By Jerry C. Ray
In a previous article the concepts of the heathen writers, the Hellenistic writers, and the “church Fathers” concerning demonology were presented. Three modernistic theories to explain away New Testament demonology were considered and answered.
At this point let’s notice a basic fallacy in the Modernist’s denial of the existence of demons in Biblical times. He illogically reasons thusly: “I have never seen a demon. No one in this present age has ever seen, or been able to prove the existence of demons. Demons are beyond the range of experience of the present age, so they didn’t exist in Biblical times.” Such reasoning places everything upon the basis of experience. By such reasoning I could “prove” that Napoleon Bonaparte never existed. I nor anyone of this present world has ever seen Napoleon, so he must not have ever existed! McClintock & Strong says, “No one has a right to eviscerate the strong expression of Scripture in order to reduce its declarations to a level with our own ignorance.” (II p. 642.) Translated into simpler language, this simply means, “Your (the modernist) ignorance of demons, no matter how great, can set aside my (the New Testament writers) knowledge, no matter how small.”
In reply to the Modernist’s flat assertion that demons didn’t exist in New Testament times, and Jesus did not really cast out demons, we simply say, “Vas you dere, Charlie? “
Non-Canonical Writings of the Jews
The Modernist makes a great deal of the absurdities of the non-canonical Jewish writings concerning demonology. The modernist states that Jesus got his doctrine of demonology from His Jewish heritage. He further states that since the Jewish superstitions are so absurd as to be patently false, then the New Testament writings concerning demons is likewise merely superstitions of an ignorant age and people.
Let’s give ourselves to an examination of these objections presented by the Modernist and see if they are so.
It is absolutely correct that the Jews (as well as the gentiles) had many absurd and ridiculous ideas concerning demons, but their misconceptions in no way invalidate the actuality of the existence of demons, no more than the existence of many false religions would invalidate the divine origin of Christianity, or the Book of Mormon invalidate the truth of the Bible. In fact, a study of the Jewish ideas as compared with the New Testament teaching on demonology will only serve to prove the validity of the New Testament testimony.
To say that Jesus’ teaching concerning demons came from the Jewish ideas is absolutely false. The difference in the Jewish concepts and His is as the difference between black and white. Alfred Edersheim stated, “Those who contend that the representations of the Evangelists are identical with the popular 3ewish notions of the time, must be ill acquainted with the latter.” (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, I, p. 482.) He adds, “Greater contrast could scarcely be conceived than between what we read in the New Testament and the views and practices mentioned in Rabbinic writings.” (Ibid., II p. 776.)
The statement that Jesus and his disciples were mistaken in their belief in the existence of demons that they “seem rather to have shared in the popular demonology, although they never committed themselves to the absurdities which marked some of the rabbinical teachers.” (A New Standard Bible Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls Co., pp. 176-177), leaves the wrong impression. It was not a matter of “some” of the rabbis teaching errors. The whole rabbinical library is “riddled” with absurdities and errors.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume II, gives an excellent contrast in four different points between noncanonical writings and the New Testament testimony on demonology. This I shall present with additional materials from other sources.
“The most marked and significant fact of New Testament demonology is that it provides no materials for a discussion of the nature and characteristics of demons.
The presence among New Testament writers of an influence curbing curiosity and restraining the imagination is of all things the most important for us to discover and emphasize. In four of its most vital features the New Testament attitude on this subject differs from all popular conceptions: (a) in the absence of all imaginative details concerning demons; (b) in the emphasis placed upon the moral character of demons and their connection with the ethical disorder of the human race; (c) in the absence of confidence in magical methods of any kind in dealing with demons; (d) in its intense restrictions of the sphere of demoniacal operations.” (Louis Matthews Sweet, I. S. B. E., II, p. 828.)
1. The origin, nature, characteristics or habits of demons. The New Testament tells us practically nothing. In contrast with this reticence of New Testament writers is not only the heathen writers, but the non-canonical writings of the Jews, and even the church Fathers (see article one). The Book of Enoch states that demons are fallen angels, while Josephus holds that they are the spirits of the wicked dead. In rabbinical writings speculation has run riot as to their origin, nature and habits. Demons “are represented as the offspring of Adam and Eve in conjunction with male and female spirits, as being themselves sexed and capable of reproduction as well as performing all other physical functions. Details are given of their number, haunts and habits, of times and places where they are especially dangerous, and of ways and methods of breaking their power. Full sweep is also given to the imagination in descriptive narratives, oftentimes of the most morbid and unwholesome character, of their doings among men.” (Ibid.)
Edershiem mentions, from among the rabbinical writings, that “their number can scarcely be limited, since they propagate themselves, resembling men in this as well as in their taking of nourishment and dying… like the Angels they have wings, pass unhindered through space, and know the future… they are produced by a process of transformation from vipers, which, in the course of four times seven years, successively pass through the forms of vampires, thistles and thorns, into Shedim (demons).” (Edersheim, Op. cit., II, p. 710.) These Shedim may take the form of man, but they will not reflect the same likeness as of a man. Some of the Shedim have defects. Those who live in the caper bushes are blind. Trees; gardens, vineyards and ruined and desolate houses are their favorite abodes, and they especially like dirty places. Nighttime and before the cock crowing are their favorite time of appearance. It is dangerous to go to their habitations alone, and dangerous to sleep in a house alone. They are especially dangerous on the eves of Wednesday and the Sabbath. But they have no power over that which has been counted, measured, tied up and sealed. They could be conquered by the “Ineffable Name” and they could be banished by the use of certain formulas, which, when written and worn, served as amulets.
“Legions of demons lay in waiting for any error or failing on the part of man. Their power extended over all even numbers. Hence, care must be had not to drink an even number of cups, except on the Passover night, when the demons have no power over Israel.” (Ibid., p. 762.)
“As Shedim have cock’s feet, nothing more is required than to strew ashes by the side of one’s bed, when in the morning their marks will be perceived.” (Ibid., p. 763.)
The Talmud gives the infallible means whereby one can see the demons. “Take the afterbirth of a black cat which is the daughter of a black cat–both mother and daughter being firstborn–burn it in the fire, and put some of the ashes in your eyes. Before using, the ashes must be put into an iron tube, and sealed with an iron signet.” (Ibid.)
So much for the first point of contrast. The next article will continue with a contrast between uninspired ideas of demonology and the New Testament teachings, beginning with the second point of contrast.
Truth Magazine VI: 7, pp. 9-11