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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Demon, Demoniacal Possession, Demoniacs

DEMON, DEMONIACAL POSSESSION, DEMONIACS

1. The demonology of the Gospels is based upon beliefs which were current among the Jews previous to the time of Christ; these beliefs arose gradually, and were ultimately stereotyped in the Talmud. For the proper understanding of Gospel demonology some insight into these Jewish beliefs is indispensable. But the demonology of the Jews was profoundly influenced and coloured, at different times, by Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, and Greek teaching on the subject, while the beliefs of these highly cultured peoples were developments of the much earlier conceptions of man in a very much lower stage of civilization,—conceptions which are practically universally prevalent among savage races at the present day. To deal with the subject, therefore, in all its bearings would be impossible here; it must suffice to give references to a few of the many works which deal with the different branches of this vast subject. Details of Jewish demonology must, however, be given, for it will be seen that they are necessary for a proper understanding of Gospel demonology; added to these will be found some few references to the earlier beliefs upon which they are based.

For the beliefs of primitive man

Maury, La Magie et l’Astrologie dans l’antiquite et au moyenage, Paris, 1857; Frazer, The Golden Dough 2, ch. iii. passim. London, 1900; Lang, The Making of Religion 2, ch. vii., London, 1900; Tylor, Primitive Culture, ch. xiv. etc., but the whole work should be studied. Cf. Réville’s Hist. of Religions, chs. iii.–vi., London, 1884.* [Note: There are a number of works on Comparative Religion in which the beliefs in demons and the like are incidentally dealt with; but a detailed list of these would be inappropriate here.]

For Assyro-Babylonian beliefs

Budge, Assyrian Incantations to Fire and Water, London, 1883; Hommel, Gesch. Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] und Ass. pp. 237–269, 388 ff., Berlin, 1885; Jastrow, Die Rei. Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] und Ass. ch. xvi., Giessen, 1902 ff. [this is enlarged from the Eog. translation]; A. Jeremias, Das AT [Note: T Altes Testament.] im Lichte des alten Orients, pp. 218 ff., 330, 340 ff., Leipzig, 1904; King, Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, London, 1896, Babylonian Religion and Mythology, p. 200 ff., London, 1899; Lenormant, La Magie chez les Chaldéens et les origines accadiennes, Paris, 1875; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, v., London, 1887; Stube, Jüdisch-babylonische Zaubertexte, Halle, 1895. Many indirect points of importance will be found in Ball’s Light from the East, London, 1899; Morgenstern, ‘Doctr. of Sin in the Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] Rel.’ in Mittheil. der vorderasiat. Gesellsch. iii., 1905; Weber, ‘Dämonenbeschworung bei den Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] und Assyr. [Note: Assyrian.] ’ in Der Alte Orient, vii. 4, Leipzig, 1906.

For Egyptian beliefs

Budge, Egyptian Magic, ch. vii., London, 1899; Ed. Meyer, Gesch. des alten Aegyptens, ch. iii., Berlin, 1887; Wiedemann, ‘Magie und Zauberei im alten Aegypten,’ in Der alte Orient, vi. 4, Leipzig, 1905, cf. also, by same author, and in same series, iii. 4, ‘Die Unterhaltungslit. der alten Aegypter.’

For Persian beliefs

Darmesteter, The Zend-A vesta (Part i. ‘The Veodidad’), Fargard xix., xxi.; Geiger, Ostiranische Kultur im Alterthum, § 38, Erlangeo, 1882; Haug, Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings and Religion of the Parsis3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] (translation by E. H. West), London, 1884; Spiegel, Eranische Alterthumskunde, vol. ii., Leipzig, 1871–1878; Stave, Ueber den Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judenthum, Haarlem, 1898 [see especially the third division, §§ 4, 5. A most helpful book on this particular branch of the subject]; Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, pp. 138–148, Berlin, 1863.

For Greek beliefs

Gruppe, Die Griechischen Culte und Mythen …, i. pp. 184–196, Leipzig, 1887; Maury, Hist. des Religions de la Grèce antique, i. pp. 565–581, ii. pp. 91–93, iii. pp. 419–443, Paris, 1857; Preller, Griechische Mythologie4 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , under ‘Daemonen,’ Berlin, 1887; Roscher, Lexikon der Gr. und Rom. [Note: Roman.] Mythologie, art. ‘Daimon’ [where full literature on the subject is given], Leipzig, 1884, etc. See also Lobeck, Agioaphamus, pp. 695, 696, 1092, Berlin, 1829.

For a résumé of Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, and Greek influeoce on Jewish demonology, see the remarkably able series of articles by F. C. Conybcare in JQR [Note: QR Jewish Quarterly Review.] viii. ix. (1896, 1897). See also Encyc. Bibl. art. ‘Demons,’ §§ 7, 11.

2. The Old Testament.—The demonology of the OT is probably somewhat more complex than is sometimes assumed. [Note: ‘It is singular that the OT is so free from demonology, hardly containing more than one or two examples thereof’ (F. C. Conybeare, loc. cit. above).] The analogy of other races would prima facie support the inference that the Israelites also had their beliefs in demons (see Literature below). Much weight cannot be laid on the (not frequent) occurrence of δαίμων and δαιμόνιον in the LXX Septuagint, as they stand for varying words in the original; but there are a number of Hebrew expressions which must be connected with demons, it all events as far as the popular imagination was concerned; these are: רוּחַ רָעָה ‘evil spirit, Judges 9:23, 1 Samuel 16:14; רוּחַ עָוְעָים ‘spirit of perverseness,’ Isaiah 19:14 : שִׁדים ‘demons’, Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalms 106:37; שְׂעירִים ‘satyrs,’ Leviticus 17:7, Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; קָמָב ‘destruction,’ conceived of as due to demoniac power, see the whole verse, Psalms 91:6; עֳליקָה ‘female blood-sucker,’ Proverbs 30:15; לִילִית ‘night-hag,’ Isaiah 34:13-14; עֳוָאוִל, Leviticus 16:8 ff. ‘Azazel,’ a desert spirit. This last instance clearly shows how firmly embedded in popular imagination was this belief in evil powers of the solitude.* [Note: Whitehouse in Hastings’ DB i. 591a.] It is true that Babylonian influence during and after the Exile was responsible for much of this; [Note: lb.] but that the Israelites from the earliest times, like every other race, peopled the world with innumerable unseen powers, cannot admit of doubt. According to OT conceptions, the evil spirits are not the subjects of some supreme ruler; in the earlier books they are represented as fulfilling the commands of Jehovah in doing harm to men, but later on they seem to enjoy complete independence, though even here the conceptions are not consistent (cf. Job 1:6-12). When we come to the Apocrypha, we find that an immense development has taken place; see, e.g., Tobit 3:6; Tobit 3:8; Tobit 6:7; Tobit 6:17; Tobit 8:2 f., Baruch 4:7; Baruch 4:35, Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, Sirach 21:27; cf. as regards other late literature the Book of Enoch 15. 16. 19. 53. The more important literature bearing on this branch of the subject is as follows:—

W. R. Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 120 ff.; Wellhausen, Reste Arab. [Note: Arabic.] Heident.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] p. 148 ff.; Doughty, Arabia Deserta, ii. p. 188 ff.; Curtiss, Primitive Semitic Religion To-day, pp. 68, 184, etc.; Nowack, Heb. Arch. ii. p. 186 ff.; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, 1887, p. 146, etc.; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, the Encyc. Bibl., and the Jewish Encyc. under artt. ‘Demons,’ ‘Lilith,’ ‘Azazel’; Hamburger’s Real.-Encyc., Riehm’s HWBA, Herzog’s PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] under artt. ‘Geister,’ ‘Feldgeister,’ ‘Damonen,’ etc. Other works that should be consulted are: Baudissin, Studien zur Sem. [Note: Semitic.] Volksrelig.; Lagrange, Études sur les rel. Semit. 2; Frazer, Golden Bough2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , ii.

3. Later Judaism. [Note: By this is meant the period during which the Talmud was in process of formation; it was not completed until about a.d. 500, but the traditions concerning demons and the general teaching on the subject (even in the latest portions) embody conceptions of much earlier date.] —The following are the Talmudic words for demons: , מַלְאֳבָי חבלה (πνεύματα), רוּחַ טוּמָאָה (πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον), רוּחַ רָעָה (πνεῦμα πονηρόν), רוּחַ שֵר (πνεῦμα δαίμονος). See further below. While it is abundantly clear that external influences have left their marks on Jewish demonology, it is certain that much of the latter was of indigenous growth; the whole system, so immense, so intricate, and in many respects so puerile, is stamped too plainly with the Judaic genius for this to be questioned. Only a very brief summary of the main points can be here indicated.§ [Note: The details here given have been gathered from a large number of sources which cannot be individually specified; see the Literature at the end of this article.]

(a) Origin of demons.—As has not infrequently been found to be the case with Jewish tradition, there are varying accounts; in this case two distinct traditions exist. According to the one, it is said that the demons were created|| [Note: | It is their supposed creation on a Friday which makes this day one of ill-omen.] by God before the world was made; Satan, [Note: Satan, according to another account, was created at the same time as Eve; Cain was their offspring (cf. Genesis 4:1 where the Heb. קָנָה is not the usual word for begetting). ‘Baal-zebul’ is also regarded, in the Talmud, as a prince among demons, and is looked upon as the most evil of all evil spirits.] who is identical with the serpent, is the chief of the demons. They were of both sexes, and their species was propagated through cohabitation with Adam and Eve during a period of 130 years after the Creation. The other tradition is based on Genesis 6:1-8 (cf. 2 Peter 2:4-5); two angels, Assael and Shemachsai, loved the daughters of men, and, forsaking their allegiance to God, descended from heaven to earth; one of these angels returned to heaven and did not sin, but the other accomplished his desire, and his offspring became demons.

(b) The nature of demons.—The general name for all demons is mazzîkîn (מַוָּיקָץ), and this indicates their nature, מַוָּיק = ‘one who does harm.’** [Note: * This is illustrated in John 8:37; John 8:41; John 8:44 ‘Ye seek to kill me … ye do the works of your father … ye are of your father the devil.’] The head of them is Satan (הַשָטַן = ‘the adversary’); it is his aim to mislead men into evil, and then to accuse them before God, hence the further name מקטנר (κατήγορος) = ‘accuser’ (cf. Zechariah 3:1). He is at liberty to enter the Divine presence at all times (cf. Job 1:6) and accuse men before God; only on the Day of Atonement is he refused admittance. As the angel of death, he is identical with Sammael, who is known also as ‘the head of all the Satans.’ The kingdom of Satan (cf. Mark 3:23 ff.) consists of himself, as head, and an innumerable horde of angels or messengers (מַלאָבים) who do his will;* [Note: The very term ‘the angel of Satan’ is used, cf. ἀγγελος Σατανᾶ, 2 Corinthians 12:7.] this is the exact antithesis of the kingdom of God [Note: the dualistic system of the Persians, which has influenced Judaism here.] (see, further, Satan). These constitute the first grade of demons, those who were created before the world was made; these were originally in the service of God, but rebelled against Him (cf. Luke 10:18).

There are also demons of a lower grade, those, namely, who came into being during the 130 years after the Creation, and who are semi-human; [Note: Among the Greeks the demons stand between men and gods, and all the elements of mythology that were derogatory to the character of the national deities were referred to the demons. Greek influence, therefore, stimulated the growth of Hebrew angelology and demonology (Hastings’ DB, art. ‘Demons’).] they occupied a position between God and man.§ [Note: According to another tradition, these semi-human demons originated thus: God had created their souls, but before He had time to create their bodies the Sabbath dawned; they were thus neither men nor angels, and became demons.] They have the names (besides those given above) of shçdîm,|| [Note: | A loan-word from Assyr.-Bab. šidu = ‘good, or evil genius.’] lîlîn [Note: The Assyr.-Bab. lilitu, ‘Lilith.’] and rûhîn (Aramaic; Heb. rûhôth** [Note: * They are also known under the general term רוּחָין בָּישָין (τνεύματα σονηρά); Blau holds that originally the רוּחוֹת were the spirits of the departed, see Das altjudische Zauberwesen, p. 14.] ); the first of these is their commonest name. The head of these lower-grade demons is Asmedai† [Note: † This is one of the chief signs of Persian influence; Asmedai is horrowed from the Persian demon of lust. Aeshma daeva.] (Asmodaeus, Tobit 3:8, cf. Tobit 6:14; Tobit 8:3); they have the power of becoming visible or invisible at will; they have wings, and fly all over the world‡ [Note: ‡ Cf. ‘the prince of the power of the air’ (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12). It was a Persian belief.] for the purpose of harming men; in three respects they resemble man, for they eat and drink, they are able to propagate their species, and are subject to death; they also have the power of assuming various forms, but they usually choose that of men, though with the difference that their feet are hens’ feet, and they are without shadows; they are very numerous (cf. Mark 5:9)—7½ millions is said to be the number of them, while elsewhere it is stated that every man has ten thousand on his right hand, and a thousand on his left (cf. Psalms 91:5-7). They live mostly in desert places (cf. Luke 8:29), where their yells can be heard (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10 ‘howling wilderness’); also in unclean places, where their power is great, e.g. in the בֵּית הבסא; in waterless places (cf. Luke 11:24), for water is the means of cleansing;§§ [Note: § Drinking water at night is especially dangerous, presumably because the wrath of the demon would be aroused by the use of water during his privileged period of activity, the night-time.] and among tombs|| || [Note: | || ‘Cemeteries were regarded with awe by the ancient Egyptians, because of the spirits of the dead who dwelt in them’ (Budge, Egyptian Magic, p. 219).] (cf. Mark 5:2), dead bodies being unclean;¶ [Note: ¶ Even at the present day a cohen who looks upon a corpse is unclean.] they are most dangerous to the traveller, more especially if he travels alone; they tend to congregate together (cf. Luke 11:26; Luke 8:2; Luke 8:30); at certain times they are more dangerous than at others, viz. at mid-day, when the heat is intense, and from sunset to cock-crowing (cf. Psalms 91:5-6, Mark 14:72, John 13:27; John 13:30), after which they return to their abode. Unlike angels, who understand only Hebrew (the ‘holy tongue’ לָשׁוֹן הַקָרשׁ), demons can understand all languages, for they are active among the Gentiles as well as among the Jews, whereas angels restrict their activity among men to the children of Abraham. The power for harm of the demons is greatest among the sick, among women in child-birth, among brides and bridegrooms, mourners, and those who are about to become teachers; further, those who travel by night, and children who are out after dark are specially subject to their attacks. There is one demon, Shabriri, who makes people blind (cf. Matthew 12:22), and there is a special demon of leprosy, and a demon of heart-disease. As emissaries of the angel of death, Sammael (the ‘full of eyes,’ cf. the Greek Argus), men are in constant dread of them (cf. Hebrews 2:14-16). It was also believed that demons were able to transfer some of their powers to men, and especially to women; so, for example, the secret of magic drinks, which could harm people in various ways (cf. Mark 16:18), and change them into animals; they could also endow men with the faculty of exercising the ‘evil eye’ (cf. Mark 7:22, see also Sirach 31:13, and cf. Sirach 14:8; Sirach 14:10, Tobit 4:16), by means of which the good fortune of others could be turned to evil; there is a special formula for use against the ‘evil eye.’* [Note: The superstition of the ‘evil eye,’ the possession of which is regarded as being due to the indwelling of an evil spirit, both in animals and in human beings, is still universally prevalent among the peasantry of all European countries; the writer has personally met with some curious instances in the country districts of Lower Austria.] There are certain animals in league with the demons (cf. Luke 8:32), such as serpents (cf. Mark 16:18, Acts 28:3-6), bulls, [Note: This is due to Assyro-Bah. influence: Satan is believed to dance between the bull’s horns.] donkeys, [Note: This is due to Egyptian (Typhon-worship) influence; according to Plutarch the ass was considered demoniac (ὁαιμονικον) in Egypt, because of its resemblance to Typhon (de Is. et Os. 30).] and mosquitoes. The shçdim are male demons; female demons are called lilin, ‘night-spirits,’ from the qneen of the demons, Lilith (cf. Isaiah 34:14); they have long flowing hair, and are the enemies of children, for which reason special angels have charge of children (cf. Matthew 18:10, Hebrews 1:14).

(c) Safeguards against demons.§ [Note: In the Talmud there is no word for ‘possession‘; it is true that an ‘evil spirit’ is once spoken of as ‘dwelling’ in a person, but this is the same word as is used for the Shekinah ‘taking up its abode with’ someone; Shekinah, however, in the Talmud is not a personality, but rather an inspiration. A demun, or evil spirit, is said to take hold of a man, to injure him, or to speak to him; there may he one or two possible exceptions, but, generally speaking, demoniacal action is all external to those who are under its influence. This is in striking contrast to the Gospel accounts.] —God is the only ultimate protector against demons; but He sends His angels to counteract their deeds, and to help men to withstand their attacks (cf. Matthew 18:10, Mark 1:13). At the same time, God has given to man various means whereby to nullify the machinations of demons. First among these is the saying of the Shema‘ (i.e. the Jewish profession of faith contained in Deuteronomy 6:4 ff.), because the holy name occurs in it; then, prayer to God (cf. Mark 9:29). There are also special formulas which are effective, either for warding off an attack or for throwing off the demoniacal influence, e.g. ‘The Lord rebuke thee, Satan’ (cf. Zechariah 3:2, Judges 1:9); Psalms 91 is recommended for recitation before going to sleep; a demon may be chased away by repeatedly calling out his name, but uttering one syllable less each time;|| [Note: | See the use of a ‘name’ in Stube, Jud. -bab. Zaubertexte, p. 25, and many further details in Blau, Das altjud. Zauberwesen, pp. 61 ff., 156ff.; cf. To 6:10, 8:3. Exorcism of demons, to whom all sickness was ascribed, was very ancient in Egypt.] obedience to certain commands is also a safe-guard, e.g. fixing the mĕzu̇zâh, [Note: A small glass or metal case, containing Deuteronomy 4:6-9; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 4:21 written on parchment, which is fixed upon the right-hand post of the door of the house and of each room. It was done in obedience to the command in Deuteronomy 11:20.] and wearing the tĕphillin;* [Note: ‘Head -ornaments’: small leathern cases, containing Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 11:1-6, Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-14 written on parchment; these are bound round the head and left arm by means of long leather straps. This was done in obedience to the command in Deuteronomy 11:18. The Greek name (φυλακτήρια) shows that they were regarded as safeguards, i.e. against demons (cf. Matthew 23:5). Both this and the custom just mentioned are observed by all orthodox Jews at the present day.] to eat salt (cf. ‘salt of the covenant,’ Leviticus 2:13, see Mark 9:47-50) at and after meals, and to drink water is also efficacious. Demons love the darkness and hate the light (cf. Luke 22:53, Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 1:13), hence a lighted torch sends them away, but the light of the moon is most potent in scaring them. On Passover night the demons have no power.

4. The Gospels.—Demons are designated by various names in the Gospels, viz. δαιμόνιον Matthew 10:8 (δαίμων is sometimes found, it would imply more definite personality), πνεῦμα Luke 9:39, πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον Matthew 10:1 (τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα Matthew 12:43), πνεῦμα πονηρόν Luke 7:21, πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου Luke 4:33, πνεῦμα ἅλαλον Mark 9:17. In Matthew δαιμόνιον is almost always used; in Mark both δαιμόνιον and πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον occur frequently, though the latter predominates; in Luke there is a more varied use; in John the few references to a demon (the plural does not occur) are always in relation to Christ, and the word used is always δαιμόνιον. In the vast majority of cases these expressions are used in the plural form.

(a) Origin of demons.—The existence of demons is taken for granted in the Gospels, and nothing is said directly concerning their origin; however, as is shown below, Satan, Beelzebub, and the ‘prince of the demons’ are one and the same, and Christ speaks of His having seen Satan falling ‘as lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18). This last passage would seem to imply that Satan was in existence before the world was made, which would agree with the one rational tradition on the subject preserved in the Talmud. There are, moreover, also one or two indications in other NT books which support this, e.g. 1 John 3:8 ‘the devil sinneth from the beginning,’ Revelation 20:2 ‘the old serpent which is the Devil.’

(b) The nature of demons.—That possession often takes the form of a purely physical disorder is clear; yet from the expressions used to designate demons, given above, they were undoubtedly regarded as being morally evil. On the one hand, possession is frequently mentioned in the same category as ordinary sickness (e.g. Matthew 10:1), dumbness is said to be due to possession (Matthew 9:33, Luke 11:14), so too epilepsy (Matthew 17:15) and blindness (Matthew 12:22); demons are spoken of as taking up their abode in a man without his having, apparently, any choice in the matter (Mark 5:1 ff.); it is, moreover, noteworthy, that the wicked (i.e. Pharisees, publicans, and sinners) are never spoken of as being possessed (e.g. Luke 11:39 ff; Luke 15:1), and the possessed are permitted to enter the synagogue (Mark 1:23, Luke 4:33), which would hardly have been the case had they been regarded as notoriously evil; another fact which should be taken into consideration in this connexion is our Lord’s words to the demons (see below). On the other hand, the evidence is still stronger for possession having been regarded as a moral as well as a physical disorder. Demons are directly referred to as evil (Luke 7:21; Luke 8:2); there are degrees of badness among them (Matthew 12:45), some are merely malignant, some do more physical harm than others (Matthew 15:22, where κακῶς δαιμονἰζεται implies some specially virulent form of possession), some are reterred to as being morally as well as physically harmful (Luke 8 :2 πνευμάτων πονηρῶν, Luke 11:26); [Note: also the distinction in Luke 13:32ἐκβάλλω δαιμὀνια κκι ἱασεις ἁτοτελῶ.] in one case a demon is such that it can only be expelled by prayer (Mark 9:29), [Note: The addition of καί νηστεια is not well attested.] which implies that in the generality of cases this was not necessary, and, indeed, we find this to be the case, since in every other recorded instance the word was sufficient. Then, again, Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, is identified with Satan (Matthew 12:24-30, Mark 3:22-30, Luke 11:15-19, cf. Revelation 16:14), and Satan himself is by name reckoned among the demons in Luke 10:17-20; and he is the originator of sin in man, as shown by the Temptation, the parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24 ff.), and the sin of Judas (see especially Luke 22:3). The demons are intangible, incorporeal,* [Note: Ignatius (ad Smyrn. iii. 2), who tells us that Christ said to His disciples after His resurrection: οὐκ εἰμὶ δαιμόνιον ἁσώματον.] and (if one excepts those passages in which Satan is represented as having been seen, e.g. Luke 10:18; Luke 4:5 ff.) invisible; ‘the NT writers believed that the physical constitution of a spirit, whether holy or impure, was akin to vapour.’ The demon enters (εἰσέρχεται) a man at will, and he goes out (ἐξέρχεται) at will (Luke 11:24), but in most cases he goes out only on compulsion (ἐκβάλλειν); he is also able to take possession of animals (Mark 5:13); there are good grounds for the supposition that a storm-fiend was believed in, as will be seen by comparing the phraseology of the two following passages: Mark 4:39 ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσοῃ Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο; Mark 1:25 ἐπετίμησεν αὑτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων Φιμώθητι.… [Note: Conybeare in JQR ix. 460; see also an example of a spell addressed to the storm-god in Sayce’s Hibbert Lectures, p. 317.] Desolate places, such as the desert (Luke 8:29), or mountainous regions (Mark 5:5), or among tombs [Note: the highly interesting inscription, the text of which is given in Deissmann’s Bibelstudien, p. 26 ff.] (Mark 5:2), and waterless places (Luke 11:24), i.e. places to which men come only in small numbers or singly, are those for which demons have a preference. They are represented as congregating together (Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30), sometimes in sevens§ [Note: Companies of seven evil spirits are not infrequently mentioned in Assyr.-Bab. incantations, e.g. ‘there are seven wicked sons of the abyss,’ which occurs in an incantation to fire; see Budge’s Assyrian Incantations to Fire and Water; cf. also the ‘seven wicked spirits’ in ancient Babylonian belief (Sayce, op. cit. iii.).] (Luke 8:2; Luke 11:26, cf. Revelation 1:4); for this reason the plural form is usually employed. In Mark 5:10 the demons beseech Christ not to send them out of the country; they are thus able to speak, or, at all events, so to overmaster their victim as to make his faculties their own (Mark 1:26). Nothing is said in the Gospels, directly, as to where the permanent home of the demons is,|| [Note: | The ‘eternal fire’ is, according to Matthew 25:41, reserved for the devil and his angels; but there is no mention of these in Luke 16:23 ff., where the flame in Hades is spoken of.] but the ‘abyss’ is spoken of as, apparently, a place whence they could not return if once banished there; this would, at all events, account for their entreaty not to be banished thither in Luke 8:31; [Note: In the parallel passages there is no mention of the abyss (cf. Matthew 8:31, Mark 5:10).] they clearly realized that a time of torment was in store for them (Matthew 8:29), and that this torment might take place before the appointed time (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:26), and so the sight of Christ filled them with dread.

There is nothing in the Gospels to show that demons were believed to be the unquiet spirits of the wicked departed, and the belief that they were heathen gods is equally absent (cf., on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 1 Corinthians 10:28).

(c) Demoniacal possession, demoniacs.—The usual term for this is δαιμονιζόμενος (e.g. Matthew 4:24), but a number of other expressions for it are found in the Gospels, viz. δαιμονισθείς (Mark 5:18, Luke 8:36), ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ (Mark 1:23; Mark 5:2 ἐν = ‘in the power of’), ἔχων δαιμόνια (Luke 8:27), ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου (Luke 4:33), ἐνοχλούμενος ὑπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων (Luke 6:18), ἐλαυνόμενος ἀπὸ τοῦ δαίμονος (Luke 8:29), σεληνιάζεσθαι (Matthew 4:24).

With but few exceptions those who are said to be possessed are grown-up men; the exceptions are: certain women who had been healed of evil spirits, and Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2); the woman who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years (Luke 13:11; Luke 13:16); Peter’s wife’s mother (see below, Luke 4:39); a boy (Luke 9:39); and the little daughter of the Syro-Phœnician woman (Mark 7:25). It is, however, probable that others, besides men, are included in such passages as Mark 1:32 ff., Luke 7:21. The signs of possession may be thus summarized: dumbness (Matthew 9:33, Mark 9:18), dumbness and deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness and dumbness (Matthew 12:22), savage fierceness (Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:4, Luke 8:29), abnormal strength (Mark 5:4, Luke 8:29), falling into the lire and water (Matthew 17:15), convulsions (Mark 1:26; Mark 9:20, Luke 4:35), raving (Mark 5:5), grinding the teeth (Mark 9:18), foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39; Luke 9:42). These are all signs of epilepsy (σεληνιάζεσθαι); in Matthew 4:24 the σεληνιαζόμενοι are distinguished from the δαιμονιζόμενοι.* [Note: See, further, Delitzsch, System der bibl. Psychologie, § 16.] Fever would also appear to have been regarded as a sign of possession, for Christ is said to ‘rebuke’ (ἐπετίμησεν) the fever, the identical word which is frequently used by Him when addressing demons, e.g. in the next verse but one to the passage in question (Luke 4:41). One other sign of possession must be noted, a man who is ‘mad,’ in the modern sense of being out of his mind, is said to have a demon; this is said of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:18), and of Christ (John 10:20).

A demoniac is spoken of as the dwelling-place of a demon (Matthew 12:45), and a number of demons can dwell in one person (Matthew 12:45, Mark 5:9, Luke 8:2). Sometimes the demon is differentiated from the man possessed (Mark 1:24), at other times the two are identified (Mark 3:11); striking in this respect is the passage Mark 5:1-20; [Note: ‘What in the demoniac strikes us most is the strange confusion of the physical and the psychical, each intruding into the proper domain of the other’ (Trench, Miracles, ad loc.).] diflerentiation is strongly marked when an expression such as that in Luke 6:18 is used: οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων. Lastly, the same outward signs are at one time spoken of as possession, at another as ordinary sickness (cf. Matthew 4:25; Matthew 17:15 etc.).

(d) Christ and the demons.—One of Christ’s chief works on earth was to annihilate the power of demons; the demons themselves realize this (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34, and cf. 1 John 3:8); the destruction of their kingdom was necessary for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Christ’s attitude towards demons may be briefly summed up as follows:—With two exceptions (viz. the case of the woman ‘bound by Satan’ for eighteen years, Luke 13:11; Luke 13:16, and that of Peter’s wife’s mother, Luke 4:39) no instance is recorded of His laying His hands upon, or in any way coming in direct contact with one who is possessed by a demon. On the other hand, His words are never severe when addressing the possessed; very remarkable, moreover, is the fact that even when He speaks to the demon itself, Christ’s words are never angry; He ‘rebukes’ the demon (Mark 1:25, Luke 4:35), but the words of rebuke are simply: ‘Hold thy peace and come out of him,’ or a command that He should not be made known [Note: For the reason of Christ’s not wishing to he made known see Sanday in JThSt, v. p. 321 ff., and Wrede, ‘Zur Messiaser-kennthis der Damonen hei Markus,’ in ZNTW v. [1904] p. 169 ff.] (Mark 3:12, but cf. Luke 8:39); on one occasion the request of demons is granted (Matthew 8:31-32 = Mark 5:12-13 = Luke 8:32). The power which Christ has over demons is absolute, they are wholly subject unto Him, and are compelled to yield Him obedience (Mark 1:27, Luke 4:41); that it is an

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Demon, Demoniacal Possession, Demoniacs'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/d/demon-demoniacal-possession-demoniacs.html. 1906-1918.

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