Demons a response to recent literalist claims christadelphians origins discussion gas unlimited sugar land tx


On 12.08.18, Neville Clark presented a lecture on the subject of demons in Scripture. The crux of his argument is that demons do not exist, and that every reference to them in Scripture is merely a well-established ancient euphemism for mental illness and/or mental disability. While Neville does make a number of valid points in his talk, he overstates the case considerably and leaves a number of crucial issues unaddressed. This paper will examine these, and present an alternative interpretation.

Neville takes us to Acts 16, where he deals competently with the case of the young woman ‘ with a spirit of divination.’ As he observes, the Greek says ‘ possessed by a spirit of Python.’ This is a specific reference to the great serpent of Greek mythology whose guarded the Delphic oracle. According to myth, the serpent was slain by the god Apollo at Mt Parnassus.

Neville argues that we cannot accept the literal existence of this ‘spirit of Python’ without also accepting the existence of the Greek god that slew him; and since the Bible explicitly denies the existence of other gods, we are justified in rejecting this reference as evidence for the existence of demons. electricity experiments for high school That is sound exposition, but it does not explain why Luke (the author of Acts) describes the spirit as if it is real.

Neville now crosses to Acts 17:18, where he shows that the Greek word daimonion (translated ‘demon’ in English Bibles) is used synonymously with ‘deity.’ The ancient Greeks believed demons to lesser gods—sometimes described as ‘small gods’, to distinguish them from the major deities of Olympus—and mistakenly assumed that Paul was preaching two new gods called Christos (Christ) and A nastasis (resurrection). [1] So far so good, but we are no closer to solving the original dilemma: why do Acts and the Gospels both refer to demons and evil spirits as if they are real?

Neville’s critical error should now be obvious: he uses the young woman of Acts 16 as a template for all cases of demon possession, even though there are numerous incidents throughout the New Testament that do not match that template. Furthermore, this still does not answer the question: why do Acts and the Gospels both refer to demons and evil spirits as if they are real?

‘Now look at this verse in Matt 8 v 16. When even was come they brought unto Jesus many that were possessed with Demons. And he cast out the spirits with his word and healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet saying, Himself took our infirmities and bear our sicknesses. Now can you see the parallel between verses 16 and 17? In v 16 he says, He cast out the spirits and he healed the sick.

So he did two things, he cast out the spirits and healed the sick, and that fulfilled a prophecy of Isaiah, which said what? That he would take our infirmities and bear our sicknesses. So the spirits of v 16 are the infirmities of v 17, and the sick of v 16 are the sicknesses of v 17. Casting out spirits, therefore, is curing their infirmities, it has got nothing to do with religion in that sense. Casting out spirits in v 16 is performing medical cures, v 17. Demon possession you see, is in fact madness.’

‘The Bible is using an idiom and an idiom is a mode of speaking peculiar to a language and we do this sort of thing ourselves every day of the week. We say things like “the numbers speak for themselves.” Well numbers do not speak, they don’t have a personality, they can’t convey anything, but you understand what we mean when we say “the numbers speak for themselves.” “Money talks,” it doesn’t talk, but it does communicate as though it did talk.’

Idioms certainly do work in this way, but Neville has provided no evidence that references to demons and spirits in the NT are simply idioms. youtube gas pedal lyrics He notes that Jesus ‘rebuked’ the wind (Matthew 8:26), and that leprosy and other diseases ‘depart’ (Luke 5:13; Acts 19:12). [3] Yet he gives us no reason to conclude that just because these things are referred to idiomatically, demons and spirits are being referred to in the same way. Not only that, but he has overlooked a significant problem: the wind, the sorrow, the leprosy, and the diseases are all things that literally exist. Which is exactly how the NT treats demons and spirits.

‘This is how the Bible speaks, and we have to get to grips with the language and the turns of phrase that scripture uses. I might add, that these turns of phrases, they are actually in the Greek. The Greek does support this, these are not just dubious English translations, the Greek does speak like that, this is the language of the Bible.’

‘Now what are they saying? They didn’t actually mean that Jesus was possessed with a spirit of any kind, they used the phrase because they, well, what is he saying? You don’t keep the law and you are trying to kill me. What do they say? Don’t be ridiculous, you are mad, who is trying to kill you? You see what they are saying? That they say, they just say, they don’t just say he’s mad, even if they had said that he was, they wouldn’t have meant that he was clinically insane, they would have said, you are being silly, you are overreacting. They say, Thou hast a demon.’

I have previously noted that the ancients understood intoxication, madness, and demon possession to be three different things; they were not conflated, as Neville wants us to believe. gas oil ratio If he wishes to insist that ‘you have a demon’ is merely a turn of phrase meaning ‘you are mad’, he needs to prove this from appropriate sources. But he does not.

‘If I say you are a lunatic do I mean you are struck by the moon, do I believe that the moon is having an effect on your mental stability. No I don’t, I mean that would be silly. Well what about if I say there was pandemonium in the room, pan-demon-ium. I mean there is an uproar. electricity for kids I do not intend to make any reference to the existence of demons. But pandemonium means “many demons.”’

Again, this argument does not stand. These idioms were originally used to describe what people actually believed. They are non-literal to us, because we know better; but they were utterly literal to the people who first used them. It was commonly believed that the moon could make people mad, and people did believe in the existence of demons. The fact that these phrases are still used today in a non-literal sense does not change this.

‘You might be surprised to learn demons, the biblical use and discussion of the subject of demons, is used by Theistic evolution to prove the theory of evolution. Now here is how their reasoning goes. In order to harmonise the doctrine of Theistic evolution and the creative record of Gen 1 and 2 which clearly teaches the very opposite of an evolutionary process, it is suggested that scripture has been deliberately written to accommodate the scientific beliefs of the people of the day.

Mad people are said to be possessed by unclean spirits, demons whatever. Jesus went along with this idea and he cast out devils in order to cure people. However doctrinally speaking there is no such thing as demons, we’ve proven that. electricity generation by source Medically speaking we understand that mental illness is not the result of demons. Therefore, in the same way that demon-possession was once the accepted explanation of mental illness, but is no longer, the 6-day creation was once the accepted explanation of origins, but is no longer.

‘I do not believe so because of these reasons. The fact that the Bible explicitly teaches that demons are not true, proves that it is not trying to accommodate the accepted explanation of the day, because it teaches it against it elsewhere. Now that is a critical point. The Bible doesn’t agree with the notion of demon-possession, there is none other god but one.

By contrast when the Bible teaches creation in Gen 1 and 2, it does not teach against it anywhere else in the Bible, in fact quite the reverse. The Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 19 bases his prohibition of divorce on the creation record of Gen Ch 2. So there is no parallel at all with how the Bible deals with demons and demon-possession and how the Bible deals with creation.’

Neville’s argument is undermined by his reference to Genesis 1 & 2. On one hand he wants us to accept that medical advances have disproved the existence of demons and evil spirits. On the other hand, he wants us to believe that Genesis 1 & 2 are entirely literal even though Genesis 1:6-7 unambiguously describes the firmament as a solid structure that covers the earth.

Neville rejects the literal existence of the firmament because he knows it is not real; he can prove this by reference to modern science and space exploration, or simply by pointing a telescope to the sky. Yet Scripture nowhere denies the existence of the firmament, so Neville is stuck with the fact that he has no biblical basis for rejecting it.

Moreover, a literal firmament is supported by the most natural reading of Scripture—just like demons and spirits. Neville dismisses the existence of all three, but does so on inconsistent grounds. What do we learn from this? We learn that a literal reading of Scripture is acceptable only when it conforms to Neville’s theological preconceptions, just as science is acceptable until it contradicts them.

The rest of Neville’s talk primarily concerns Legion, the man with ‘many demons.’ Neville argues that Jesus pretended to cast out his demons into the pigs as a way of reassuring him that he was cured. gas and electric nyc This is a legitimate interpretation, and one with which I agree. gas engineer salary It is predicated upon the idea that Jesus himself did not believe in demons and evil spirits, but necessarily used this language because it was the only way to communicate with those who did. Again, I hold the same view.

‘An evil supernatural spirit which is ritually unclean and which causes persons to be ritually unclean—”unclean spirit.” …What is important about the term “unclean” is that the possession of such a spirit makes the individual ritually or ceremonially unclean… Accordingly, “an unclean spirit” is equivalent in a number of languages to “a contaminating spirit.”’ [6]

‘‘The concept of demons evolved during the Babylonian exile. Likely under the influence of the Persians, the Jews began to speculate on the origin of demons… One ancient view explaining the origin of evil spirits or demons is found in the book of 1 Enoch… …[T]he offspring of the angel and human union [Genesis 6:2, 4] are to be destroyed (1 En. 10:15)… At their death, evil spirits come out of their bodies, which are allowed to roam freely on the earth (1 En. 15:9).’ [8]

‘A basic animism underlies the Greek δαίμων [daimon] concept. This persisted amongst the Greeks. In the historical period especially, it was obviously combatted by educated and especially philosophical circles… We may begin with the solid fact that the term δαίμων is used both for deity or minor deity and also in a philosophical sense, and that animistic views underlie the latter usage and thus demand our attention.’ [9]

‘Despite the strong biblical opposition to magic and divination, white magic in the form of the amulet was tolerated by the Talmudic rabbis… even on the Sabbath when carrying objects in the public domain is normally forbidden… Even the rationalist thinker Maimonides records this rule in his code; although he scorns any belief in the amulet’s efficacy and holds that it is only permitted because of the psychological relief it offers to the disturbed mind.’ [10]

‘‘…[A]ll such cases of demon possession occur in the north, and usually in Galilee. For example, the first healing of a demoniac recorded in Mark occurs in the synagogue of Capernaum… Mark also mentions the case of a demon-possessed girl from Syrian Phoenicia in 7:24-30, another northern region. Mary Magdalene, from whom seven demons were cast out, was from Magdala, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.’ [15]

‘Illnesses mentioned in the south are always treated as purely organic conditions, while in the north they are sometimes treated as afflictions caused by demons.…[E]very single case of demon-possession in the Gospel accounts occurs in the north, outside Judea; there are no examples of demon-possession in Judea or Jerusalem recorded in any of the four Gospel accounts.’ [16]

‘…the New Testament does not share the systematic view and treatment of demons that is found in the early Jewish literature of those who believed in demons; on the contrary, the New Testament is comparatively disinterested in them……This is important because it demonstrates that the New Testament writers were not simply adopting the same views on demons as were held by their contemporaries who actually believed in them.’ [19]

Jesus’ miraculous expulsion of demons does not resemble traditional Jewish exorcism; he uses no rituals or magical paraphernalia. References to demons and evil spirits correspond with the spiritual maturity of the intended audience, as exemplified by the Gospel of John. Demons are false gods and equated with idols (I Corinthians 8:4-7; 10:20, 28); this is an explicit argument against their existence.

[3] Neville also claims that sorrow and hypocrisy are ‘cast out’, citing Job 39:3 and Matthew 7:5. However, Job 39:3 refers to mountain goats (‘They crouch, they bear their young, they bring forth the offspring they have carried’) and Matthew 7:5 does not describe hypocrisy as being ‘cast out.’ Instead it urges the hypocrite to remove (not ‘cast out’) a metaphorical beam. Moreover, the beam does not represent hypocrisy.

[4] The actual argument from theistic evolutionists is simply that Scripture reflects the language and worldview of its inspired writers, who described the world as they perceived it. Thus, the parallel with Genesis 1 & 2 (where the Bible describes a solid structure—or ‘firmament’—that covers the earth and separates the celestial waters from the waters below) remains valid.