The Authority of the Oracle at Delphi
The Oracle of Delphi was a MAJOR prophetic phenomenon that existed from 7th century BC to the 4th century AD and was considered to be the most reputable oracle among the Greeks. 
Before I get too far into this, I want to establish a clear definition of the word “oracle.”
An oracle is said to be given when a human allows a spirit to speak through him/her. It could be a dead relative, a spirit from the netherworld, or in this situation, a “god.”
Although, technically, the divine utterance itself should be defined as the oracle, it is often the case that the message, the messenger and the place that the message was given were defined together as “the oracle” because they were all considered one and the same. 
And though the Oracle of Delphi is never mentioned in our Bibles, history and archeology both prove its existence and its influence just like they prove the existence and influence of the major historical figures mentioned in the introduction. They are all scripturally nonexistent, yet it is indisputable that they once lived and deeply affected the outcome of history.
Likewise, the otherworldly voice of the oracle is not specified in the Word, but it did exist and it had a profound influence over the known world, over a long span of time.
In fact, people would travel long distances to consult the spirit realm through this medium.
Mighty rulers like Alexander the Great and Rome’s greatest orator, Cicero, considered the oracle so authoritative that they consulted its guidance in their endeavors.  Cicero wrote extensively on the oracle. 
So history proves that the Oracle of Delphi was a major force to be reckoned with. Some (who obviously knew no better) would say that it was THE spiritual authority of the known world.
The Mythology Behind the Oracle
Caveat: Because I know some people will misunderstand this next section and freak out, I have to give this caveat that I am writing this next part not because I endorse any form of mythology or pagan belief system, but to inform you as to what the non-“God-fearing” citizens of 1st century Philippi actually believed.
The mythology behind the Oracle at Delphi states that Python was a serpent (or dragon) who lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus – only 325 miles away (give or take) from the city of Philippi – and guarded the oracle.
The sun god, Apollo, slew the serpent/dragon and buried her (yes, Python was female) remains in a deep chasm in the earth. Because of this victory, the name of Python became synonymous with Apollo in the minds of the people. In fact, Apollo would become known as “the Delphinian.” 
Now, at this point, you might be tempted to want to gloss over the mythological backdrop and think, “Isn’t a serpent the same thing as a python?”
No . . . not in the minds of 1st century Philippians.
Remember, the Philippians made no association with the name “Python” and the “big snake that kills its prey by constriction.”
Python was known for something entirely different.
The Greeks believed that Python/Apollo would speak to them through the Oracle at Delphi out of the fumes from Python’s smoldering carcass that emanated out of a crevasse that the temple of Apollo was built upon.
Nine months out of the year, it was believed that Apollo would use the oracle at Delphi to speak to the mortal world. During the other three (colder) months of the year, Apollo would abandon Delphi and allow his brother Dionysus, to speak through the oracle in his stead. 
While Apollo was primarily known as the sun god, he was also known to be the god of truth, prophecy, healing, reason and rationality. By many accounts, he closely resembled the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 
As well as physical beauty, Apollo represented the moral excellence that we think of as civilization. His cult at Delphi had enormous influence on matters of state and religion, as well as on everyday law and order. The influence of Apollo at Delphi helped to spread tolerance in all social ranks. Apollo was above all, a god of justice, law, and order.” 
Dionysus, on the other hand, was the god of the grape harvest, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, chaos and excess. 
Dionysus was the god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. He created wine and spread the art of viticulture. He had a dual nature; on one hand, he brought joy and divine ecstasy; or he would bring brutal and blinding rage, thus reflecting the dual nature of wine. Dionysus and his followers could not be bound by fetters.” 
Apollo and his brother seemed to be opposites in every sense of the word, but the Greeks, in their “Greek mindset,” never considered them to be rivals or competitors. They were both considered sons of Zeus and “entwined by nature.” 
As a result of this “entwining,” those who worshipped Apollo would partake of a spirit that would manifest itself in a dual nature. On the one hand, a worshiper could find truth, prophecy, healing and rational thinking. On the other, epiphany, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, chaos and excess.
Now, as you read the rest of this series, remember that the concept of “duality” is HUGE in the occult as well as in all the religions that would spawn from the sun worship at Delphi.
Back to Acts 16.
During the days when Paul journeyed to Philippi, the majority of the Greco-Roman Empire strongly believed in the legend and power of the oracle. If they didn’t believe in it themselves, they still lived in a culture saturated by its influence.
For us who are more “civilized” (sarcasm implied), the nature of mythology is nebulous, and to what extent we believe in the mythology surrounding Python and the Oracle at Delphi depends on who we are and how likely we are to “go there.”
But we cannot dispute the following facts:
- The Greco-Roman Empire and the 1st century citizens of the city of Philippi believed in these stories and centered their religious worldview around them.
- The citizens of Philippi were surrounded by the influence of the oracle, and were very close to its actual location.
- They were very familiar with the otherworldly phenomenon that occurred in the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
What “otherworldly phenomenon,” you ask?
The Oracle at Delphi spoke through a high priestess known as the “Pythia” (meaning “to rot”). 
According to the Greek historian, Diodorus, the Pythia was a virgin, selected from the young girls of the land, clad modestly to show her purity and unity with the sun god, Apollo , but that practice changed.
Echecrates the Thessalian, having arrived at the shrine and beheld the virgin who uttered the oracle, became enamoured of her because of her beauty, carried her away and violated her; and that the Delphians because of this deplorable occurrence passed a law that in the future a virgin should no longer prophesy but that an elderly woman of fifty would declare the Oracles and that she would be dressed in the costume of a virgin, as a sort of reminder of the prophetess of olden times.” 
While there are a few conflicting reports, the general belief is that the Pythia would sit on a golden tripod over the fissure in the earth and inhale the fumes that ascended up from the ground. These fumes – believed to be the rotting remains of Python – would cause her to fall into a trance-like, ecstatic state, from which she would utter bizarre prophecies.
Some say these prophecies were complete gibberish that had to be interpreted by the priests . . . others say that she spoke plainly, but one thing that is agreed upon is that the prophetic utterances that issued forth from her mouth were highly revered.
During these sessions, when this “spirit” would speak through the Pythia, she would jerk, quake and moan . . . convulsing under this “spirit of Python.”
The Wikipedia entry says:
While in a trance the Pythia ‘raved’ – probably a form of ecstatic speech – and her ravings were “translated” by the priests of the temple into elegant hexameters. It has been speculated that the ancient writers, including Plutarch who had worked as a priest at Delphi, were correct in attributing the oracular effects to the sweet-smelling pneuma (Ancient Greek for breath, wind or vapour) escaping from the chasm in the rock. That exhalation could have been high in the known anaesthetic and sweet-smelling ethylene or other hydrocarbons such as ethane known to produce violent trances. Though this theory remains debatable the authors put up a detailed answer to their critics.”   
And the Pythoness too : (for I am compelled now to bring forward and expose another disgraceful custom of theirs, which it were well to pass by, because it is unseemly for us to mention such things; but that you may more clearly know their shame it is necessary to mention it, that hence at least ye may come to know the madness and exceeding mockery of those that make use of the soothsayers): this same Pythoness then is said, being a female, to sit at times upon the tripod of Apollo astride, and thus the evil spirit ascending from beneath and entering the lower part of her body, fills the woman with madness, and she with dishevelled hair begins to play the bacchanal and to foam at the mouth, and thus being in a frenzy to utter the words of her madness.” [– John Chrysostom – Homily 29 on First Corinthians]
So, taking in all of this information on the Pythia, we see an association with this spirit and the young, innocent female as well as the “elderly” 50-ish woman “dressed in the costume of a virgin, as a sort of reminder of the prophetess of olden times.”
I find it no coincidence that a similar (if not the same) spirit and the false prophetic voice that accompanies it often find their “resting place” in the young women of the prophetic movement. Many times, you will find this false prophetic dynamic encouraged by older women (in their 50’s) who are obviously trying to reclaim some last vestige of their fading youth.
It’s really quite a pitiful sight to behold, but I digress.
To confine the activity of the spirit of Python to female victims in the prophetic movement would be short-sighted and counterproductive. There is a broader scope that needs to be considered. Let’s keep going.
Whether the utterances of the Pythia are entirely spiritual or just the result of the intoxication of the fumes is up for debate in the minds of most scholars, but to those of us who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it should be a foregone conclusion that it is likely both. The tie between intoxicating substances (be they food, drink, gas, chemical, etc.) and the spirit realm (pharmakeia) should be evident.
For this reason, I’m going to be addressing the spiritual connection from here on out.
The Core Values at Delphi
As worshipers would approach the temple of Apollo, they would see three distinct messages engraved in the stone walls. 
- “Know Thyself” – [Gr. “gnothi seauton”]
- “Nothing in Excess” – [Gr. “meden agan”] or
- “Make a pledge and mischief is nigh” – [Gr. “eggua para d’at”]
It’s very puzzling to try to figure out why sun god worshipers would select those particular messages to represent their faith at Delphi. Even Cicero said, “No one quite knows what they mean or why they are here, but they are good advice.” 
Even now, to an average Christian, these three values may seem harmless enough. None of them appears sinful. But there is something deeper going on here, folks.
Like the dynamic between Apollo and Dionysus, these axioms are dualistic in nature. There is both “good” and “evil” associated with each idea.
- “Know thyself” – It is a “good” thing for a man/woman to know their limitations, be content therein and continue in the walk that the Creator has for them. It is “evil” to assume that you can know your own heart. The prophet Jeremiah said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
- “Nothing in Excess” – It is a “good” thing to have temperance in all things; to not be given to too much food, drink or any other indulgence (within the realm of what is permissible). It is “evil” to hold back in the pursuit of truth, to put your “hand to the plow” and look back or otherwise give the Father part of you and follow half-heartedly.
- “Make a pledge and mischief is nigh” – It is “good” to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'” (Matthew 5:37) It is “evil” to swear an oath to the Father and not fulfill it. (Psalm 76:11)
All of these dualistic principles would remind the pilgrim as to what their god expected of them as they went to consult the prophetic voice that came from the oracle.
The combination of these values, mixed with this duality . . . this twisting . . . this mixture between “good” and “evil” would spawn a belief system (all under the banner of “prophecy”) that would eventually go beyond the confines of the Mediterranean.
It would be a Delphic religion that would be highly regarded by the Greeks, with the appearance of piety, but a message from the pit.
Prophecy with a Twist
The Oracle at Delphi was not only known for the bizarre, trance-induced demonstrations of the Pythia and her strange utterances, it was also known to give prophecy with a twist.
In 560 BC, Croesus, King of Lydia inquired of the Oracle at Delphi before he went to war against the Persian Empire. The oracle told him:
If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire.”
This sounded like a great prophetic utterance to Croesus, but it turned out that the “great empire” that got destroyed was his own. After a humiliating defeat, Croesus’ wife committed suicide and Croesus, himself, became a prisoner of King Cyrus of Persia. 
So, we see in this instance, a listener receiving a prophecy that actually came true, but led to the harm of the inquirer.
This phenomena is prevalent today in the prophetic movement and the Father allows this opportunity to be deceived in the lives of those who claim to be His children as a test to see whether or not we have hearts to obey His commands, or hearts that rebel against His word.
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods” – which you have not known – “and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
So let’s do a brief re-cap.
We have made a direct connection with the spirit of Python and the worship of the sun god, Apollo through the Oracle at Delphi.
The M.O. (method of operation) of this spirit is to give you a false prophetic message within the framework of a dualistic belief system. There may be a modicum of truth, but it will be twisted and lead to consequences that you will have no choice but to reap.
This is what happens when you listen to the twisted words that find their source in the serpent.
In our search for satisfaction outside of the commands of the Most High, we will often find just what we think we want . . . at a cost.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness [H7332 – razown] into their soul.
Whether it be in seeking the supernatural or in trying to live out a dualistic belief system, the ultimate cost is “leanness” to the soul. If you look at the Hebrew word for “leanness,” it denotes a wasting away, as with a disease. 
In His mercy, the Father makes this a gradual process. He hopes that you will recognize the decline so that you can repent and return to His ways. But more often than not, this is not what happens.
And people WILL reap the consequences of their choices.
The Decline of the Oracle
During the time of Christ and forward (the 1st to 4th centuries AD), the influence of the Oracle at Delphi was said to be in decline.
Some christian scholars say it was due to the onset of Christianity; the more secular scholars say that it was due to geological changes that hindered the ethereal mists from coming to the surface, thereby robbing the oracle of the fumes by which she could enter the trance state.
I have my own theory, which I will discuss later in the series.
Nevertheless, even in its weakened state, the oracle was still much regarded in the eyes of the people, due to the longevity of its influence. Like modern day christianity, which is losing its adherents in droves, in favor of a more “tolerant” belief system, most people (at least begrudgingly) listen when someone says that they have “a word from God” . . . especially if it applies to them personally.
So how does all this historical information tie into the spirit of Python’s brief appearance in Acts 16?
Stay tuned; we’ll get to that in the next post.
Here is some supplemental information on the Oracle at Delphi that may be of interest to you. It is from a secular source, so don’t expect any huge spiritual revelation from it, but I did find it very informative.
-  Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World; Michael Scott, Princeton University Press, p. 30
-  Delphi: Centre of the World (Source)
-  Alexander the Great as a God (Source)
-  Delphi Classics – Cicero (Source)
-  Wikipedia entry – Delphi (Source)
-  Odyssey Adventures in Archeology, Delphi & The Oracle of Apollo (Source)
-  Wikipedia entry – Apollo (Source)
-  Apollo (Source)
-  Wikipedia entry – Dionysus (Source)
-  GreekMythology.com – Dionysus (Source)
-  Wikipedia entry – Apollonian and Dionysian (Source)
-  Online Etymology Dictionary – python (Source)
-  Broad, William J. The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets, New York, Penguin Press
-  Diodorus Siculus 16.26.1–4.
-  Spiller, Henry A; Hale, John R; De Boer, Jelle Z (2002). “The Delphic Oracle: A Multidisciplinary Defense of the Gaseous Vent Theory” (PDF). Clinical Toxicology. 40 (2): 189–196. PMID 12126193.
-  John Roach (2001-08-14). “Delphic Oracle’s Lips May Have Been Loosened by Gas Vapors”. National Geographic. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
-  Spiller, Henry; De Boer, Jella; Hale, John R; Chanton, Jeffery (2008). “Gaseous emissions at the site of the Delphic Oracle: Assessing the ancient evidence”. Clinical Toxicology. 46 (5): 487–488. PMID 18568810. doi:10.1080/15563650701477803. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
-  Odyssey Adventures in Archeology, Delphi & The Oracle of Apollo (Source)
-  Two Paths Crossing: Then and Now, John D. Swisher, page 132
-  Ancient History Encyclopedia – Croesus (Source)
-  BlueLetterBible.com definition of Hebrew word “razown” [H7332] (Source)