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English Bible Dictionary

Demoniacs

 

This word is frequently used in the New Testament, and applied to persons suffering under the possession of a demon or evil spirit, such possession generally showing itself visibly in bodily disease or mental derangement. It has been maintained by many persons that our Lord and the evangelists, in referring to demonical possession, spoke only in accommodation to the general belief of the Jews, without any assertion as to its truth or its falsity. It is concluded that, since the symptoms of the affliction were frequently those of bodily disease (as dumbness, (Matthew 9:32) blindness, (Matthew 12:22) epilepsy, (Mark 9:17-27)), or those seen in cases of ordinary insanity (as ill) (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:1-5) the demoniacs were merely persons suffering under unusual diseases of body and mind. But demoniacs are frequently distinguished from those afflicted with bodily sickness, see (Mark 1:32; 16:17,18; Luke 6:17,18) the same outward signs are sometimes referred to possession sometimes merely to disease, comp. (Matthew 4:24) with Matt 17:15; (Matthew 12:22) with Mark 7:32 etc.; the demons are represented as speaking in their own persons with superhuman knowledge. (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:41) etc. All these things speak of a personal power of evil, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. Twice our Lord distinctly connects demoniacal possession with the power of the evil one. (Luke 10:18) Lastly, the single fact recorded of the entrance of the demons at (Gadara (Mark 5:10-14) into the herd of swine, and the effect which that entrance caused is sufficient to overthrow the notion that our Lord and the evangelists do not assert or imply any objective reality of possession. We are led, therefore, to the ordinary and literal interpretation of these passages, that there are evil spirits, subjects of the evil one, who, in the days of the Lord himself and his apostles especially, were permitted by (God to exercise a direct influence over the souls and bodies of certain men.

 

* See also: Satan, Devil.

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