not only empty deceit but that it has been inspired by the elemental spirits (Gk. stoicheiaof the worldStoicheia is sometimes translated “the basic principles” of the world and then interpreted to be something like the fundamental principles of pagan religion. In the ancient world, however, the termstoicheia was widely used for spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and some Jewish texts. Paul is likely using it here to refer to demonic spirits; it is the equivalent of “rulers and authorities” (vv. 10, 15). Although the false teaching is handed down as human tradition, it can ultimately be traced to the influence of demonic forces. The fundamental problem with this philosophy is that it is not in accord with Jesus Christ and the gospel proclaimed by him and the apostle Paul.

Related Internet links

  • BBC News / World / Europe / ‘Psychic octopus’ Paul retires triumphant
  • ESV Online / Col. 2:8
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