The Bible provides abundant evidence of the existence of demons. Satan’s evil angels are known in Scripture as demons. Certain Scriptures tell us that Satan fell from heaven and other angelic beings (demons) shared in Satan’s fall and became evil (Ezekiel 28: 14,1518; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:4). However the origin of demons is a debated topic among the Christians today. There are some who even debate whether the word “demon” is an incorrect translation. Some have difficulty in producing an accurate definition for the word “demon”. This article will mainly look into these issues and try to provide some kind of an explanation to them from a Biblical perspective.
The word “demon” is believed to have been derived from the Latin daemon (“genius, guardian spirit”), which is most likely taken from the Ancient Greek word daimon (“dispenser, god, protective spirit”). So the Greek terms do not have any connotations of evil or malevolence. Another related term, eudaimonia (literally good-spiritedness), means happiness. To distinguish the classical Greek concept from its later Christian interpretation, the former is anglicized as daemon or daimon rather than demon.
A demon is considered to be a supernatural, often wicked being prevalent in religion, occultism, literature, fiction, mythology and folklore. However, the original Greek word daimon used for demon does not carry such negative connotations. It denotes a spirit or divine power, much like the Latin genius or numen. The Greek conception of a daimon notably appears in the works of Plato, where it describes the divine inspiration of Socrates.
On the other hand, in the Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered a harmful spiritual entity, below the heavenly planes which may cause demonic possession, calling for an exorcism. In Western occultism and Renaissance magic, which grew out of an amalgamation of Greco-Roman magic, Jewish Aggadah (non-legalistic exegetical texts in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism) and Christian demonology, a demon is believed to be a spiritual entity that may be conjured and controlled.
III. The Relationship between the Devil and demons
Two Greek words are translated similarly in the New Testament but their meanings are slightly different. The word diabolos is translated “devil” and refers to the devil or Satan himself. Another word, diamon, is usually translated “devils” in the King James Version (KJV) but might be better-translated “demons.” The Bible makes a very real distinction between a single devil and many demons. Whenever we read of “devils” in the Bible, we are reading about demons.
The word for demons in the Greek language is daimon and is found more than 75 times in the Greek New Testament. In each case it is translated into the word “devil” in the KJV. In Jesus Christ’s teachings and ministry He often confronted demons and their activities, i.e., demonic possession of individuals (Matthew 12:22-29, 15:22-28; Mark 5:1-16). Christ demonstrated His power over demons and, furthermore, He gave His disciples, power to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1).
In the KJV the word “devil’ is used 61 times in 57 verses, while “devils” is used 55 times in 48 verses. Of the 29 references in the Gospels, Jesus spoke of the Devil 25 times. He is “the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:24), the undisputed ruler of a host of evil spirits that inhabit the cosmos as surely as humanity inhabits planet Earth.
IV. Theories Surrounding the Origin of Demons
Where did demons come from? This question has been debated among the biblical scholars for a long time now. Several theories have been advanced by Bible students, most of which, incidentally, may be dismissed immediately. However, at least five suggestions have been highlighted below to help explain the possible origin of demons and also to understand the wrongly understood interpretations as well.
1) Spirits of the Pre-Adam race:
Some Christian scholars have suggested that demons were the disembodied spirits of a strange pre-Adamic race of men that once lived upon the earth in that fictional “gap period” that is supposed to have fallen between Genesis 1:1-2. This is generally known as the “gap theory,” which presupposes that the world is several million years old. According to this theory, God created a perfect world and society, based on the first verse of the Bible but, because of the fall of Satan, the earth came to a state of null and void (Genesis 1:2). This theory allowed for a society which existed for millions of years, thus harmonizing the scientific contemporary views of the age of the world with the Bible’s account of creation.
This theory further states that the spirits of those who lived before Adam, still inhabiting the earth are the demons. But before we can conclude that demons are the disembodied spirits of a pre-Adamic race, we must first prove the existence of such a race.
There is a problem with this theory as there is not a shred of Biblical evidence about any race before Adam. How could there have been a pre-Adamic race of men if Adam was the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45)? Some people do not believe in the gap theory because of the lack of concrete biblical evidence and consider it to be a theory to force the Bible into harmony with evolutionary chronology.
2) Cohabitation of Angels:
Others have contended that demons resulted from the cohabitation of angels with some of the women who lived before the Flood. This theory is based upon an inadequate understanding of Genesis 6:1-4, and the phrase that states: “the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children unto them.” These children were later known as Nephilim. They quote from the Book of Enoch (which is currently only canonical in the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches but was referred to by the early Church fathers), where the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim are believed to have become demons.
Others believe it could refer to the results of genetic tampering in a pre-Flood society. But there is no scriptural evidence to prove that the union of the humans and angels resulted in demons. This cannot be correct since Jesus Christ clearly taught that angels are sexless beings, incapable of such unions (cf. Mt. 22:30). In the Genesis context the “sons of God” were the righteous lineage from Seth, while the “daughters of men” represented the wicked descendants of Cain.
In addition, the Bible states that God created various life forms to reproduce only after their kind (Genesis 1:24). Since God has placed a limitation on reproduction-dogs cannot mate with horses, pigs with cows, humans with apes – it seems unreasonable that angels could mate with humans. This is especially true when we discover that angels have an entirely different nature than humans according to the Bible.
3) Spirits of the Dead
One contemporary idea relating to the origins of demons claims that they are the spirits of the evil dead. This is the underlying assumption of much of the popular occult literature. Some Indian religions believe that the spirits of their forefathers tend to visit their family members long after they are dead. It is not a new idea at all, for it was the explanation of some Greek philosophers years before Christ. The early age of this theory does not however make it any more believable. It stands in direct conflict with biblical teaching.
The Bible teaches that the souls of the evil dead go to Hades (Luke 16:22-23). They will remain there until the end of the millennial reign of Christ on this earth. Only then are they brought before God to be judged (Revelation 20:11-12). Then they are cast into eternal punishment.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Therefore this theory cannot be acceptable, for the Bible declares the unsaved dead are in Hades and not roaming the earth (Psalm 9:17; Luke 16:23; Revelation 20:13).
4) Escaped angels:
Another group has contended that demons were fallen angels who were allowed to escape their confinement to similarly accomplish some component in the divine plan (cf. Jude 6).
Charles Hodge, a leading theologian, in his work on systematic theology contended for this viewpoint, which is most unlikely. Jude 6 very clearly states that these angels did not keep their position of authority, left their own dwelling place (mostly heaven) and are bound and kept in darkness for the judgment on the Great Day. In other words, they are not free to roam around like the demons. So this theory is not relevant based on the context of the text.
5) Fallen Angels:
The final theory advocates that these demons who are the creation of God Himself were part of the fallen angels. All things were created by God (John 1:3). Yet as God cannot be directly involved in the creation of evil, reason agrees with Scripture that while all angels were created holy, some fell from their original state (cf. Jude 6; Isaiah 14:12ff; Ezekiel 28:12ff). The first to rebel was Satan, who was promptly thrown out of heaven along with multitudes of angels who followed his lead. Most conservative scholars believe that demons are fallen or evil Angels. When Jesus described hell, he called it “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his Angels” (Matthew 25:41). Even the demons were anticipating this one day (Matthew 8:28-29). Apostle John described the fall of Satan in a highly symbolic fashion, noting that the devil took a third of the Angels in heaven with him (Revelation 12:4). This suffices the fact that the so-called demons are Satan’s angels mentioned by Jesus. According to H. L. Willmington, in his book “The Doctrine of Angels,” the most logical conclusion is that the word “demon” is simply another title or name for fallen angels.
The LORD had strictly warned Israel to keep away from the ways of the Canaanites as they followed the occult demonic religions of Canaan. These were abominable to the LORD (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
V. REFERENCES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament we are told of those who “sacrificed to demons that were no gods” (Deuteronomy 32:17) and others who “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons” (Psalm 106:37). Demons are mentioned in 19 out of the 27 New Testament books, and Jesus frequently claimed to “cast out demons” (Matthew 12:27). Some even seem to have suggested the names of some demons as Molech and Chemosh. Although the scriptures never explicitly refer to Molech as a demon, the worship of Molech and Chemosh was a recurring problem for Israel throughout the Old Testament to whom they sacrificed human babies (Leviticus 18:21; 1 Kings 11:7).
From the above discussion we can conclude that demons are not the product of hyperactive religious imagination, nor the disembodied spirits of a prehistoric race, nor the long-existent result of antediluvian sex between angels and human women, but are definitely real and are evil spirits. The Bible never questions their existence. Scripture makes it very clear that demons exist. However, it does not explicitly tell us where they came from. Though various theories have been put forward, no one knows for certain about their origin. The best answer seems to be that demons are the fallen angels along with Satan, since the same titles are applied to both of them. One thing is for sure that demons are corrupted spirits carrying the execution of Satan’s strategies planned in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).