Bibliomancy (βιβλίον, μαντεία), divination (q.v.) by means of the Bible; sometimes called, also, sortes biblicc or sortes sacrce. It consisted in taking passages of Scripture at hazard, and drawing thence indications of future things. It was used occasionally in the consecration of bishops, and was evidently borrowed from the heathen, who were accustomed to draw prognostications from the works of Homer and Virgil. We find the practice condemned by several councils, and the persons adopting it were ordered to be put out of the Church. But in the 12th century it was so far encouraged as to be employed in the detection of heretics. In the Gallican Church it was long used in the election of bishops; children being employed on behalf of each candidate to draw slips of paper with texts on them, and that which was thought most favorable decided the choice. In the Greek Church we find the prevalence of this custom at the time of the consecration of Athanasius, on whose behalf the presiding prelate, Caracalla, archbishop of Nicomedia, opened the Gospels on the words, " For the devil and his angels." The bishop of Nicaea saw them, and adroitly turned over to another verse, which was instantly read aloud, " The birds of the air came and lodged in the branches thereof." But this passage seeming irrelevant, the former became gradually known, and the result appeared in considerable agitations and fatal divisions.
A species of bibliomancy in use among the Jews consisted in appealing to the very first words heard from any one reading the Scriptures, and regarding them as a voice from heaven. The following is an instance: Rabbi Acher, having committed many crimes, was led into thirteen synagogues; in each synagogue a disciple was. interrogated, and the verse he read was examined. In the first school the following words of the prophet Isaiah were read: "There is no peace unto the wicked" (Isa 48:22); in another, these words of the Psalmist: " Unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?" (Ps 50:16). Similar sentences being heard in all the synagogues against Acher, it was concluded that he was hated by God! (Basnage's Hist. of the Jews, p. 165). SEE BATH-KOL.
In former times, among the common people in England and Scotland, the Bible was consulted on New Year's day with special formality, each member of the house, before he had partaken of food, walking up to it, opening it, and placing his finger at random on a verse -that verse declaring his fortune for the next twelve months. The Bible, with a sixpence inserted into the book of Ruth, was placed under the pillows of young people, to give them dreams of matrimonial divination. In some parts of Scotland the sick were fanned with the leaves of the Bible, and a Bible was put under the head of women after childbirth, and into the cradle of new-born children. A Bible and key were sometimes employed to detect a thief; nay, more than all, a suspected witch was taken to church, and weighed against the great church Bible. If she outweighed the Bible, she was acquitted; but if the Bible outweighed her, she was condemned (Brand's Popular Antiquities, 3:22). Some well-meaning people among Protestants practise a kind of bibliomancy in order to determine the state of their souls or the path of duty. It prevailed among the Moravians, along with the use of lots; and John Wesley sometimes made use of it. But the Word of God was never meant to operate as a charm, nor to be employed as a lot-book. It can only truly guide and edify when rightly and consistently understood. See Bingham, Orig. Eccles. bk. 16, ch. 4:§ 3; Buck, Theol. Diet. . sv.; Eadie, Eccles. Dict. s.v.; Wesley, Works, v, 316, 318.