Discuss the emergence of the term “demon” in biblical texts – Demonology


The term “demon” as it is commonly understood in modern contexts does not appear explicitly in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) or the New Testament. However, the concept of malevolent spiritual entities and supernatural beings is present in biblical texts. The term “demon” as it is known today has evolved over time, and its specific usage in Christian theology developed later. Here’s an overview of how the concept of demons emerged in biblical texts and later Christian thought:

1. Hebrew Bible (Old Testament):

  • In the Hebrew Bible, the term often associated with malevolent spirits is “shedim” (שֵׁדִים) or “lilith” (לִילִית), both of which are mentioned in various passages. These entities were considered harmful and were associated with wilderness or desolate places.
  • There are references to spirits or “unclean spirits” in the Hebrew Bible, but these entities are not referred to as “demons” in the same sense as in later Christian theology.
  • The primary focus of the Hebrew Bible is on monotheism, emphasizing the worship of the one true God (Yahweh), rather than extensive discussions of demonology.

2. Intertestamental Literature:

  • During the period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, known as the intertestamental period, Jewish literature and beliefs evolved. This period saw the emergence of various Jewish texts, including the Book of Enoch, which contains references to fallen angels, demons, and supernatural beings.
  • These texts contributed to the development of Jewish demonology and influenced later Christian writings.

3. New Testament:

  • In the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, there are references to “unclean spirits” or “evil spirits” that possessed individuals and were often exorcised by Jesus or his disciples.
  • Although the term “demon” is not used, these entities exhibit characteristics that align with later Christian concepts of demons.

4. Christian Theology:

  • The term “demon” as it is understood today became more prominent in Christian theology, especially in the post-New Testament era. Early Christian theologians like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas contributed to the development of demonology.
  • The Christian demonology that emerged over the centuries drew from biblical references, apocryphal texts, and philosophical ideas.

In summary, the concept of malevolent spiritual entities and supernatural beings with characteristics similar to modern “demons” can be traced back to various passages in the Hebrew Bible and intertestamental literature. However, the specific term “demon” as used in Christian demonology developed later in Christian theological discussions. Biblical texts primarily focus on the worship of God and the relationship between God and humanity, with references to malevolent spirits and supernatural beings serving as supporting elements rather than central themes.