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The Big Lie – A Biblical word study on the Devil

Daimon – Demons cause illness

Mark 1:23-34, John 8:48-59, Daimon, daimonizomai, daimonion – Demons
Matthew 4:18-25, 8:14-17
Mark 5:1-17
Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-37
Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42
Mark 7:24-30; Luke 4:31-37; John 10:14-21, Daimon, daimonizomai, daimonion – Demons
Reader Question: Is all illness caused by demons?

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Mark 1:23-34, John 8:48-59, Daimon, daimonizomai, daimonion – Demons (6/10/13)

A number of years ago I read a commentary that said – rather indignantly, I thought – that Mary Magdalene’s reputation as a sinner and prostitute is completely undeserved. The commentary pointed out that Jesus cured her of seven demons, and demons are always associated with sickness, not sin. In preparing for this study, I confirmed for myself and for you that the commenter was completely correct: the Devil tempts us to sin, and demons make us sick. So the first important thing to know is that demons are not little devils. They are almost never associated with sin. Unfortunately, the King James Version translates both diabolos and daimon as “devil,” which has led to much confusion in the English-speaking churches.

This week we’ll study demons by looking at three Greek words. Daimon and daimonion both mean demon. Daimonizomai means to have a demon or to be possessed by a demon. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a couple of cases where Devil, Satan, or Evil One are used by different gospel writers telling the same story, e.g., in The Sower. That doesn’t happen for daimon, daimonizomai, daimonion. Parallel stories in different gospels have one of these words, but never satanas Satan or diabolos Devil. Furthermore, your translation is probably fairly consistent. The King James Version, unfortunately, always has devil, although the New King James has Devil or demon, as appropriate. Apparently most modern translations have demon, although I only checked a handful. A couple have evil spirit, like the Bible in Basic English. (I think “demon” isn’t basic enough.) If anything is interchangeable with daimon, etc., in Greek, it’s “unclean spirit.”

I want you to notice two things in today’s readings. First, when word gets around that Jesus has cast out an “unclean spirit,” people immediately start bringing him their sick and demon-possessed, not their sinners. They knew the difference between “evil” and “ill.” Second, when some other people are debating with Jesus, they say, “Are you demon-possessed??” in exactly the same way that we would say, “Are you crazy??” Demons cause both physical and mental illness, but they aren’t the Devil.

Today’s reading is from the Bible in Basic English, with a few emendations from me:
Matthew 4:18-25, 8:14-17 (6/11/13)

Jesus’ ability to heal the sick made him famous very early in his ministry. In these passages we see no call to repentance and no debates with the Pharisees. Jesus heals the physically and mentally ill and casts out demons, showing again that demons cause sickness, not sin.

Today’s reading is from the Bible in Basic English:
Mark 5:1-17 (6/12/13)

We read The Sower three times to show that Satan = the Devil = the Evil One. We’re going to read the story of the Gerasene demoniac three times to show that demons = demons = demons. Demons are not little devils, let alone The Devil.

Have you noticed that demons, like the Devil, recognized Jesus right away? Another thing to notice is that Jesus never wanted the demons to identify him. This reason for this is not given in scripture. One speculation is that he didn’t want publicity from demons. Another is that it was too early in his ministry – many people in first-century Judea were expecting and longing for a military Messiah to throw off the Romans, and Jesus probably wanted people to know what kind of person he was before they discovered that he was the Messiah. The fact is that we don’t know why Jesus refused to let the demons talk about him. Your guess about Jesus’ reasons is about as good as anybody’s.

Today’s reading is from the Bible in Basic English, with selections from the King James and Contemporary English Versions:
Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-37 (6/13/13)

Another notable fact about demons is that there are a lot of them. We saw earlier that there appears to be only one devil, whose name is Satan. Demons can act singly or in groups to make people ill.

From the Bible in Basic English, with selections from the King James and Contemporary English Versions:
Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42 (6/14/13)

I was reading a novel the other day about a nun who gets involved in some detective work. When the bad guys pretend to haunt the house where the sisters are staying, they simply respond, “In the name of Jesus Christ, go away!” several times, knowing that a ghost will be forced to go away. This is sound theology, because Jesus cast out demons by his own authority, and he passed on his authority to his disciples so that they also could cast out demons.

However, the disciples were having trouble with the particular demon we read about today. I don’t know whether it is significant that it is a daimonion rather than a daimon, although I suspect not. Notice that Mark just calls it a “spirit” or “unclean spirit.” Anyway, a very ill child was brought to the disciples, and they couldn’t do anything about it. I like the extra details that Mark gives, and I’m a bit surprised that Luke the Physician doesn’t repeat them. Jesus doesn’t cast out the demon immediately; instead, he first asks the father a few questions to determine exactly what the demon is doing to the child.

The other thing I like about Mark’s account is the father’s plea – “If you can help...” – and Jesus’ response, “ ‘If you can help…’!” Jesus seems to be saying, “If you didn’t think I could help, why did you come??” But Jesus does help, not only with the demon but with the father’s unbelief. Jesus will use whatever faith you have to give you whatever help you ask for (always providing that what you ask for is within the will of God).

From the Bible in Basic English, with selections from the King James and Contemporary English Versions.
Mark 7:24-30; Luke 4:31-37; John 10:14-21, Daimon, daimonizomai, daimonion – Demons (6/17/13)

We’re still looking at scriptures demonstrating that demons are not little devils, but rather spirits that cause illness. John 10:21 is especially telling. The question asked by some of the crowd may be in your Bible as “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Actually, the question in Greek expects the answer “no”: A demon can't open the eyes of the blind, can it? They were making the point that demons can’t cure people – demons make people sick. Therefore if Jesus cured someone, it didn’t make sense to accuse him of being possessed by a demon.

From the Bible in Basic English, with a word or two modified by me:
Reader Question: In your opinion, is all illness caused by demons? For example, is my good friend who has terminal cancer possessed by demons? Is my friend's daughter who has epilepsy possessed? What role do doctors play in curing illness? Very confusing. (6/20/13)
More of The Big Lie
The Son of God and the Father of Lies
The OT satan is always an adversary, but not always the Devil.
The Hebrew satan is translated various ways.
In the New Testament, both satanas and diabolos normally refer to the Devil.
Sometimes satanas and diabolos are used figuratively to refer to someone acting like the Devil.
Poneros – Evil in the New Testament
Demons cause sickness, not sin.
Sometimes Satan and demons cooperate with each other.
Neither Baalzebub nor Lucifer is a Biblical name for the Devil.
Belial means "worthless," and once it's used as a nickname for the Devil.
Satan's job description: Temptation and Lies
Our job description: Resist him!

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