By Jerry C. Ray
There are in the New Testament, including repetitions, only about 80 references to demonology. There are many things not said concerning this subject that the natural curiosity of man would desire to know, but which God has not seen fit to reveal. In view of the limited information that we have, we should be careful in the conclusions we draw. For this reason this writer shall not attempt to argue some of the knotty problems surrounding this subject. I shall not even try to explain what the writers intended to express in some of their statements, but shall simply state the passage, and leave the exegesis upon the reader.
As to the origin of evil spirits, there is controversy as to whether the demons are fallen angels (Dr. William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary) or the departed spirits of wicked men. (As a sub-heading under this it might be noted that some argue that demons are the disembodied spirits of a Pre-Adamic world.) To the latter view (departed spirits of wicked men) brother J. W. McGarvey subscribed in these words: “In the Jewish usage of the term it is applied exclusively to the departed spirits of wicked men. This usage was adopted by Jesus and the Apostles, and consequently all that is said of demons in the New Testament agrees with it.” (Commentary on Matthew and Mark, p. 78.) Josephus spoke of demons as “the spirits of the wicked that enter into men that are alive.” (War of the Jews, 7:6:3.)
The writer of the article on “demon” in McClintock & Strong holds to the former view as being more likely and gives the following reasons. He is called the prince of the demons; the demons whom our Lord cast out are collectively called Satan. (Mt. 12:24-29; Lk. 13:16.) The phrase “unclean spirits” which is applied to them (Mt. 10: 1; Mk. 3:11; 6:7) is applied also to fallen angels (Rev. 16: 13; 18: 2), and even in the singular to Satan himself. (Mk. 3:30, cf. v. 22.) From this the writer inferred that the demons are of the same class as Satan himself, and that they must be the same as “the angels of the devil.” (Mt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7, 9.)
The New Testament writers believed in the existence of demons. They speak of their existence (James 2:19; Rev. 9:20), describe their nature (Lk. 4:33; 6:18), and their activity (1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 16:14), mention their expulsion from human bodies (Lk. 9:42), suggest their organization under Satan (Mt. 12:26; Eph. 6:12), indicate their abode (Lk. 8:31; Rev. 9:11), and point out their final doom. (Mt. 25:41.) Christ likewise indicated the same belief. He commanded his disciples to cast out demons (Mt. 10:1), cast them out Himself (Mt. 15:22, 28), rebuked | them (Mk. 5:8), had complete power over I them (Mt. 12:29), and viewed his conquest l over them as over Satan. (Lk. 10:17-18.)
Merrill F. Unger in his book, Biblical Demonology, states concerning the intellectual nature of demons:
“That evil spirits are believed to possess superhuman knowledge, especially foreknowledge, is attested by the widespread practice of seeking oracles from them. If Plato’s etymology of daimon from an adjective signifying “knowing” or “intelligent” is correct, it hints at intelligence as the basic characteristic in the conception of demons. Scripture, moreover, uniformly emphasizes their perspicacity: they know Jesus (Mark 1:24), bow before Him (Mark 5:6), speak of Him as the ‘Son of the Most High God’ (Mark 5:7), realize that there can be no fellowship between light and darkness, between Him and them (Luke 8:28), entreat favor of Him (Luke 8:31), obey Him (Matt. 8:16), withhold knowledge of His incarnation and finished sacrifice: (1 John 4:1-3), prevent and corrupt sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1-3), discern between those sealed by God and those unsealed (Rev. 9:4), and comprehend the future, and their own inevitable doom.” (Matt. 8:29.) (Page 66.)
“Coupled with their superhuman intelligence and moral viciousness is an amazing strength. They have power over the human body to cause dumbuess (Matt. 9:32-33), blindness (Matt. 12:22), insanity (Luke 8:26-36), suicidal mania (Mark 9:22), (Urger’s interpretation of this passage I question. JCR) personal injuries (Mark 9:18), and various physical defects and deformities. (Luke 13:11-17.) They are represented as being of various degrees of wickedness. (Matt. 12:45.) Their titanic energy is seen in the supernatural strength they can impart to the human body.” (Luke 8:29.) (Pages 67-68.)
Is there a clear-cut distinction made in the New Testament between mental and bodily illness and demoniacal possession7 Or is the Modernist right when he says demonology was “merely a Jewish hypothesis to account for bodily and mental diseases and for the visible effects on body and will of enslavement of sin.” (John D. Davis, A Dictionary of the Bible.)
I think the Bible does make a distinction. To what has preceded in this series of articles I add the following testimony.
There are about 80 references, including repetitions, to demonology in the New Testament. “In 11 instances the distinction between demon-possession and diseases ordinarily caused is clearly made. (Mt. 4:24; 8:16; 10:8; Mk. 1:32-34; 6:13; 16:17-18; Lk. 4:40-41; 9:1; 13:32; Acts 19:12.) The results of demon-possession are not exclusively mental or nervous. (Mt. 9: 32-33; 12:22. ) They are distinctly and peculiarly mental in two instances only (Gadarenes maniac, Mt. 8:28 and parallels, and Acts 19:13f). Epilepsy is specified in one case only. (Mt. 17:15.) There is a distinction made between diseases caused by demons and the same disease not so caused.” (cf. Mt. 12:22; 15:30.) (Sweet, I.S.B.E., 11, p. 829.)
One of the many interesting questions that comes up in a study of demonology is whether demons exist in this present age, with the powers they had in the first century, and if they do not exist today with these powers, when did this “age” cease. This writer does not feel qualified to answer this question. Many contend that this passed away with the miraculous age of the first century. While unable to answer the above-mentioned question, I do feel safe in saying that if demons are operating in the world today as they did in Biblical times, there is no one with power from God to cast out such demons, since this miraculous power passed away in the first century, with the death of the apostles and those upon who they laid their hands. (1 Cor. 13:8-10, James 1:25, Acts 8: 18.)
There are those who answer the above question affirmatively. In Lard’s Quarterly of 1865, 11, p. 288, L. B. Wilkes sets forth his reasons for believing that demons still influence the affairs and the bodies of beings here on this earth. We refer you to this article for further study of this particular point.
In conclusion I quote from brother J. W. McGarvey: “In what way these wicked spirits gained possession of men; under what condition of mind or body a person was exposed to the possession; what degree of natural consciousness was still retained by the demoniac; and at what periods of history this strange phenomenon began and ended (if it is ended, JCR), are questions which remain as yet unchanged. That the phenomenon was, however, as it is represented on the sacred page, . . . is proved by the manner in which Jesus dealt with the demons,” (Commentary on Matthew and Mark, p. 78.)
I am sure that this will stand as the persuasion of those who believe the Bible to be indeed the word of God.
Truth Magazine VI: 9 & 10, pp. 9-10
June & July 1962