The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
What Are Demons?
To “have a demon” was the same as to “have an unclean spirit”, which is a Bible way of saying that something was wrong or “unclean” about a person’s way of thinking or mental capability. In short, a person with a demon was a person with a mental illness.
Dualism in the Synoptics
The paucity of pre-Christian witness to the satanological terminology in the Synoptic temptation accounts, together with the absence from the Synoptics of established Second Temple terms for supernatural Satan figures (Satanael, Mastema, Belial, Shemihazah, Azâzêl, etc), gives reason to doubt the Synoptic writers held the cosmological dualistic views of their contemporaries. An examination of dualism in the Synoptics, within their Second Temple Period context, leads in a very different direction.
Identifying the Adversary
Matthew and Luke’s temptation accounts both consistently refer to Jesus’ adversary as ‘the devil’, whereas Mark’s account only refers to Jesus’ adversary once, as ‘Satan’ (Mark 1:13).
Literary Genre of the Wilderness Temptation
Despite its superficial appearance as a simple historical record, the Synoptic account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness¹ has often been interpreted as symbolic or parabolic of Jesus’ experiences, since the early Christian era.² The popularity of this interpretation waxed and waned throughout history; Origen understood the account as a dramatized parable,³ and although Aquinas opposed those who interpreted the temptations as visionary,⁴ the view was common among early Reformers, finding its way into the marginal commentary of early printed Bibles.⁵ Current scholarly commentary typically treats the wilderness temptation account as a visionary experience,⁶ symbolic description,⁷ or dramatization of events throughout Jesus’ ministry,⁸ and commentaries advise against reading the account as literally historical.⁹
Satan & Demons In the Apostolic Fathers
The “Apostolic Fathers” (a group of Christian texts written from the late first century to the early second century),¹ are recognized as unusual in their era for their paucity of references to demons, demon possession, exorcism, and illness caused by demons;² additionally, rejection of supernatural evil beliefs has also been noted in texts such as the Didache.³ The fact that a number of texts in the Apostolic fathers contain explicit reference to supernatural evil, typically a figure identified as Satan,⁴ makes it more remarkable that other texts in the same corpus do not contain any such references.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: Summary
The following list summarizes the lexical evidence for the Synoptics’ satanological terminology in Second Temple pre-Christian texts.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Evil One
The term ‘the evil one’ (ton ponērou), has no Second Temple pre-Christian witness as a reference to a supernatural evil being. It is found in one fifteenth century Ethiopian manuscript of 1 Enoch (manuscript A, 1 Enoch 69:15), but not the other two main recensions (manuscripts B and C).¹
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Tempter
The term ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazwn), has no pre-Christian witness in the intertestamental or Qumran literature at all.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: Satan
Three terms are used to describe Christ’s adversary in the Synoptic temptation accounts; ‘satan’ (ho satanas in Mark 1:12, with the vocative satana without the definite article only in Matthew 4:10), ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazwn, only in Matthew 4:3), and ‘the devil’ (ho diabolos). Elsewhere in Matthew (and only Matthew), the term ‘the evil one’ (ho ponēros), may also be used (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38), though this is debated in the literature.¹
Satanology of the Apostolic Fathers: The Didache
Scholarly consensus dates the Didache at the end of the first century.¹ Although the Didache shares a Jewish ‘Two Ways’ textual source with the Epistle of Barnabas² (represented in Qumran texts such as the ‘Community Rule’ or ‘Manual of Discipline’ 1QS, 4QSa-j, 5Q11, 5Q13), it has treated this source very differently to Barnabas. Whereas Barnabas adopted and amplified the supernatural evil found in the Two Ways text, the Didache has eliminated it. This is immediately apparent from a comparison of the opening of the Didache to its parallels in 1QS and Barnabas.
When Demonology Fails: Strategies of Denial
It is significant that many Christians who profess a belief in demons, act as if they do not. They usually treat illnesses as if they were natural in origin (rather than supernatural), including those illnesses which the New Testament writers apparently attributed to demonic possession. Additionally, they interpret certain New Testament passages which appear to be speaking of illness caused by demonic possession, as if the passages are speaking of mental illness. This method of interpreting the text is known as ‘demythologization’, and it is ironic that Christians who believe in demons typically denounce such a method as invalid, whilst employing it themselves and denying this undermines their case.
“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” (Mark. 1:24)
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.” (Luke 9:1)
“For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (Acts 8:7)
Come To Torment Us
“And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Mark 8:29)
Lunatics and the Swine
“So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” (Matthew 8:31)
Casting Out Devils
“And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:34)
My Name Is Legion
“And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.” (Mark 5:9)
“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.” (Luke 8:2)
The word “devil” in the [King James Version of the] New Testament is also used to represent the original word daimon; and the translation is tainted with the theory of the translators concerning disembodied spirits, or ghosts. The prevalent idea in the days of Jesus was that diseases were produced by “spirits.” Blindness, dumbness, insanity, etc., were all the work of “spirits” possessed by the unfortunate victims. Our language is full of words of heathen origin; but such words no longer mean what they did on the lips of a heathen. Our meaning is well understood now when we call an insane person a “lunatic,” without retaining the theory that the person is moonstruck. One using the word “lunatic” would not thereby be committed to the ancient theory.
Note on Diabolical Possession
In the New Testament, disease, except when it is a special visitation from God (Hebrews 12:6), is regarded as the work of super-natural forces (Matthew 9:32, 12:22; Luke 11:14, 13:16; Acts 10:38, etc.). In particular, nervous diseases and insanity are represented as due to diabolical possession. This was the universal belief of the time, and our Lord, in using language which implies it, need not be regarded as teaching dogmatically that there is such a thing as possession, devils or demons. There were strong reasons why He should seek to ‘accommodate’ his language to the popular theory. (1) The insane persons whom He wished to heal, were firmly convinced that they were possessed by devils. This was the form assumed by the insane delusion, and to argue against it was useless. The only wise course was to assume that the unclean spirit was there, and to command it to come forth. (2) It was our Lord’s method not rashly or unnecessarily to interfere with the settled beliefs of his time, or to anticipate the discoveries of modern science. The belief in demonic possession, though probably erroneous, was so near the truth, that for most purposes of practical religion it might be regarded as true. He, therefore, did not think fit to disturb it. He tolerated the belief and left it to the advance of knowledge in future ages to correct the extravagances connected with it.
The Language of Accommodation
John Walton said it particularly well in a lecture: “Nowhere in the Bible does God ever ‘upgrade’ the Israelites’ understanding of the world.” Meaning: He doesn’t tell them the world is a sphere; He doesn’t tell them that the sun is bigger than the earth or that most stars are bigger than the sun. He doesn’t expound the germ theory of disease. He doesn’t explain the causes of mental illness. He doesn’t give them any new technology—including steam engines, but also including, say, soap; etc., etc. He takes them as He finds them, and expounds to them theological ideas only.
Epilepsy or Demon-Possession?
A Christian who does not believe in the literal existence of demons faces many challenges in making a strong case in light of the first three gospel records. Matthew, Mark and Luke all make frequent reference to “demons” and “evil spirits,” which at first glance seem to make a strong case for their literal existence. Yet there are some disturbing things that should make a believer in demons take a more cautious stance.
Heathen writers used the word “demon” with considerable latitude. In Homer’s writings, where gods are but supernatural men, the word “daimon” ( Greek) is used interchangeably with “theos” (Greek word, translated “God”). Afterwards Hesiod used it to denote intermediate beings — messengers of the gods to men. This became its general meaning, although in poetry and in philosophy “to daimonion” was sometimes used as equivalent to “to theion” for any superhuman nature. Aristotle applies the term to Divinity, Providence. Plato used the word in the distinctly limited sense. It was also believed that the “daimonia” became tutelary deities of individuals, hence “daimonion” was often used in the sense of “fate” or “destiny” of a man. McClintock Strong states:
Judas and His Satan
One of the most intriguing backstories that takes place in the days leading up to Jesus’ death can be found in the relationship between Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, and “Satan”:
Epilepsy Was A Physiological Disease
We generally interpret the “lunatick” boy in Matthew 17 as an epileptic. “Oft times it throweth him into the fire, and oft times into the water,” etc. This is interesting because Greek physicians as early as 400 BC were arguing that epilepsy was a physiological disease. On the Sacred Disease was written around 400 BC and attributed to Hippocrates. The “sacred disease” is epilepsy, at least as near as we can tell.
Satanas in the Septuagint
The word “Satan” (Σατανᾶς, Satanás) in Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 21:27 (it occurs nowhere else in the Apocrypha) denotes one’s own wicked heart, as the parallelism shows:
The lexica agree on the point that the noun שָׂטָן in general means “adversary”, or “opponent.”⁶ The [word] can have this role in a number of arenas, including jurisprudence, military, and political. The lexica begin to diverge slightly only on the issue of whether or not שָׂטָן can be used as a proper name.
Satan, The Cabala and the Jews
With regard to the Talmud, great care should be taken to separate the Halacath from the Hagadoth¹ in framing ideas as to the Jewish system and traditions. The Halacath are binding on Jews who believe in the binding character of the Oral law, or who rely on, or at least attach great importance to the dicta, decisions, and discussions of the great sages.
The Case of Jenkins vs. Cook
So the Dean of Arches has decided that the denial either of the eternity of punishment (of course hereafter) or of the personality of the evil one is sufficient to justify a clergyman in refusing the Holy Communion to a parishioner; in other words, that the belief of an implacable God, who either has not the will nor the power to pardon, as well as belief in Satan, or in a second god inferior, it is, true to the good God, but still a God as intent to injure than as his superior is to benefit him, is part and parcel of the faith of a true Christian. We Jews may congratulate ourselves upon the different reading of our own Scriptures. Our God is mercy itself. He inflicts punishment for the expiation of sin, not from revenge. With the expatiation of the sin the punishment ceases. The object is attained, why continue the torture?
English Etymology of Satan
Satan (n.) Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan “adversary, one who plots against another,” from satan “to show enmity to, oppose, plot against,” from root s-t-n “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary.”
Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls
As a term, śātān means “accuser” or “one who brings charges against.” In the Dead Sea Scrolls and related literature, it occurs five times. In three, perhaps four of these instances, the word is preceded by a term such as “all,” “any” (after a negative), or “no” (1QHa XXII [frag. 4], 6; XXIV [frag. 45], 3; 1 Q28b I, 8; 4Q50 41-2 IV, 12) and therefore simply refers to someone—anyone, whether angelic or human—who engages in destructive activity. The word also occurs twice in the Jubilees, found among fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and composed during the middle of the second century BCE. Jubilees states that at the end of days “there will be neither satan nor any evil who [or better: “which”] will destroy” (23:29). Here Satan refers to someone—anyone—who destroys by cutting a human being’s life short. In Jubilees 10:11, however, the word “satan” describes the activity of a figure called Mastema, whose power over a host of evil spirits is considered the cause of human suffering and idolatry afrer the time of the flood.
Demons and Demoniacs Among the Jews in the Time of Christ: Whence the Doctrine was Derived
In regard to the doctrine of Demons, their origin, character, actions, and their power to possess and torment the bodies of the living, and the method of their expulsion, we find the Jews, in the time of the Savior, in perfect agreement with the Orientals, the Greeks, and the Romans. Of course this acknowledged fact provokes the question, Whence did they obtain these notions respecting demonology? We have no accounts of persons possessed with devils or demons, no allusions to casting out unclean spirits from the bodies of the living, in any of the historical, prophetic or poetic books of the Mosaic or the Law dispensation.
Diabolos, or the New Testament Devil
“A bishop must be… not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of those which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6, 7)
A History of the Devil and Satan in Old Testament Times
To begin at the beginning. The words Satan, Devil, demon, Lucifer, fallen angel, etc. simply don’t occur in the whole of the book of Genesis. Throughout the Old Testament, the one and only God is presented as all powerful, without equal and in no competition with any other cosmic force. The Old Testament makes it clear that any ‘adversary’ to God’s people was ultimately under the control of God Himself. All Angels are spoken of as being righteous and the servants of God, even “Angels of evil/disaster”, who may bring destruction upon sinners, are still God’s Angels carrying out His will and judgments. God’s people Israel initially held this view; but as has so often happened to God’s people, they mixed their true beliefs with those of the world around them. Earlier Judaism spoke of the human tendency to evil [yetser ha-ra] and the tendency to good [yetser ha-tob]. This tendency to evil they understood as being at times personified or symbolized by “the devil”: “Satan and the yetser ha-ra are one”¹. But earlier Judaism rejected the idea that angels had rebelled, and they specifically rejected the idea that the serpent in Genesis was Satan. At that time, “the Jewish devil was little more than an allegory of the evil inclination among humans”². It is noted by the editor of Dent’s edition of the Talmud that neither the Talmud nor the Midrash (the Jewish interpretations of the Law of Moses) even mention Satan as being a fallen angel.³ Even in the Zohar—a second century A.D. Jewish book that became the basis of the Kabbalah—the sitra ahra, the “dark side” is presented as an aspect of God, not independent of Him, which operates on earth as a result of human sin. The Zohar uses the ideas of the Shekhinta b’galuta [God’s glory in exile] and sitra ahra in order to speak of God’s struggle with evil and to explain its very existence. The Zohar doesn’t teach dualism, a universe split between God and Satan, but rather teaches that the struggle between good and evil occurs within God’s own self.
An Angel of Light
2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works”
Canaanite Theology Smashed
An analysis of the surrounding religious beliefs of the early Canaanite tribes at the time of the Exodus indicates that the one true God chose to reveal Himself in language which clearly alluded to the surrounding theological ideas. It has been shown that ‘El’ was the name of the most powerful Canaanite god in the plurality of deities which the Canaanites worshipped¹. The characteristics of Yahweh God of Israel are almost identical to the language of the day used to describe the Canaanite deity ‘El’². For example, ‘El’ married the prostitute Asarte, as Yahweh married the prostitute Israel (Hosea 3:1); and most noteworthy of all ‘El’ sacrificed his own son³. Significantly, ‘El’ is one of the titles which God uses for Himself in His word. Arthur Gibson points out that the name ‘Yahweh’ has similarities with the Amorite god Ya-Wi, and the Ugarit god Yahaninu⁴. So here is clear evidence that God reveals Himself in the language of the day in order to demonstrate, by the very fact of His evident superiority, that these other deities to whom He alludes did not exist; Yahweh was the true ‘El’. Those gods with similar names were nothing compared to the true Yahweh El.
Case Study: Resheph
I now want to bring together much of what I’ve been saying by considering a widely believed in demon called Resheph. He is mentioned by name in documents found in such widely separated places as Mari, Ugarit, Egypt, Cyprus and Carthage. This indicates the popularity of belief in him amongst Israel’s neighbours—neighbours who constantly tempted Israel to accept their beliefs, hence God’s allusion to Resheph in the prophets. He was thought to be responsible for plague and violent death. A dictionary defines him as: “Probably a War God. Lord of the Arrow. Has gazelle horns on his helmet. He destroys men in mass by war and plague. He is the porter of the sun Goddess Shepesh (this seems to resemble Khamael of the Hebrews). He is also called Mekal (annihilator), and could be related to the Hebrew Michael (Mikal) who is also a War God (archangel)”. He was thus set up as the pagan demonic equivalent to Michael, the angel that stood for Israel (Daniel 12:1). This demon was widely believed in throughout the nations surrounding Israel¹. So common was this belief that we might expect a specific denunciation of his existence from Yahweh. But not so. We read of Resheph in the Hebrew text of the Bible; and always Yahweh is demonstrating that what Resheph is supposed to do, actually He is responsible for. The miracles of plague and destruction wrought by Yahweh at the Exodus would have been attributable by the surrounding nations to the demon Resheph; in their eyes, such things were exactly his calling card. But the Biblical record is at pains to emphasize that the nations were brought to realize that Yahweh God of Israel had done these things, they came to fear His Name—and thereby Resheph was shown to be non-existent and powerless. Commenting on the Exodus miracles, Habbakuk 3:5 describes how “before him (Yahweh manifest in the Exodus Angel) went the pestilence, and Resheph (AV “burning coals”) went forth at his feet”. To be at someone’s feet is a Biblical idiom for humiliation and destruction. Israel were being taught that at the Exodus, the credibility of Resheph’s existence had been destroyed; the things (e.g. pestilence) he was supposed to do had so evidently been done by Yahweh God of Israel. Notice how in Habakkuk 3:4 it is God, as manifest in the Angel Michael who brought Israel out of Egypt, who has “horns” and who was responsible for the mass destruction of Egypt and the Canaanite nations.
‘Casting Out Demons’: A Curing of Psychosomatic Illness?
Another approach to the question of demon possession is provided by recognizing the psychological basis behind many of the apparently ‘physical’ afflictions which Jesus healed. I began thinking about this because of the extensive experience my wife and I had with a deeply traumatized woman whom we counselled and virtually lived with for several months. She had been made pregnant by her father, and then gave birth to a stillborn, in very difficult circumstances and little medical attention, with the dead body of the baby disposed of in a particularly awful manner before her eyes. Her trauma afterwards was such that she at times lost the use of her legs, lost her speech and at times even her sight. After each such episode, we shared with her the comfort of God’s love, in words and so far as we could in practical ways, and the symptoms would go away, sometimes instantly. One moment she couldn’t walk, she was as if paralyzed; and then she could, perfectly well. This was nothing to do with demons nor our possession of any miraculous gift of healing; it was an outcome of her encounter with Jesus through the Gospel and in our faces, as members of the body of Christ.
Demons and Sickness
Yet in the New Testament we read of demons being cast out—in fact, the New Testament is written as if the common idea of demons is correct. I suggest that the answer to this paradox lies in an understanding of the way in which God uses language in the Bible. George Lamsa comments: “Cast out” is an Aramaic phrase which means to restore to sanity”¹. The evidence given above is proof enough that demons do not exist. If the New Testament speaks as if they do exist, and the Bible does not contradict itself, it follows that surely the answer is to be found in an analysis of the way in which God uses language. If we are clearly told that God brings our problems and that He is the source of all power, then the Bible cannot also tell us that demons—little gods in opposition to the one God—bring these things upon us. It seems significant that the word “demons” only occurs four times in the Old Testament and always describes idol worship, but it occurs many times in the Gospel records. We suggest this is because, at the time the Gospels were written, it was the language of the day to say that any disease that could not be understood was the fault of demons. “So far as the [1st century] populace was concerned, any disease involving mental disturbance, delirium or spasms was attributed to demons, believed to swarm in the air”². If demons really do exist and are responsible for our illnesses and problems, then we would read more about them in the Old Testament. But we do not read about them at all in this context there.
Demons: Why Didn’t Jesus Correct People?
God isn’t so paranoiac or primitive as to need to “cover His back” all the time when He speaks, endlessly footnoting, as it were, His statements, lest they be misinterpreted. He speaks and writes quite calmly in the language of the time. In Digression 3, I pointed out how God alludes to mistaken ideas about demons, sinful gods etc. and corrects them by employing the language used about them in relation to Himself as the ultimate source of all in human life. Thus we saw the way God’s word deconstructs error without as it were primitively confronting it in a “I am right, your ideas are wrong and pitiful” kind of way. I find this bears the stamp of the Divine and the ultimately credible. Cassuto has a very fine comment upon this, made in the context of his view that Genesis 6 is deconstructing Canaanite legends about sinful gods, demons and giants: “The answer contradicts the pagan myths, but without direct polemic. This is the way of the Torah: even when her purpose is to oppose the notions of the gentiles, she does not derogate, by stooping to controversy, from her ingrained majesty and splendour. She states her views, and by inference other ideas are rejected”¹. This has bearing on why the Lord Jesus didn’t in so many words state that “demons” don’t exist; rather by His miracles did He demonstrate “by inference” that they have no effective power or existence. We see something similar in how the Old Testament initially presents Yahweh as “the greatest of all gods” (e.g. Exodus 18:11)—without specifically stating that those other gods don’t exist. But as God’s relationship with Israel unfolds, the later prophets declare Yahweh as the only God and the other gods as no gods, mocking them as utterly non-existent.
Devil and Satan Bound
Revelation 20:2, 7 & 10: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years”. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison”. “And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.
Exorcism of Demons
Throughout Old and New Testament times there was the belief that by calling the name of a god over a sick person, demons could be exorcised (cp. Acts 19:13). The name of the god was held to have some mystical power. The true worship of Yahweh also placed great importance on the power of the Name of Israel’s God, e.g.: “May the name of the God of Jacob defend you. Save me, O God, by Your Name” (Psalms 20:1; 54:1). The fundamental difference between the Name of Yahweh and that of other gods was that the Yahweh Name was both a declaration of His character and also a prophecy of His people’s eternal future; therefore it was a means of real salvation. However, Yahweh evidently did not devise a system of worship for Israel which shied as far away as possible from using the language of contemporary beliefs. He revealed Himself in a way which showed His supremacy over those beliefs. Understanding this paves the way for a correct grasp of the New Testament language of demons. Christ spoke as if pagan exorcists had power (Matthew 12:27); it was only indirectly that He taught His superiority over them. There is much emphasis on the use of the name of Christ to cast out demons/heal diseases (Mark 16:17; Acts 3:6; 4:10; 16:18; 19:13-16; James 5:14). This has some similarity with the way in which the pagans repeated the names of their gods to exorcise what they believed to be demons. We can therefore come to the conclusion that in the demonstration of His power as being greater than that of other ‘gods’ and so-called ‘demons’, Yahweh is very indirect about it, and does so through alluding closely to the style and language which those false systems used. If this is truly appreciated, it will be evident that just because the New Testament sometimes uses the style and language of the surrounding paganism, this is no proof that those pagan beliefs have any substance.
A Greek Influenced Devil
The final Old Testament-era influence upon Jewish thinking about the Devil was that of the Greeks. Their idea that there was Tartarus [a place of darkness under the earth for the wicked], the Asphodel Fields [a kind of purgatory] and the Elysian Fields [a kind of heaven for the righteous] was picked up by Judaism—despite the fact that it contradicted plain Biblical revelation about the grave [“hell”] and the state of the dead, as we outline in section 2-5. And the Greeks had multiple legends of cosmic combat between the gods, some of them like Ophioneus taking the form of a serpent; and often with the sequence of rebellion and being cast out [as with Prometheus and Zeus, Phaethon etc.]. This all intermeshed with the other ideas the Jews were picking up of a personal Satan. The horns and hairy features of the Greek god Pan, the trident of Poseidon and the wings of Hermes all became incorporated in the common Jewish idea of this ‘Satan’ being, and this in turn influenced Christian misunderstandings and images of this legendary being. No wonder Origen and the early [apostate] Christian ‘fathers’ were accused by their critics such as Celsus of merely adapting pagan legends in this area of the Devil. Origen and many others tried to parry this [perfectly correct] accusation by trying to read back into Old Testament passages the pagan ideas which they had picked up. But as we show throughout Chapter 5, the results of this lack integrity and often involve quite pathetic interpretation and twisting of the Biblical texts.
Israel In Exile: The Babylonian/Persian Influence on Good and Evil
Of especially significant influence upon Judaism were the Persian views of Zoroastrianism. This was a philosophy which began in Persia about 600 B.C., and was growing in popularity when Judah went to Babylon/Persia in captivity. This philosophy posited that there was a good god of light (Mazda) and an evil god of darkness (Ahriman). The well known passage in Isaiah 45:5-7 is a clear warning to the Jews in captivity not to buy into this—Israel’s God alone made the light and the darkness, the good and the “evil”. He alone had the power to give “the treasures of darkness” to a man (Isaiah 45:3), even though such “treasures” were thought to be under the control of the supposed ‘Lord of darkness’. But Isaiah is in fact full of other allusions to Zoroastrian ideas, seeking to teach Judah the true position on these things. Thus it was taught that “Saviours will come from the seed of Zoroaster, and in the end, the great Saviour”, who would be born of a virgin, resurrect the dead and give immortality¹. These ideas are picked up in Isaiah 9:6 and applied prophetically to the ultimate Saviour, Jesus—as if to warn the Jews not to accept the prevalent Persian ideas in this area. Indeed, it appears that [under Divine inspiration] much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten in Babylon, in order to deconstruct the ideas which Israel were meeting in Babylon². Hence we find Persian-era phrases in books like Job, which on one level were clearly very old Hebrew writings, and yet have been edited under a Persian-era hand. The Jews were also influenced by the Zoroastrian idea that somehow God Himself would never cause evil in our lives—and therefore, God is to be seen as somehow distanced from all good or evil actions, as these are under the control of the good and evil gods. Zephaniah 1:12 warns against this Persian view: “I will search Jerusalem with lamps; and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil”. The fact is, God personally is passionately involved with this world and with our lives; and so it is He who brings about the dark and the light, good and evil.
Untranslated: Satan and the Devil
Sometimes the original words of the Bible text are left untranslated (“Mammon”, in Matthew 6:24, is an Aramaic example of this). ‘Satan’ is an untranslated Hebrew word which means ‘adversary’, while ‘Devil’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘diabolos’, meaning a liar, an enemy or false accuser. ‘Satan’ has been transferred from the Hebrew untranslated, just like ‘Sabaoth’ (James 5:4), ‘Armageddon’ (Revelation 16:16) and ‘Hallelujah’ (Revelation 19:1-6). If we are to believe that Satan and the Devil are some being outside of us which is responsible for sin, then whenever we come across these words in the Bible, we have to make them refer to this evil person. The Biblical usage of these words shows that they can be used as ordinary nouns, describing ordinary people. This fact makes it impossible to reason that the words Devil and Satan as used in the Bible do in themselves refer to a great wicked person or being outside of us.
Satan from the Reformation Onwards
The Reformation led to the divide between Protestant and Catholic Christianity. This divide was bitter, and both sides eagerly demonized the other as in league with a superhuman Devil, because they were convinced that God was on their side, and their enemies therefore were of the Devil. This justified all manner of war, persecution and demonization. Protestants insisted that the Pope was Antichrist, whilst Catholics spoke of exorcising the demons of Protestantism. Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation, was obsessed with the theme of the Devil, throwing ink at him, breaking wind [passing gas] to scare him away, and ever eager to vent his obsession about the Devil in terms of his demonization of the Catholics¹. Significantly, even Luther recognized that the passage about “war in heaven” in Revelation 12 didn’t refer to anything that happened in Eden, but rather was a description of Christian persecution at the hands of their enemies. Luther believed the common idea about Satan being hurled out of Heaven in Eden, but he recognized that Revelation 12 couldn’t be used to support the idea². We discuss Revelation 12 in more detail in section 5-32. Catholic response was no less obsessive; the catechism of Canisius, a Catholic response to Luther’s Greater Catechism of 1529, mentions Satan more often than it does Jesus (67 times compared to 63 times)³. The Council of Trent blamed Protestantism on the Devil.
Satan in Paradise Lost
John Milton’s Paradise Lost, with its graphic depictions of a rebellious satan being hurled from Heaven to earth, greatly popularized the image of a personal satan. The visual images conjured up by Milton’s poem remain significant in the minds of many to this day, even if they themselves haven’t read his epic poem. But its influence has been such over the last few hundred years that many have come to assume that this actually is a reflection of Bible teaching. Let’s face it—people adopt their religious ideas more from popular culture, what they see in art, what they hear on the street, how others talk… rather than by reading books by theologians and Bible students. There’s no doubt that art played a highly significant role in fixing the idea of a personal satan in peoples’ minds—and Paradise Lost played a huge part in this¹. Milton himself admitted that he wrote the poem [among other reasons] in order to “justifie the wayes of God to men” (1.26). And this is a repeated theme we find throughout the whole history of the personal satan idea. It’s as if men feel they have to apologize for God, as well as seeking to somehow avoid the difficult fact that the Bible teaches that it is God alone who ultimately allows evil in human life.
Satan in the Middle Ages
As Christianity met with Paganism over the centuries, it picked up some of the local paganic ideas. J.B. Russell summarizes the situation in this period: “The Christian concept of the Devil was influenced by folklore elements, some from the older, Mediterranean cultures and others from the Celtic, Teutonic and Slavic religions of the north. Pagan ideas penetrated Christianity while Christian ideas penetrated paganism”¹. Thus the Celtic god of the underworld, Cernunnos, “the horned god”, was easily assimilated into Christianity, just as the pagan feast of December 25th was adopted as ‘Christmas’. The horned gods of the Scandinavians were easily compared to the Devil—and hence the idea that the Devil has horns became more popular in Christian art [although there is absolutely no Biblical association of the Devil with horns]. Hilda Davidson carefully researched Scandinavian views of the Devil figure and showed at great length how these ideas were accommodated into Christianity—rather that the radical call of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God being presented as it is, a fundamentally different worldview². Once the Devil was associated with Pan, he became presented as having hooves, goat hair and a large nose³. No longer was Satan pictured with long dark hair, but rather spikey hair like the Northern European gods of evil. Thus ‘converts’ to Christianity were allowed to keep some of their existing ideas, and these soon became part of the core fabric of popular ‘Christianity’. For example, the northern European fear of demons entering a person led them to cover their mouths when they yawned, and to fear sneezing as the intake of air could allow demons to rush in to the person. Christianity adopted these practices, adding the phrase “God bless you” whenever someone sneezed, in an attempt to Christianize the practice.
Satan in the Thought of Augustine
The great adversary/Satan to the early Christians was the Roman and Jewish systems. The Jewish system passed away in A.D. 70, and Roman opposition ceased once the empire converted to Christianity under Constantine. Visible persecution of Christians ceased, for the most part. The lack of visible adversaries perhaps encouraged mainstream Christianity to conclude that the adversary/Satan was therefore invisible and cosmic. It was against this background that Augustine came onto the scene.
Satan in the Thought of Clement and Origen
One of the most gaping problems for those who believe in a personal Devil relates to what actually happened when Christ died. Hebrews 2:14 clearly states that in His death, Christ “destroyed him that has the power of death, that is the devil”. As I’ll explain later, I find the only meaningful and Biblically consistent approach here is to understand that the Devil is used here as a personification for sin—for it is sin which brings death (Romans 6:23). The entire curse on earth as a result of human sin is described in Genesis as being brought by God and not by any personal Satan. Sin and death are very frequently connected together in the Bible (Romans 5:12, 21; 6:16,23; 7:13; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:56; James 1:15). In none of those passages is there the slightest hint that it is a personal Satan who brings about our death; the cause of death is ultimately human sin. Yet Origen insisted that “the Devil controls the ultimate evil, death” (Against Celsus 4.92,93). The early “fathers”, having committed themselves to belief in a personal Satan, had to face the music from the Gnostics and other critics over these issues—seeing sin and evil continued and even increase daily in the world, how can it be that Christ destroyed the Devil? A purely Biblical position would’ve had no problem answering that objection—Christ destroyed the power of sin, in that we can now be forgiven and be counted as “in Christ” by baptism. He as our representative has enabled us to become in a position whereby all that is true of Him now stands true for us; and thereby our resurrection from the dead and receipt of eternal life is assured by His grace.
Satan in the Thought of Irenaeus and Tertullian
Wrestling yet further with the problem they’d created, the “fathers” then had to deal with the issue of how the death of Christ could destroy or damage Satan. Origen, Irenaeus and Tertullian created the idea that was developed and popularized later in novels and art—that God somehow tricked Satan. The reasoning went that Satan demanded the blood of Jesus, and so he made Jesus die—but unknown to Satan, Jesus was [supposedly] God, and He rose from the grave. Not only is Jesus never defined as ‘God’ in a trinitarian sense in the Bible; but the whole suggestion is purely fictional. The blood of Jesus was not “paid” to anyone. And an almighty God doesn’t need to trick Satan in order to win a game. Again we see that our view of God affects our view of Satan, and vice versa. And we see too that a forced, unnatural and unBiblical view of the atonement affects our view of Satan too. Gnostic and other criticism of ‘Christianity’ focused easily and powerfully on these contradictions and begged questions; and the “fathers” had to dig themselves yet deeper into a tortuous and contradictory theology. They were pushed on the point of whether Satan and his angels sinned at the same time and got thrown out of Heaven together; and whether in fact Satan and his angels committed the same sin, or different ones. Tertullian’s answer was that Satan sinned by envy, and was thrown out of Heaven for this. He then adjusted his view to say that Satan was given some period of grace between his sin and his expulsion, during which he corrupted some of the angels, and then they were thrown out after him. Clement, by contrast, insisted Satan and the angels fell together, at the same time. The answers of the “fathers” were totally fictional and not tied in at all to any actual Biblical statements. And yet these desperate men insisted they were guided to their views by God, and many generations of Christendom has blindly followed them. Tertullian likewise was pushed on the issue of whether Satan was an angel, or another kind of being—as the earlier church fathers had claimed. Tertullian amended the party line to claim that actually, Satan was an angel after all. He was then pushed on the issue of how exactly Satan and the angels got down to earth from Heaven. Seeing they had to travel through the air, Tertullian claimed [Apol. 22] that the Devil and his angels had wings.
Satan in the Thought of Justin Martyr
The response of the “Church fathers” was to claim that whilst indeed the world is in the hands of Satan, baptism frees a person from the power of the Devil. Hence baptism formulae started to speak of how demons were being expelled from a person¹. This contrasted sharply with the repeated New Testament evidence that baptism is for the forgiveness of personal sins, a becoming “in Christ”, covered against sin by His sacrifice (Acts 2:37,38; Colossians 2:12-14). None of the New Testament baptism passages, notably the exposition of baptism in Romans 6 and the institution of baptism in the great commission, ever mentioned it as being in order to exorcise demons or free us from the power of a personal being called the Devil. Produced around 180 A.D., the Apocryphal “Acts of Peter” consciously attempted to blend Gnosticism and Christianity by claiming that the negative aspects of this world are the fault of a personal Satan who snared Adam and “bound him… by the chain of the [human, sinful] body”. The Genesis record remains silent—and it’s a deafening silence—about any ‘Satan’ tempting Adam. The New Testament likewise states simply that sin entered the world by Adam—not by anyone or anything else (Romans 5:12).
Satan in the Thought of Lactantius and Athanasius
In the third and fourth centuries, Lactantius and Athanasius appeared as the leading Christian thinkers about the Devil. They continued the struggle to justify belief in a personal, fallen angel Devil against the obvious holes in the argument. In doing so they succeeded in accreting [expanding] yet more to the Devil idea, at times backtracking to or contradicting the arguments of previous “fathers”, as well as adding their own variations on the theme.
Sons of God and Daughters of Men
Genesis 6:2-4: “…the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown”.
The Anointed Cherub
Ezekiel 28:13-15 — “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of they tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou are the anointed cherub that covereth and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee”.
The Deconstruction of the ‘Satan’ Myth in Job
It strikes me as ironic that the mention of ‘Satan’ in the early chapters of Job has been speed-read as evidence for the orthodox concept of Satan as an evil being in opposition to God. For on closer reading of Job, especially against its background of Canaanite and Babylonian myths about Satan, it becomes apparent that one purpose of the book is to deconstruct the myth of an evil ‘Satan’ figure. The epic poem demonstrates that God is all powerful, the ultimate source of calamity, and yet He works through this to the ultimate happy blessing of His children.
The Devil After the New Testament
The New Testament reveals the same God as in the Old Testament. God is still presented as the source of our trials, of judgment, and the origin of sin is even more repeatedly located in the human mind. God’s supremacy is emphasized just as it was in the Old Testament. Even the beast of Revelation 17:17 ‘fulfills His will’. Those persecuted by it “suffer according to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:19). But the history we’re now going to consider reflects yet once again how God’s people have an endless desire to add to and change the most basic teachings of God’s word.
The Devil and Satan: The Hard Questions
The common understanding of the Devil as a fallen angel and personal being throws up a huge number of unanswerable questions—unanswerable, at least, within Scripture. This led Shelley to point out that popular Christianity’s view of the Devil was its weakest point: “The devil… is the weak place of the popular religion—the vulnerable belly of the crocodile… Christians invented or adopted the Devil to extricate them from this difficulty [of trying to understand the existence of a good God and the reality of evil]”¹. J.B. Russell thought likewise: “This has always been the weakest seam in Christian theology”². The sheer volume of contradictory mainstream Christian explanations of Satan and the mass of unanswered questions they generate is all confirmation of this observation. Within the context of speaking about practical consequences of our beliefs in this area, I wish to list these questions. I do so because any basis for belief, any framework for understanding the Gospel, which has so many gaping contradictions and difficulties is hardly going to inspire a solid, dynamic, stable relationship with God. The issues of sin and evil are ever present in our daily lives; and I sincerely believe that without a sound way of understanding the issue, a hermeneutic if you like, these contradictions and apparently ‘theoretical’ difficulties will come to term in a disordered and insecure life. So very often, it is a struggle with these issues [‘How could God do this or allow that?’] which leads to even a total loss of faith; and conversely, it is being able to make sense of sin and evil which allows God to confirm our faith through those negative experiences. So here are some of the questions thrown up by the mistaken ideas imported into Christendom on the devil issue—I catalogue them as part of my unashamed appeal for you to turn away from the common but false understanding of Satan which exists:
The Devil, Satan and Demons
It has been explained earlier that the Devil or Satan is not a personal being or monster. We’ve explained that the words simply mean ‘the adversary’, or ‘false accuser’. Sometimes these ideas are used in a metaphorical sense to refer to the sinful tendencies innate within human nature. If we accept that there is no such being as ‘Satan’, then it surely follows that demons, who are held to be the servants of the Devil, also do not exist. Many people seem to think that God gives us all the good things of life, and the Devil and his demons give us the bad things, and take away the good things which God gives us. But as we approach the specific issue of demons, let’s recap some of the basic Bible principles covered earlier.
The Language of the Day
We have demonstrated that in New Testament times, it was the language of the day to describe someone as being possessed with demons if they were mentally ill or had a disease which no one understood¹. The contemporary Roman and Greek cultural belief was that demons possessed people, thereby creating mental disease. Those Christians who believe in the existence of demons are effectively saying that the contemporary pagan beliefs in this area were perfectly accurate². The first century Jews definitely thought that ‘demons’ were ‘immortal souls’³. But the Bible knows nothing of ‘immortal souls’. Therefore we must conclude that the Bible speaks of contemporary ideas which are doctrinally wrong without highlighting the fact that they are wrong.
The Origin of Sin and Evil
Many believe that there is a being or monster called the Devil or Satan who is the originator of the problems which are in the world and in our own lives, and who is responsible for the sin which we commit. The Bible clearly teaches that God is all-powerful. We have seen in Study 2-1 that the angels cannot sin. If we truly believe these things, then it is impossible that there is any supernatural being at work in this universe that is opposed to Almighty God. If we believe that such a being does exist, then surely we are questioning the supremacy of God Almighty. Hence the importance of the matter. We are told in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus destroyed the Devil by His death; therefore unless we have a correct understanding of the Devil, we are likely to misunderstand the work and nature of Jesus.
The Power of Satan
Acts 26:18 — “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me”.
The Protestors: Resistance to the Popular Concept of the Devil
The Biblical conclusions of my next chapter are that the words ‘Satan’ [adversary] and ‘Devil’ [false accuser] are simply words which can be used in Scripture with no negative connotation; and that at times they essentially refer to the greatest ‘adversary’ we face, namely sin. Further, the idea of a personal Satan, a fallen angel, is simply not found in the Bible text. It is Scriptural study alone which is the basis for my conclusions, and I hope I would stand by them even with the whole world against me. For many readers these conclusions will be startling and concerning. But it should be appreciated that I am far from alone in having come to these understandings. Well known Christian writers and thinkers have come to just the same conclusions.
The Psychology of Belief in Demons
Demons are never described in the Bible as trying to tempt people or corrupt them; demons in the sense of demon possessed people often express faith in Christ. This is in sharp contrast to the assumption commonly made that demons are fallen angels intent on tempting people to sin—in Pentecostal churches we hear of a shopping demon, a smoking demon, a speeding demon, etc. But this simply isn’t how ‘demons’ are referred to in the New Testament. The Bible speaks of demons as being the idols which had been built to represent them; and it is stressed that these idols and the demons supposedly behind them don’t exist. And therefore “be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil”, nor have they any capacity to in fact do anything (Jeremiah 10:3-6; Psalms 115:2-9).
Some Conclusions on the Real Devil: A Network of Bible Truth
‘Satan’ in the Bible is a role, not a personal individual. It’s simply impossible to force every Bible reference to Satan to apply to a personal being of supernatural evil. There must be another approach or hermeneutic—and I suggest that this is in accepting that ‘satan’ simply means an adversary, and can refer to both good and bad adversaries of specific things at specific times.
The Serpent in Eden
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
Matthew 12:43-45: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth if empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
The synoptic gospels recount a considerable number of occasions when Jesus cast out demons or unclean spirits. In addition there are further references in John’s gospel, Acts and the Epistles. As a class these incidents constitute one of the biggest problems of interpretation in the New Testament. It can hardly be said that the answers usually supplied are completely satisfying.
Tempted of the Devil
The baptism of Jesus was followed immediately by his temptation: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:11). Here was the immediate inevitable clash between the two natures in the Son of God. The phrases “led of the Spirit” and “tempted of the devil” use the same preposition, as though emphasizing these two natures in him.
The Demoniac in the Synagogue at Capernaum
In normal circumstances the “ruler” of a Jewish synagogue had a free hand to invite whom he chose to discourse to the people. The one exception was that he could take that duty himself only by special request of the congregation. It is easy to understand Jesus being invited, on his first sabbath (Mark), to act as teacher in the only synagogue in Capernaum (Mark 1:21: the synagogue; cp. Luke 7:5 RV). Both his open-air teaching and his miracles in recent days had made the people eager to hear more. So synagogue preaching throughout Galilee became the Lord’s settled policy for a while to come (Luke 4:44 Gk.).
A Biblical Exposition of that Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan: Chapter 1
Sound thinking, that is, cultivated and well-directed common sense, applied to the discovery of truth, either natural or revealed, has followed the rule, That nothing ought to be believed as true, unless its truth can be demonstrated by an appeal to the facts recorded in the book of Creation, or to those revealed in the book of Revelation.
The God of Order versus the Devil's Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence
In the preceding Chapters we have endeavoured to demonstrate that there is no such being as the Devil, and have opened up the true meaning attached to the terms “devil,” “satan,” “demon,” and have shown that these are applicable to conditions in which the primary idea represented in each has appended to it some particularity justifying the distinct appellation.
The Devil and the Falsely-accusing State of Mind of Man
Man has three departments in his constitution, an animal, selfish in its tendencies; a moral and religious, or spiritual, universal in its tendencies; and an intellectual, operative in the formation and communication of ideas. The institutions of society are, in general, appeals to man’s nature; they patronise self; they give nutriment to self; they draw forth the abundant and destructive fruits of self. The religion of Christ, on the other hand, appeals to man’s moral and religious nature; it cultivates universality of feeling and the love-neighbour principle; it draws forth the fruits of kindness, of mercy, of justice, and of true humility God-ward. The distinction between the institutions of society and the requirements of the truth is forcibly depicted by the great teacher: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, love thine enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain, On the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” Matthew 5:38-48.
A Biblical Exposition of that Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan: Chapter 3
Another term which has been referred to in the preceding examination of the devil is....
Satan and the Adverse State of Health and Mind
It was proved in the previous Chapter that the word sathan or satan is applied, in a variety of instances, to human beings, and that the particular feature constituting a human being a satan is that the being is in a state of opposition—that is, in the attitude or relation of an adversary to the individual with whom he is brought into relationship. To be in such a state of opposition is to be an adversary; and that this word is strictly expressive of the meaning of the Hebrew word satan was proved, and many instances the Common Version of the Scriptures, where the word is so translated, were given.
A Biblical Exposition of that Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan: Chapter 5
It is a common opinion that Jesus and his disciples cast out “devils.” Such a statement is very frequently recorded in the Common Version of the New Testament; and, yet it is a fact, astounding in relation to a translated work (the very words of which translation are regarded with a peculiar reverence) that, not once, in the original Greek Scriptures, is Christ said, or are his disciples said, to have cast out either “a devil” or “devils.”
Manifestations by Those Supposed to be Possessed
Possessions, daimonia, must have been indicated by certain signs, otherwise such possessions could never have been inferred. Some deviations from the usual habits of the individual must have been presented to have induced the belief that the individual was influenced by some “supernatural” power. What then were the indications that the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews, beholding in an individual, ascribed to possessions?
Daimones are Demons and not Diaboloi (Devils)
It has been demonstrated that the daimones, and the daimonia, are not diaboloi, “devils,” “false-accusers.” It has been demonstrated that the first term (daimon) is expressive of a “departed human spirit,” and the second term (daimonion) of such “spirit” supposed to be in possession of living human beings. It has been shown that the belief in possessions prevailed amongst almost all the nations, the Jews included, at the time of Christ and of his apostles; while the assertion that such beings existed was a lie palmed upon mankind by an enslaving priesthood; and Paul, when referring to such “departed human ‘spirits’” deified and worshipped by the Gentiles, as plainly as words can express, declares them to be nothing: declares them to be delusions of the imagination: to be a lie.
The Devil of the Bible
In medieval times the devil was pictured as an immortal monster with great horns and hoofs, a fiendish character who tortured unfortunate sinners condemned to “hell.” A painting depicting such a creature tending the fires of hell, suggesting unbelievable torture of the victims, is still in existence in a church in England.
Two Jots, No Tittles
In Judaism, the “yetzer hara” refers to the inclination to do evil, present at birth, which is capable of violating the will of God. The term is drawn from the phrase “the imagination of the heart of man [is] evil” which occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible, at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21. Within Judaism, stretching all the way back to the Second Temple Period, the “yetzer hara” was synonymous with “Satan.”
Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning “adversary” Arabic: شيطان shaitan, meaning; “astray,” “distant,” or sometimes “devil”) is a figure of opposition appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions. Some religious groups teach that this figure originated as an angel who fell out of favor with God, seducing humanity into the ways of sin, and who has power in the fallen world. In the Hebrew Bible, however, the noun has been used to simply represent an accuser or adversary.
Demon; Demoniac; Demonology
dē ́mon, dē̇-mō ́ni-ak, dē-mon-ol ́ō̇-ji (δαιμόνιον, daimónion, earlier form δαίμων, daímōn = πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον, πονηρόν, pneúma akátharton, ponērón, “demon,” “unclean or evil spirit,” incorrectly rendered “devil” in the King James Version):