Demons and Demon Possession (Acts 5)

A Special Study by Gareth L. Reese

Excerpted from Acts:  A Critical & Exegetical Commentary
(Moberly, MO: Scripture Exposition Books LLC, 2002)
Download a printable PDF of this Special Study



             One wonders if we are not inclined to shrug off the thought of demons and spirits today, ignoring in the process the tremendous volume of references to these beings found in both the Old and New Testaments.  The very thought of unseen agents of Satan involves a concept to which not a few are unwilling to subscribe.  Surely, it’s thought, such things have no place in this age of scientific research and reason.  Or do they?

        The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, speaks of the warfare of the Christian and describes the situation in these words, “For our fight is not against any physical enemy:  it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual.  We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.”[1]  If we are confronted with an “unseen power,” if that power “controls” the world in which we live, and if he sends out “spiritual agents,” are we not being utterly foolish to ignore their reality and the means whereby they may be defeated?

        The etymology of the term “demon” (daimonion), in the earlier language daimōn, is not too certain.  Both words are translated “devil” in the KJV, but they are carefully distinguished in the original from the term diabolosIn the ASV the words are rendered by the word “demon,” and both words are used as synonymous both by pagan and sacred writers.  As far, then, as the derivation is concerned, Plato derived it from daemon, an adjective formed from dao, signifying “knowing” or “intellect.”[2]  Eusebius derived it from the word deimaino, “to be terrified.”[3]  Proclus derived it from daio, “to distribute,” because demons were supposed to assign the lots or destinies of men.[4]



     A. In the Pagan Writers

        The term went through several changes and modifications in the time between Homer and the writing of the Septuagint.

    • In Homer, where the gods are but supernatural men, “demon” is used interchangeably with theos (gods).[5] Demons were thought to be the souls of good men, which upon their departure from the body were called heroes, and were afterwards raised to the dignity of demons, and subsequently to that of gods.[6] And Plato says, “The poets speak excellently who affirm that when the good men die, they attain great honor and dignity, and become demons.”[7]
    • A second stage in the development of the term “demon” appears in post-Homeric usage when demons were conceived as being intermediaries between the gods and men. When the idea of gods had become more exalted and less familiar, the demons are spoken of by Hesiod as intermediate beings, the messengers of the gods to men.[8] After writing, “Every demon is a middle being between God and mortal,” Plato went on to explain what he meant by “middle being.”  “God is not approached immediately by man, but all the commerce and intercourse between gods and men are performed by the mediation of demons.”  Then Plato enters into further particulars, saying, “Demons are reporters and carriers from men to the gods, and again from the gods to men, of the supplications and prayers of the one, and of the injunctions and rewards of the other.”[9]
    • A third stage of development came when the estimate of demons was lowered even more, as the philosophers attempted to exalt the gods. Demons were now held to be malignant by nature, and not merely so when provoked. It was also now believed that the souls of bad men became evil demons.[10]  Plutarch wrote, “It is a very ancient opinion that there are certain wicked and malignant demons, who envy good men, and endeavor to hinder them in the pursuit of virtue, lest they should be partakers of greater happiness than they enjoy.”[11]  Pythagoras held that certain demons sent diseases to men and cattle.[12]
     B. In Jewish Thought
          • Rabbinic demonology is full of distortion of Biblical truths.  “The fall of Satan and his angels, in rabbinic demonology, is strangely imagined as subsequent to the creation of man, and was occasioned by their jealousy of him.  And various gross ideas are entertained as to the origin of demons, ranging from their creation on the eve of the first Sabbath, before their bodies could be finished (this is supposed to account for their being spirits), to generation of multitudes of them as the offspring of Eve and male spirits, and of Adam and female spirits, or with Lilith, the queen of female spirits.  Still grosser ideas link them to transformations from vipers, or as springing from the backbone of him who did not bow in worship.  Fully sexed, they multiply rapidly, and are innumerable.  A thousand at your right hand, ten thousand at your left.”[13]  Rabbinic methods for managing demons varied – such as torchlight by night, ablutions, phylacteries, amulets, magic formulae, fumigations, etc.
          • In most cases, the translators of the Septuagint did not allow the wild superstitions of the day to enter their translation. In the LXX, the terms daimōn and daimonion are not found very frequently, yet they are used to translate certain Hebrew words consistently. The Hebrew language has no precise equivalent for the single Greek term daimōn; indeed, no fewer than five different Hebrew words are translated by it.  (Of note, only one of these Hebrew words was rendered “demon” by our English translators).
            1. “Demon” (daimōn, daimonion) was used by the LXX translators at Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 of the “idols” worshiped by the heathen, for the Hebrew word sheddim (and its derivatives).
            2. The LXX translators used “demon” at Leviticus 17:1-7 for the Hebrew word seirim, “he-goats” or “hairy satyrs.”  These were another object of idolatrous worship.
            3. “Demons” was used for the Hebrew word elilim, “idols,” at Psalm 96:5.
            4. “Demons” was used for the Hebrew word gad, a god of fortune, at Isaiah 65:11.  Gad was another idol worshiped by the Babylonians, elsewhere also called Baal.
            5. The use of “demon” at Psalm 91:6, where the Hebrew word is “destruction,” seems to be a trace of the popular notion creeping into the translators’ minds, that “hard luck” or “tragic reverses” were the results of malignant demons.
          • In Josephus we find the word demon used always of evil spirits; and he says expressly, “Demons are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them.”[14]  He speaks of their exorcism by fumigation (as in Tobit 8:2,3), or by means of roots and using the name of Solomon.  Josephus also believed the origin of the demons to be found in the offspring of the union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” at Genesis 6:2.[15]
          • Philo, in De Gigantibus, used the word demon in a more general sense, as equivalent to “angels,” and referring to both good and evil beings.  Philo also held to the “angel hypothesis” (similar to Josephus) as explaining the origin of the demons.

             C. In Scripture

                • As to their existence, Scripture presents demons as really and truly existing.  Jesus and the Scripture writers speak of them, without any hint of the slightest doubt as to their actual existence.

                  1. In the Old Testament, as noted in the previous point, the sheddim and the seirim, which were both objects of idolatrous worship, were demonic conceptions.
                  2. That the New Testament writers believed firmly in the existence of demons is capable of ample proof.  They declare their existence (James 2:19; Revelation 9:20), describe their nature (Luke 4:33, 6:18) and their activity (1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 16:14), mention their expulsion from human bodies (Luke 9:42), suggest their organization under Satan (Matthew 12:26; Ephesians 6:12), indicate their abode (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:11), and point out their final doom (Matthew 25:41).  That Christ Himself shared the identical views of the Biblical writers, though this fact is extensively denied, is subject to the same ample proof.  He commanded His disciples to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1), cast them out Himself (Matthew 15:22,28), rebuked them (Mark 5:8), had complete power over them (Matthew 12:9), and viewed His conquest over them as a conquest over Satan (Luke 10:17, 18).[16]
                  3. Demons are presented as believing the power of God and “trembling” (James 2:19); they recognize Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 8:29; Luke 4:41), and acknowledge the power of His name used in exorcism, in the place of the name of Jehovah, by his appointed messengers (Acts 19:15); and they look forward in terror to the judgment to come (Matthew 8:29).  In 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1; and Revelation 9:20, the word daimonia is used of the objects of Gentile worship; and in the 1 Corinthians 10 passage daimonia is placed in juxtaposition to the word theos (with a reference to Deuteronomy 32:17), as it also is by the Athenians in Acts 17:18.  The same identification of the heathen deities with the evil spirits is found in the description of the damsel having “a spirit of divination” at Philippi (Acts 16:16).  Importantly, in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, as Paul is arguing with those who declared the idol to be a pure nullity, and he declares that all which is offered to the idol is really offered to a “demon.”  Indeed, it can be said that the Bible gives considerable evidence for the actual existence of beings called demons. 
                • As to their nature, demons are spirits.
                  1. In the four Gospels generally (Matthew 8:16, 10:1, 12:43-45; Mark 9:20; Luke 10:20, etc.), in James 2:19, and in Revelation 16:14, the demons are spoken of as spiritual beings at enmity with God and having power to afflict man with bodily diseases. 
                  2. In Acts 19:12-13, they are exactly defined as “evil spirits.”  Hence, there is ascribed to them intelligence and will (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; James 2:19, 3:14), as well as great power (Matthew 9:28-32; Mark 9:25; Ephesians 6:12).  
                  3. Whether demons are to be reckoned as belonging to a class of spirit beings on the level of angels, or as having fallen from the original condition of angels, does not clearly appear from any statement of the Scriptures.  They are the messengers or agents of Satan; as such, they could be either “angelic” in nature, or “lesser than angels” in nature. 
                • As to their origin, because the Scriptures make no specific statements, scholars have advanced all sorts of ideas.[17]  Demons are apparently fallen angels – i.e., angels who sinned at the time the devil did (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4; Luke 8:29-31; Revelation 12:7-9).  Satan is called the prince of demons.  The demons whom our Lord cast out are collectively called Satan (Matthew 12:24-29; Luke 13:16).  And the phrase “unclean spirits,” which is applied to demons (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:11; 6:7, etc.), is applied also to the fallen angels (Revelation 16:13, 18:2), and even in the singular to Satan himself (Mark 3:30; cp. verse 22).  These considerations, in this commentator’s opinion, render it probable that the demons of the New Testament belong to the number of angels “who kept not their first estate,” and that they must be the same as the “angels of the devil” (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7-9).  They are “the principalities and powers” against whom we “wrestle” (Ephesians 6:12, etc.).
                • As to their abode and their sphere of operation, the evidence within Scripture is abrupt and fragmentary.  Sometimes the demons are pictured as being in bondage, and sometimes as being free spirits, and it is not an easy problem to attempt to harmonize the two ideas.
                  1. As to their sphere of operations – sometimes we read of demons in the “heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12); sometimes in the “air” (Ephesians 2:2); sometimes “in the earth” (Job 1:7); sometimes “in waterless places” (Luke 11:24); sometimes in “swine” (Mark 5:13); sometimes “in the kings of the earth” (Revelation 16:14); sometimes as being behind idols and idol worship (1 Corinthians 10:20).
                  2. Yet, when it comes to the question of their abode – demons are represented as “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6; cp. 2 Peter 2:4); and they are said also to be in the abyss (Luke 8:31; cp. Revelation 9:1-11).

                   Such descriptions, however, could be understood as intimating nothing more than their being in a state of punishment, or under limitation and control, for the activities ascribed to them are incompatible with the idea of their being in a state of total confinement.  Indeed, such passages as Ephesians 2:2 and 6:12 would lead to the conclusion that a sphere of extended physical freedom is allowed to these fallen spirits.

                   Some suggest a different method to harmonize the ideas of bondage v. freedom for demons.  Some suggest there are two classes of demons.  One class sinned a horrible sin after being expulsed from heaven, a sin for which they are now bound in chains of darkness.  A second class, though expulsed along with the devil, are not guilty of this horrible sin, and so are free to operate as the Ephesian passages imply.  (See this idea developed by Herbert Lockyer in a series of articles in Sunday School Times, beginning April 2, 1958.)

                • As to their destiny, the demons’ future is the same as that of their leader – namely, everlasting Hell.  Jesus spoke of the “eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  This is unquestionably the terrifying doom the demons had in mind when they cried out to Jesus, “What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24)  “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29) 

                   D. In the Early Christian Writers

                      Early Christian writings abound with references to demons.  Unger writes, “Justin Martyr (De Defectiona Oraculorum XIII), for example, obviously following clear Old (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37) and New Testament teaching (1 Corinthians 10:19-20; 1 Timothy 4:1; et al.), asserts that demons inspired Greek mythology, raised up evil men like Simon Magus, heretics like Marcion, and energized Christian persecutions.”[18]

                • By some early Christian writers, the demons are represented as angels who, originally created holy, fell into rebellion and sin.[19]  Others represent them as the fruit of the intercourse of angels with women.[20]  Yet others represent them as the souls of the giants whom the daughters of men bore to devils.[21]
                • All describe them as evil, as deceiving and destroying men, as being the object of worship to the heathen, and as used by God to punish the wicked.[22]
                • They also teach that the demons are asomata (without bodies), yet not in such a sense as to be absolutely immaterial, but as skia onto (having shadows, having adumbrations, having a slight sketchy shape).[23]


              II.  DEMONS POSSESSION

                   A. The Biblical Record

                      Both the Old and New Testaments not only speak of demons, but they present the demons as entering into people’s bodies and possessing those people.  The word demoniac (daimonizomenous, rendered “possessed with a demon”), and the words “having a demon” (daimona echon), are frequently used in the New Testament, and are applied to persons suffering under the possession of an evil spirit – such possession generally showing itself visibly in bodily disease or mental derangement.  In the New Testament, demonized persons are those who were spoken of as having a demon (or demons) occupying them.  Further, the demons suspended the faculties of the person’s mind and governed the members of the person’s body, so that what was said and done by the demoniac was ascribed to the indwelling demon.  Especially in the Gospels and Acts, almost every time demons are mentioned it is in connection with some human into whom they have entered.

                      Though there is no evidence that demons could cause a man to sin or make him a sinner, the person in whom the demon lived was to an extent ruled by the demon (Matthew 4:24).  The inhabitation of such a person in some cases created physical effects, and produced certain ordinary diseases.  Thus, one possessed boy is described as having a deaf and dumb spirit, and as being affected at intervals with physical symptoms resembling epilepsy (Mark 9:14-29; Matthew 17:15-18; Luke 9:37-41).  The ordinary and literal interpretations of these demoniac passages in the Scriptures is that there are evil spirits, subjects of the Evil One, who, especially in the days of our Lord and His apostles, were permitted by God to exercise a direct influence over the bodies of certain people.  The distinguishing feature of possession is the complete (or almost complete) loss of the sufferer’s reason or power of will:  his actions, his words, and almost his thoughts are mastered by the demon (Mark 1:24, 5:7; Acts 19:15), till his personality seems to be destroyed, or if not destroyed, so overborne as to produce the consciousness of a twofold will within him.

                      In one key passage, the person himself seemingly was responsible for his hideous visitor (Luke 11:24-26).  Probably not until a person was degraded and weakened by his own sin might he be taken captive by a demon (cp. 1 Samuel 16:14 with 13:8-14 and 15:10-31).[24]

                   B. Modernistic Attacks on the Biblical Record

                      With regard to the frequent mention of demoniacs in Scripture, several lines of denial of the historicity of the record have been advanced.

                • That of Strauss and the Mythical School 

                      To David Friedrich Strauss (in his two-volume work on The Life of Jesus), whatever in the Gospel narratives was supernatural or abnormal was “mythological” (though he never defined "myth”).  For example, he felt most readers of the story of Gideon would recognize the purely human and historical features in it.  It is a story of courage and adventure, of a self-taught military genius and his achievements.  But, Strauss suggested, the imagination of Israel transformed this tale so that it became a part of the dealings of God with His chosen people.  When the event is finally recorded in the Bible (so the mythological theory suggests), God was made to be the deliverer, and Gideon was the instrument in the hands of the Most High God.  In a similar fashion, there was a fellow named Jesus.  The admiration of the early Christians for Jesus found expression in the fashioning of myths about him, as also being an instrument in the hands of God.  In reality, there weren’t really any such beings as demons.  This was just a vivid symbol of the presence of evil in the world, and the “casting out of demons by our Lord” was a corresponding figure of triumph over evil by His doctrine and life.

                      This notion stands or falls with the mythical theory as a whole – and the mythical theory has long ago fallen aside, because it never had a Jesus big enough to account for the existence of the 1st century Church.  If Jesus was not really divine, there is no way to account for the origin of the body called the Church.  The Gospel accounts are plain narrations of the incidents, and they are in a prosaic style, rather than poetic.  To say that in the midst of pure prose there is “myth” makes the statements not a mere symbol or figure, but a lie.  It would be as reasonable to expect to find a myth or figurative fable from Thucydides or Tacitus in their accounts of contemporary history as to expect to find a “myth” in the Gospel accounts.

                • Jesus was mistaken.

                      The theory goes that Jesus so acted, and went through the form of casting out demons, because in this matter He was mistaken – and in this He shared the erroneous opinions of His contemporaries.

                      Such an opinion impinges upon the truthfulness of the Savior, and the salvific nature of His work.  Since His resurrection provides clear proof of His other claims about Himself and His work, this theory is to be rejected.

                • Jesus spoke by way of accommodation.

                      The theory that Jesus and the Gospel writers spoke by way of accommodation says that what was called “demon possession,” we now call “disease” or “insanity,” and that Jesus so spoke and acted (as His hearers thought and so expected Him to act), although He knew there were no actual demons to be cast out.  That is, He accommodated Himself to His hearers’ ignorance and superstition, without making any assertion as to the actual existence or nonexistence of the phenomena described.

                      The idea that “demon possession” is really the same as what we call “disease" or “insanity” is based on the following facts and arguments:  (1) The symptoms of demon possession were often the same as those of physical disease (e.g., blindness and dumbness, Matthew 12:22; or epilepsy, Mark 9:17-27).  (2) At times, “demon possession” seems to have been synonymous with “madness” or dementia (e.g., Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:1-5; John 7:20, 8:48, 10:20).  (3) It is (erroneously?) assumed that cases of actual demon possession are not known to occur in our day; instead, we call it by other names.  In the same way what the Bible calls palsy, we call paralysis or polio, what in Biblical times they called “demon possession,” we call insanity or disease.  Some even claim that what the Bible calls “demon possession” is the mental disorder we call “dual personality,” or schizophrenia.

                      However, this ingenious theory is completely incompatible with the simple and direct attribution of personality to the demons (e.g., Mark 1:23ff).  It is rather hard to conceive of Jesus speaking to a disease or to insanity, and having the disease talk back!  And what of the idea that demon possession is the mental disorder we call “dual personality,” or schizophrenia?  Well, it is difficult to square this theory with the case of the Gadarene demoniac.  Was he afflicted with four or five thousand (i.e., a legion) personalities?  Further, this theory also denies the existence of demons as real beings, which places it at odds with the straightforward presentation in the Gospel records.

                      Demon possession is more than physical or mental illness.  Demons were able to speak and were addressed as persons (Mark 1:23-24, 3:11-12, 5:7; Acts 19:15).  The demons recognized their own distinct individuality independent of Jesus, and independent of the person possessed (Matthew 8:31).  The distant herd of swine became frenzied when the demons were cast out of the Gadarene demoniac and allowed to enter them (Matthew 8:30-32).  Jesus recognized the demons as actually existing, and instructed His disciples saying. “This kind can come out by nothing save prayer” (Mark 9:29; Luke 10:17-20).

                      Possession and its cure are recorded plainly and simply.  Jesus distinguished between demons and diseases, and so did the apostles (Matthew 10:8; Mark 1:32, 16:17-18; Luke 6:17-18, 10:17-20; Acts 5:16; 19:12).  Demoniacs are even distinguished from epileptics (selēniazomenoi, Matthew 4:24) and paralytics (paralutikoi, Matthew 4:24).  The same outward signs are sometimes attributed to possession, sometimes merely to disease (cp. Matthew 4:24 with 17:15; Matthew 12:22 with Mark 7:32).  The demons are represented as speaking in their own persons with superhuman knowledge, and acknowledging our Lord to be, not as the Jews generally called Him, son of David, but son of God (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:41, etc.).  All these speak of a personal power to evil, and, if in any case they refer to what we might call mere disease, they at any rate tell us of something more in the disease or in the insanity than just a sickness of bodily organs, or a self-caused derangement of the mind.

                      But the essential idea of the accommodation theory is in itself unsound.  Jesus did not speak of demons only to the ignorant and superstitious and uninitiated multitudes, but also in His private instruction to His own disciples (Matthew 17:19-21), as He declares to them the means and conditions by which power over the demons could be exercised.  Twice He distinctly connects demon possession with the power of the Evil One:  once to the seventy disciples, where He speaks of His powers and theirs over demoniacs as a “fall of Satan” (Luke 10:18); and once when He was accused of casting out demons through Beelzebub (Matthew 12:25-30).  In Matthew, rather than giving any hint that the possessed were not really under any direct and personal power of evil, Jesus uses an argument about the division of Satan against himself, which, if possession be unreal, becomes inconclusive and almost insincere.

                      Notice also that simply labeling a case as one of disease or insanity gives no real explanation of its cause; it assigns the circumstance to a class of cases which we know to exist, but that labeling gives no answer to the further question, How did the disease or insanity arise?  Even in diseases in which the mind acts upon the body (e.g., in nervous disorders, epilepsy, etc.), the mere derangement of the physical organs is not the whole cause of the malady; there is a deeper cause lying in the mind.  Insanity may indeed arise, in some cases, from the physical injury or derangement of those bodily organs through which the mind exercises its powers.  But is this the only cause of insanity?  Might not there be cases when insanity is due to metaphysical causes.  To call it “only insanity” is to give up all attempts at explanation of its cause.  The truth is that here, as in many other instances, the Bible, without contradicting ordinary experience, advances to a region where human science cannot follow.  The Bible connects the existence of mental and bodily suffering in the world with the introduction of evil by the Fall, and it refers certain cases of bodily and mental disease to the influence which demons are permitted to exercise over people's bodies and minds.  While the action of spirit on spirit may be inexplicable to us, no one can pronounce a priori whether it be impossible or improbable, and no one has the right to disregard or disdain the strong expressions of Scripture in order to reduce its declarations to a level with our own ignorance.

                      One other important comment needs to be added about this theory of accommodation.  Language can be used by way of accommodation only in cases where things are not alike, and the words used, though etymologically or scientifically inaccurate, express or convey a true impression; or in cases where the things are alike, and the words used are precise and correct as far as they go, but the impression conveyed is imperfect and partial, because of the arrested or stunted progress of the hearers.  Concerning the language of accommodation, Trench has written this interesting paragraph:

              [There is no harm in our] speaking of certain forms of madness as lunacy, not thereby implying that we believe the moon to have or to have had any influence upon them; but if we began to describe the cure of such as the moon’s ceasing to afflict them, or if a person were solemnly to address the moon, bidding it abstain from injuring this patient, there would be here a passing over to quite a different region [than accommodation] ….[25]

                      There is a very similar gulf between truth and the idea of accommodation in this matter of miracles.  Jesus is actually addressing the demons, bidding them to cease injuring this person.  If there were no real demons there, what Jesus is doing is not accommodation. It is bordering on the essence of a lie!

                      The opinion that Jesus spoke merely by way of accommodation does not match the evidence.  That age in which He lived and spoke was one of scant faith and appalling superstition.  Would Jesus sanction, and the Gospel writers be permitted to record, an idea which was essentially false, which has since that time become a stronghold of superstition?  It would not seem that He would, since in another place our Lord denounced superstitions associated with things far more trivial (Matthew 23:5,16-20)

                    C. The Problem of the Duration of Demon Possession 

                      Some assert there are no cases of demon possession now, and they offer several lines of argument:

              • In an age of science and enlightenment, who can believe in demons?
              • There can be no demon possession today because we do not have the miraculous powers (i.e., spiritual gifts) to deal with them.
              • The frequency of demon possession in the time of Christ is probably due to the fact that His advent formed a great crisis in the spiritual order of things, with the Devil and his hosts making a concerted effort to thwart Jesus. 

                      Many others argue that there are still cases of demon possession prevalent today. 

              • If there were such all through the Old Testament age, and examples are found all through the New Testament, what caused them to cease?
              • If there is no possibility of demon possession today, why do we have warnings in the Bible against magic, against divination, against necromancy, and spiritism?[26]
              • Perhaps our real issue is that we do not have any inspired person to tell us whether or not certain phenomena we see today are actually cases of demon possession.  Missionaries in many countries experience things that they believe only “demon possession” can satisfactorily account for.  (For example, compare the experiences of the Morses in Tibet and Burma.  They have seen a child who fell into fires and water ponds, just as the demoniac boy in Scripture, and who was healed when the church elders laid hands on him and prayed.  See also the documentation of similar cases in the Orient in the series of articles in Sunday School Times, beginning July 27, 1957.  See also Unger, op. cit., page 81ff.)
              • Does demonism have anything to do with heresies and cults, or with world governments, or with moral degeneracy, and the appearance of the man of sin in the last days?[27]



                      The Scriptures give no clear testimony as to the origin of demons, just as they give no clear testimony as to the origin of the devil, (e.g., how he could be tempted before there was a devil to tempt him).  But concerning other phases of demonic activity, Scripture passages are abundant and quite suggestive.

                      Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6:12, that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” need not be looked at with a raised eyebrow, as though it were something old-fashioned and outdated.  If we believe in spirits, we must make room in our theological system for evil spirits (demons) as well as for good spirits (angels).




                 1.  Books
                Alexander, William Menzies, Demonic Possessions in the New Testament:  Its Relations Historical, Medical, and Theological.  Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.
                Campbell, Alexander, “Demons and Demon Possession,” Millennial Harbinger, published by the author, Bethany, VA, 1841, p.457 and 480ff.  1842, p.65ff and 124ff.
                Davis and Gehman, "Demons, Demoniac,” Westminster Dictionary of the Bible.  Philadelphia, PA.  Westminster Press, 1924.
                Gilmore, George W., “Demon, Demonism,” New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. III, p.399-401.  New York:  Funk and Wagnalls, 1909.
                Hastings, James. editor. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.  IV, p.565-635.  New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1939.
                McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, Vol. II, p.638-42.  New York:  Harper and Brothers, 1891.
                Needham, Mrs. George C., Angels and Demons.  Chicago:  Moody Colportage Library, n.d.
                Trench, R.C., Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord.  New York:  Fleming H. Revell Co., 1895.
                Unger, Merrill F., Biblical Demonology.  Wheaton, IL:  Scripture Press, 1952.
                ------, Demons in the World Today.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, 1971.
                ------, “Demons,” Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1963.
                ------,  “Demons,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology.  Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1960 and author, 1952.
                Weiss, Johann, "Demoniac,” New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. III, p.401-403.  New York:  Funk and Wagnalls, 1909.
                2.  Articles
                 Almquist, David, "Demonic Possession in our Day,” Sunday School Times, February 28, 1942.
                Gruenthaner, Michael J., "The Demonology of the New Testament,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, January 1944, 6-27.
                Lockyer, Herbert, "Doctrine of Angels and Demons,” Sunday School Times, April 5, 1958, and issues following, (p. 250ff).
                Tharp, Edwin J., "Demonology,” Sunday School Times, July 27, 1957, and issues following, (p. 579ff).
                 3.  Encyclopedias
                 Sweet, Louis M., "Demon, Demoniac, Demonology,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p,827-29.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939.
                Whitehouse, Owen C., "Demon, Devil,” in Hastings' Dictionary of The Bible, Vol. I, p.590-94. New York:  Scribners & Sons Publishing Co., 1908.



                1 Ephesian 6:12, Phillips translation.
                2 Cratylus I.398.
                3 Proep. Evang. IV.5.
                4 Hesiod, Works and Days, trans. by Richard Lattimore, p.109-126.
                5 Iliad, XVII.98,99
                6 Plutarch, De Defac. Orac. and Hesiod, ibid.
                7 Cratylus, ibid.
                8 Hesiod, op. cit., p.121
                9 Sympos., III.202,203
                10 Chalcid, Platon. Tim., p.135
                11 Plutarch, Dion., I.958.
                12 Diog. Laert., Vit. Pythag., p.514
                13 Merrill Unger, Biblical Demonology (Wheaton IL:  Scripture Press, 1952), p.33.
                14 Wars, VII.6.3
                15 Antiquities, VI.8.2; VIII.2.5.
                16 Unger, op. cit., p.36.
                17 For the ideas that demons are the disembodied spirits of inhabitants of a pre-Adamic earth, or that demons are the monstrous off-spring of angels and antediluvian women, see the extended discussion in Unger, p.42ff.
                18 Unger, op. cit., p.58.
                19 Joan. Damasc., Expos. Fidei, II.4.
                20 Justin Martyr, Apol., II.4.
                21 Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, VIII.18. 
                22 Origen, Cont. Celsius, V.234; VIII.399.
                23 See Clem. of Alexandria, Stromata, VI.7.  Cp. Chrys., Hom. CXVV and Theodoret, In Jes., XIII.
                24 However, it is difficult to hold this point dogmatically since the Gospel writers also report at least one case of a demon’s possessing a child.  Yet the implications of involuntary possession by demons raises its own set of difficulties.
                25 Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (New York:  Revell, 1953), p. 153ff.
                26 Unger, op. cit., p.107ff.
                27 See the Special Study entitled “The World of the Occult” in Acts:  A Critical & Exegetical Commentary by Gareth L. Reese for a development of these ideas.  See also Unger’s fine treatment of these matters, op. cit., p.165ff.
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