At the beginning of the second book, Herodotus offers a kind of policy statement, which has been taken as central to the understanding of these passages, though it may well be thought to mystify things rather than explain them (2.3.2):
Τὰ μέν νυν θεῖα τῶν ἀπηγημάτων οἷα ἤκουον, οὐκ εἰμὶ πρόθυμος ἐξηγέεσθαι, ἔξω ἢ τὰ οὐνόματα αὐτῶν μοῦνον, νομίζων πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἴσον περὶ αὐτῶν ἐπίστασθαι· τὰ δ’ ἂν ἐπιμνησθέω αὐτῶν, ὑπὸ τοῦ λόγου ἐξαναγκαζόμενος ἐπιμνησθήσομαι.
Now, such stories as I heard about the gods I am not ready to relate, except their names, for I believe that all men are equally knowledgeable about them; and I shall say about them what I am constrained to say by the course of my history.
A similar statement is found at 2.65.2, where Herodotus mentions “matters of divinity, which I am especially averse to treating; I have never touched upon such except where necessity has compelled me”. These passages have been adduced as evidence that Herodotus’ approach is one of agnosticism, empiricism or scepticism, by for instance Linforth, Lloyd, and most recently Scullion: “Herodotus ... aligns himself with the intellectual tradition of scepticism about the gods going back to Xenophanes”.3 This intellectual tradition is perhaps not so religiously uncontaminated as some would hope, though (we will take a brief look at Xenophanes towards the end of this article, where the first “policy[5|6] statement” will also be further treated), —and in the case of the present passages, where an explicit taboo forbids Herodotus the mention of certain religious matters and names, I cannot understand to what possible use any talk of “scepticism” or “agnosticism” could be. One scholar who has made a positive contribution towards the understanding of these passages is Sourdille (1925), who suggested that the taboo concerned matters which Herodotus identified with the Greek Mysteries and therefore was forbidden to utter (cf. especially 2.171.1, cited above). This explanation is in fact accepted by Lloyd, albeit grudgingly: “Sourdille’s suggestion ... is quite untenable as a general rule, though in some cases it does operate (II, 61, 86, 132, 170, 171; ...)”.4 But these happen to be the very cases that interest us—the ones where Herodotus explicitly states that it is forbidden for him to utter something. For certain reasons, which I will come back to, I believe that Sourdille’s suggestion is incorrect, or at least comes into play only as a secondary explanation. Robert Parker, seemingly unaware that there was a problem, cites Hdt. 2.86 as an example of it being “sacrilegious to mention Dionysus in connection with death” (my italics).5 He further adduces Demosthenes 60.30 and Plato, Menexenus 238b, both of which are examples of funerary orations. The latter passages are also cited, together with E. Hel. 1307, by Thomas Harrison as examples of a “taboo concerning the naming of gods in certain contexts”. 6 Harrison declines to discuss which contexts this is, however. The passage from Helen mentions an ἄρρητος κόρη, an unspeakable girl: this is Persephone,7 about whom more later. The passages from Demosthenes and Plato read as follows:
οὐκ ἐλάνθανεν Οἰνείδας ὅτι Κάδμου μὲν Σεμέλη, τῆς δ’ ὃν οὐ πρέπον ἐστὶν ὀνομάζειν ἐπὶ τοῦδε τοῦ τάφου.
It was not unkown to the Oeneidae that Semele was the daughter of Kadmos, her son he whose name it is not proper to mention by this grave.
θρεψαμένη δὲ καὶ αὐξήσασα πρὸς ἥβην ἄρχοντας καὶ διδασκάλους αὐτῶν θεοὺς ἐπηγάγετο· ὧν τὰ μὲν ὀνόματα πρέπει ἐν τῷ τοιῷδε ἐᾶν – ἴσμεν γάρ – οἳ τὸν βίον ἡμῶν κατεσκεύασαν πρός τε τὴν καθ’ ἡμέραν δίαιταν, τέχνας πρώτους παιδευσάμενοι, καὶ πρὸς τὴν ὑπὲρ τῆς χώρας φυλακὴν ὅπλων κτῆσίν τε καὶ χρῆσιν διδαξάμενοι.
And when she had nurtured and reared them up to man’s estate, she introduced gods to be their governors and tutors; the names of whom it behoves us to pass over in this discourse, since we know them; and they set in order our mode of life, not only in respect of daily business, by instructing us before all others in the arts, but also in[6|7] respect of the guardianship of our country, by teaching us how to acquire and handle arms. (Bury 1929) Herodotus, Dionysus, and the Greek death taboo. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the construction of the “chthonic” in Greek literary tradition
The syntactic unit "ὀνομάζειν ἐπὶ" of Acts 19:13 is pertinent to understand what went wrong.
"whose name they were not to declare those who had spirits, the evil ones" Acts 19:13
The phrase ὁρκίζω ὑμᾶς Acts 19:13 represents the second part about the error of the exorcists. Appears in Genesis 50:6; 1 Ki. 2:42; 22:16; 2 Cr. 18:15; Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 5:8; 8:4; Dan. 6:13 and Mk. 5:7, where it is possible to understand that the supplication is a verbal contract subordinated to the strongest, which in the case of the exorcists were the evil spirits for the simple fact that there was an unauthorized outsourced exorcism described in the phrase "to whom Paul preaches" ( Acts 19:13 KJV)