What in Hell Are Demons?

Demon_203473324In anticipation of the release of my next novel, Jesus Triumphant, Book 8 of the Chronicles of the Nephilim, I am going to post some articles on wild and bizarre spiritual stuff in the New Testament that will show up in the novel to come. July release. You better get cracking on the previous books in the series cause it all fits together with the Watchers, The Nephilim and the Cosmic War of the Seed.

Demons are a theological problem. Where do they come from? What are they? Why are they almost entirely absent in the Old Testament, and then all of a sudden, there is a flurry of demonic activity and possessions once Messiah comes to Israel? The casting out of demons is so frequently linked with Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel that it seems to be more than a mere symbolic expression of his power over the spiritual world. It appears to be an essential theological component of the New Covenant.

First, just what are demons? We see in the New Testament that they are evil spirits that possess or inhabit the physical bodies of living individuals (Luke 11:24-26), and who are cast out by Jesus and his disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 8:16; Luke 10:17). Their presence sometimes causes physical infirmities like blindness (Matt. 12:22), deafness (Mark 9:17-29), or epilepsy (Matt. 17:15-18), as well as mental insanity (Mark 5:15). Many of them can inhabit one body (Mark 5:9), and bring great strength to the host (Mark 5:4).

But where did these evil spirits come from? In the Old Testament, there is very little explanation of demons. God sends an evil spirit to torment King Saul in 1 Sam. 16:14. Based on Saul’s insane behavior it is safe to say he was most likely possessed by that evil spirit (v. 15-23). 1 Kings 22:22-23 reveals that God sends a “lying spirit” into the mouths of false prophets. Demons? Maybe. But certainly subservient to God’s interests. Even the satan is depicted as a circumscribed servant of God’s will in the Old Testament (Job 1:12). As explained in other Appendices of the Chronicles, pagan idols are often referred to as demonic (“sheddim” Deut. 32:17; Psa. 106:34-37; Lev. 17:7; 2 Chron. 11:15) exposing the spiritual reality behind their earthly façade of graven images and foreign deities. But even these are not the same as what we traditionally think of as demons.
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Other than these few examples, there is a dearth in the Old Testament of the kind of activity we read about in the New Testament, with raging demoniacs being exorcised by Christ and his disciples. It seems like the demons knew that the presence of Messiah was the final countdown of their own demise and they were throwing fits and tantrums. As if the Seed of the Woman was crushing the Seed of the Serpent’s head and the body was wriggling in pain.

But they are never described as fallen angels in the Bible. What then, are demons and from where do they come?

The church father Origen claimed that there was no clearly defined teaching on their genesis in the early church, but that a significant opinion was that “the devil was an angel, and that, having become an apostate, he induced as many of the angels as possible to fall away with himself, and these up to the present time are called his angels.”[1]

This common Christian idea of the satan and demons as fallen angels is often proof-texted from Isa. 14:12-15, Ezek. 28:12-16, and Rev. 12:4. But as explained in the Appendix to Enoch Primordial, I do not believe these passages apply to a satanic fall from heaven.[2] Isaiah 14 is the likening of the monstrous pride of the king of Babylon to a Canaanite myth of arrogant deities. Nothing about the satan there. And there is no reference to any others joining him either. Ezekiel 28 is a condemnation of the king of Tyre by likening him to Adam’s fall in the Garden, not the satan. This passage also fails to mention anyone in collusion with the arrogant prince. One has to import an alien notion of the satanic fall into these passages through eisegesis.

Lastly, Revelation 12 is not about a satanic fall or war in heaven before the Garden of Eden, or even in some future end of the world scenario. It is an apocalyptic parable that is describing the war of the satan at the incarnation of Christ, his ascension to the throne of authority over all principalities and powers, and his suppression of the satan’s power as the Gospel goes forth into the world.

So in the Bible there is no evidence of angels falling before the Garden of Eden. There is a satanic “fall” or a “casting out” of heaven (John 12:31) and a “throwing down” to the earth of the satan during the time of Christ (Luke 10:17-20). But that would be too late in the game to explain the few evil spirits in the Old Testament or their presence before the arrival of Messiah. The only other “fall” of angelic beings in the Bible is the Sons of God, the Watchers, in Genesis 6 coming to earth.[3]

But that presents another problem, namely that the ontological nature or “material being” of the angels as revealed in the Bible would seem to preclude these fallen angels from being the Old Testament or New Testament demons or “evil spirits.” While angels are multidimensional in their ability to traverse between the heavenlies and the earth, they are described as having flesh that eats food (Gen. 18; 19:1), and can have sexual congress with human beings (Gen. 6:1-4). This is a heavenly flesh that is different from human flesh (1 Cor. 15:39-40), but is flesh nonetheless. It is a body. This would make angels such as the Watchers unlikely candidates for incorporeal spirits seeking flesh to inhabit or possess.

There is no origin of demons detailed in the Bible. There is merely a description of their spiritual nature and evil activities. But there is a tradition of their origin that carries some weight beyond mere speculation. Regarding this origin, the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible says, “The most popular myth, however, is found in the Bible, intertestamental literature, the rabbis and the Church fathers: demons are the souls of the offspring of angels who cohabited with humans.”[4] We are right back to that ancient text that keeps rearing its head in the New Testament; the book of 1 Enoch. There we read that the giants had unique ontological status as hybrids of both human and angel. So when they died in the Flood, their spirits became roaming entities seeking bodily possession of humans.

1 Enoch 15:8-16:1
“But now the giants who are born from the (union of) the spirits and the flesh shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, because their dwelling shall be upon the earth and inside the earth. Evil spirits have come out of their bodies. Because from the day that they were created from the holy ones they became the Watchers; their first origin is the spiritual foundation. They will become evil upon the earth and shall be called evil spirits…12 And these spirits shall rise up against the children of the people and against the women, because they have proceeded forth (from them)… From the days of the slaughter and destruction, and the death of the giants… they will corrupt until the day of the great conclusion, until the great age is consummated, until everything is concluded (upon) the Watchers and the wicked ones.”[5]

Chronicles of the Nephilim assumes this Enochic interpretation in its storyline as the last gasp attempt of the Seed of the Serpent to bite the heel of the Seed of Eve. Needless to say, their head is crushed in that attempt.

See the cool book trailer, artwork, characters, and free articles at www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com

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[1] Origen, “De Principiis,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 240.
[2] Brian Godawa, Enoch Primordial (Los Angeles: Embedded Pictures Publishing, 2013), 367-373.
[3] See the chapter “The Book of Enoch: Scripture, Heresy, or What?” in When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, Nephilim and the Cosmic War of the Seed (Los Angeles: Embedded Pictures, 2014),.
[4] G. J. Riley, “Demon,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 238. Early church fathers who believed this are Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Minuciux Felix, Irenaeus, among others: Bo Reicke, The Disobedient Spirits and Christian Baptism (New York: AMS Press, 1946), 80-81. Other Intertestamental literature that affirms demons as sons of the Watchers are Test. Of Solomon 5:3; 17:1; Jubilees 10:5; Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q510 v.5; 4Q511 Frag. 35; 4Q204 Col V.2-3 (1Enoch 10:15), that call the demons, sons of the Watchers or “spirits of the bastards.” Florentino Garcı́a Martı́nez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations)” (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1997–1998), 415, 1029, 1033-35. 11Q11 Col. V.6 calls demons “offspring of man and of the seed of the holy ones.” DSS Study Edition, 1203. See Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “The ‘Angels’ and ‘Giants’ of Genesis 6:1-4 in Second and Third Century BCE Jewish Interpretation: Reflections on the Posture of Early Apocalyptic Traditions,” Dead Sea Discoveries, Vol. 7, No. 3, Angels and Demons (2000), pp. 354-37; Ida Fröhlich,”Theology and Demonology in Qumran Texts,” Henoch; Vol. 32 Issue 1, June 2010, 101-129.
[5] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 22.

4 comments on “What in Hell Are Demons?

  • Brian,

    Demons as the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim is a fascinating idea that I’ve never heard of before. I have a question about Satan though. You distinguish between the corporeal-ish nature of the Watchers in contrast to incorporeal demons seeking bodies to “inhabit.” How then do you interpret the passages that say that Satan entered into Judas? Satan is not a nephilim? He would seem to fall into the “corporeal-ish” category. So what do you think the scriptures are saying when Satan is described as “possessing” someone?

    Thanks,

    Mike

    Reply
  • Uriel's Camel says:

    Mike, I have emailed Godawa and he did explain the part about the satan “entering” Judas to me:

    “Regarding Satan “entering” Judas, I explained the possible description of “entering” as being a way of saying that he spiritually entered his consciousness through a kind of psychic manipulation. The truth is, I am not sure how this can exactly work. It was just my way of making sense of it.”

    I am not sure if he is totally correct about this,but it does make sense in some respect. There is much in the unseen realm we may never know. Still, I would say that this point is where the “demons are different from Watchers”argument is weaker.

    Reply

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