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Reginald Scot Witchcraft Summary

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In Discoverie of Witchcraft, Reginald Scot produced the first witchcraft tract published by an English author. Modern scholars have often cited the Discoverie as an early skeptical work on witchcraft. However, this is debatable since Scot admitted to the reality of witchcraft (he believed the Scripture pointed to the early existence of witches) and believed that that accused early modern witches were attributed more power than they actually possessed. Scot attacked the urgent need to detect and punish witches espoused by Jean Bodin. In this work, Bodin argued that all magic is demonic in nature, in part as a response to a challenge of witchcraft posed by Johann Weyer. In his work, Weyer questioned the reality of witchcraft, arguing that since…show more content…
Sydney Anglo notes that Scot “was a learned, independent-minded country gentleman, used to making decisions on his own initiative, and in evaluating what he read against what he observed.” Anglo’s detailed dissection of Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft highlights the importance of the final section of the work, A Discourse upon divels and spirits, to understanding Scot’s personal religious views. In this final section, Scot addressed the reality and corporeality of the Devil, demons, and angels, as well as the correct interpretation of the scriptures. There, Scot denied that angels and devils take corporeal forms or interact with humans and presented the Scriptures as largely metaphorical rather than literal. For example, he examined the story of the fall of Lucifer and concluded that rather than it being a literally true story about fallen angels, it was a metaphor for the fall of Nebuchadnezzar. These observations lead Anglo to associate Scot with the beliefs of the Saducees. Saduceeism holds that spirits and devils do not exist. Despite Scot’s open attack on these beliefs in his Discoverie, Anglo concludes that “it is impossible to distinguish Scot’s position from the Sadduceean argument which he
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