An invisible, wicked, spirit creature having superhuman powers. The common Greek word for demon (daiʹmon) occurs only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in Matthew 8:31; elsewhere the word dai·moʹni·on appears. Pneuʹma, the Greek word for “spirit,” at times is applied to wicked spirits, or demons. (Mt 8:16) It also occurs qualified by terms such as “wicked,” “unclean,” “speechless,” and “deaf.”
The demons as such were not created by God. The first to make himself one was Satan the Devil (see SATAN), who became the ruler of other angelic sons of God who also made themselves demons. (Mt 12:24, 26) In Noah’s day disobedient angels materialized, married women, fathered a hybrid generation known as Nephilim (see NEPHILIM), and then dematerialized when the Flood came. (Ge 6:1-4) However, upon returning to the spirit realm, they did not regain their lofty original position, for Jude 6 says: “The angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (1Pe 3:19, 20) So it is in this condition of dense spiritual darkness that they must now confine their operations. (2Pe 2:4) Though evidently restrained from materializing, they still have great power and influence over the minds and lives of men, even having the ability to enter into and possess humans and animals, and the facts show that they also use inanimate things such as houses, fetishes, and charms.
The purpose of all such demonic activity is to turn people against Jehovah and the pure worship of God. Jehovah’s law, therefore, strictly forbade demonism in any form. (De 18:10-12) However, wayward Israel went so far astray as to sacrifice their sons and daughters to the demons. (Ps 106:37; De 32:17; 2Ch 11:15) When Jesus was on earth demon influence was very prevalent, and some of his greatest miracles consisted of expelling wicked spirits from victimized persons. (Mt 8:31, 32; 9:33, 34; Mr 1:39; 7:26-30; Lu 8:2; 13:32) Jesus gave this same power to his 12 apostles and to the 70 that he sent out, so that in the name of Jesus they too could cast out the demons.
Demon influence in human affairs is no less manifest today. It is still true that “the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons.” (1Co 10:20) In the last book of the Bible, the “revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place,” prophetic warning is given concerning accelerated demon activity on the earth. (Re 1:1) “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels [demons] were hurled down with him. On this account . . . woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Re 12:9, 12) Unclean, froglike expressions “are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”
Christians must, therefore, put up a hard fight against these unseen wicked spirits. James, in arguing that belief alone is not sufficient, says: “You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder.” (Jas 2:19) “In later periods of time,” warned Paul, “some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1Ti 4:1) One cannot eat of Jehovah’s table and at the same time feed from the table of demons. (1Co 10:21) The faithful, therefore, must put up a hard fight against the Devil and his demons, “against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”
To the Greeks to whom Paul preached, what were demons?
This use of the word “demon” is narrow and specific compared with the notions of ancient philosophers and the way the word was used in classical Greek. In this regard the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Kittel (Vol. II, p. 8) remarks: “The meaning of the adj[ective dai·moʹni·os] brings out most clearly the distinctive features of the G[ree]k conception of demons, for it denotes that which lies outwith human capacity and is thus to be attributed to the intervention of higher powers, whether for good or evil. [To dai·moʹni·on] in pre-Christian writers can be used in the sense of the ‘divine.’” (Translated and edited by G. Bromiley, 1971) When speaking controversially with Paul, some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers concluded: “He seems to be a publisher of foreign deities [Gr., dai·mo·niʹon].”
When speaking to the Athenians, Paul used a compound of the Greek word daiʹmon, saying: “You seem to be more given to the fear of the deities [Gr., dei·si·dai·mo·ne·steʹrous; Latin Vulgate, ‘more superstitious’] than others are.” (Ac 17:22) Commenting on this compound word, F. F. Bruce remarks: “The context must decide whether this word is used in its better or worse sense. It was, in fact, as vague as ‘religious’ in Eng[lish], and here we may best translate ‘very religious’. But AV ‘superstitious’ is not entirely wrong; to Paul their religion was mostly superstition, as it also was, though on other grounds, to the Epicureans.”
When speaking to King Herod Agrippa II, Festus said that the Jews had certain disputes with Paul concerning their “worship of the deity [Gr., dei·si·dai·mo·niʹas; Latin Vulgate, ‘superstition’].” (Ac 25:19) It was noted by F. F. Bruce that this Greek word “might be less politely rendered ‘superstition’ (as in AV). The corresponding adjective appears with the same ambiguity in [Acts] 17:22.”
See GOAT-SHAPED DEMON.