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.
“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)
Satan and the Evil Inclination in Hebrew Poetry
One way to identify Hebrew poetry is through the use of “Thought Rhyme” (also known as “Parallelism”). Synonymous parallelism is where the thought of the first line is repeated in the second line, expressed in different words for emphasis. A good example is found in Psalms 24:2:
Seizure’s Lament: An Epileptic’s Documentary
Background: A Seizure’s Lament was first commissioned by the 2011 Deep Wireless Festival in Toronto and aired on CBC Radio’s Living Out Loud. It later aired on CBC Radio’s Tapestry and was featured at the Third Coast Filmless Festival in Chicago and PRX’s How Sound show.
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.
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.
Legion and the Gadarene Pigs
Mark 5:1-17 (Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-38) “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region”.
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).
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.
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 Gadarene Swine
Mark 5:1-19. How are the various details in this incident to be understood? Did “something” pass out of the man, and pass into the swine? If so, what? What is the origin, and the significance, of the words recorded in verse 7?
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):
The English word “lunatic,” which in popular speech signifies a sufferer from any mental derangement, whether periodic or chronic, other than congenital idiocy, appears in the King James Version as a translation of the Greek word σεληνιάζομαι, selēniázomai, in the two passages where it occurs. In the Revised Version the word has very properly been displaced by the strictly accurate term “epileptic.” This change is justified not only by the extra-Biblical usage (see Liddell and Scott, under the word), but clearly enough by Matthew 17:15 (compare Matthew 4:24), where epilepsy is circumstantially described.
Epilepsy is a group of neurological diseases characterized by epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures are episodes that can vary from brief and nearly undetectable to long periods of vigorous shaking. These episodes can result in physical injuries including occasionally broken bones. In epilepsy, seizures tend to recur, and have no immediate underlying cause. Isolated seizures that are provoked by a specific cause such as poisoning are not deemed to represent epilepsy. People with epilepsy in some areas of the world experience stigma due to the condition.