Daemon in Greek δαίμων, and its derivative δαιμόνιον, both rendered "devil" in the English version of the New Test.; in the original, however, they are carefully distinguished from the term διάβολος. SEE DEVIL. These two words, δαίμων and δαιμόνιον, are used as synonymous both by profane and sacred writers. The entmologies which the Greek authors themselves assign to them all point to some supposed characteristic of those intelligent beings to whom the words are applied. For example, Plato, in his Cratylus (i. 398, ed. Serran.), derives the word from δαήμων, "knowing" (of which, indeed, the form δαίμων is found in Archil. [B.C. 650]), in allusion to the superior intelligence and consequent efficiency ascribed to dsemons; Eusebius (Praep. Evang. 4:5) from δειμαίνω, "to be terrified;" others, as Proclus (in Hesiod.), from δαίω, "to distribute," because daemons were supposed to assign the lots or destinies of mankind (in which case it would be similar to Μοῖρα). The subject is greatly encumbered with superstition.
I. By heathen writers the terms in question are employed with considerable latitude. In Homer, where the gods are but supernatural men, δαίμιον is used interchangeably with θεός (1l. 17:98, 99; comp. 104); hence any particular divinity, as Venus (11. in); afterwards in Hesiod (Op. 121), when the idea of the gods had become more exalted and less familiar, the δαίμονες, are spoken of as intermediate beings ("minores diis et majores hominibus," Liv. 8:20; Adam, Rom. Antiq. p. 287), the messengers of the gods to men. This latter usage of the word evidently prevailed afterwards as the correct one, although in poetry, and even in the vague language of philosophy, τὸ δαιμόνιον was sometimes used as equivalent to τὸ θεῖον for any superhuman nature. Aristotle applies δαιμόνιον to the Divinity, Providence (Rhetor. 2:23). But Plato (Symp. p. 202, 203) fixes it distinctly in the more limited sense. Among them were numbered the spirits of good men, "made perfect" after death (Plato, Crat. p. 398, quotation from Hesiod). It was also believed that they became tutelary deities of individuals (to the purest form of which belief Socrates evidently referred in the doctrine of his (δαιμόνιον); and hence δαίμων was frequently used in the sense of the "fate" or "destiny" of a man (as in the tragedians constantly), thus recurring, it would seem, directly to its original derivation.
1. Daemons, in the theology of the Gentiles, are middle beings between gods and mortals. This is the judgment of Plato, which will be considered decisive: "Every daemon is a middle being between God and mortal." He thus explains what he means by a middle being: "God is not approached immediately by man, but all the commerce and intercourse between gods and men are performed by the mediation of daemons." He enters into further particulars: "Daemons are reporters and carriers from men to the gods, and again from the gods to men, of the supplications and prayers of the one, and of the injunctions and rewards of devotion from the other" (Plato, Sympos. 3, 202, 203, ed. Serran.). "And this," says the learned Mede, "was the eocumenical philosophy of the apostles' times, and of the times long before them."
2. Daemons were of two kinds; the one were the souls of good men, which upon their departure from the body were called heroes, were afterwards raised to the dignity of daemons, and subsequently to that of gods (Plutarch, De Defect. Orac.). Plato (Cratylus, ut sup.) says, 'The poets speak excellently who affirm that when good men die they attain great honor and dignity, and become' daemns." It is also admitted that lamblichus, Hierocles, and Simplicius use the words angels and daemons indiscriminately. Philo (De Gigantibus) says that souls, daemons, and angels are only different names that imply one and the same substance; and he affirms (De Somn.) that Moses calls those angels whom the philosophers call daemons. It was also believed that the souls of bad men became evil daemons (Chalcid. in Platon. Tim. c. 135, p. 330). Accordingly δαιμόνιος often occurs in ancient authors as a term of reproach. The other kind of daemons were of more noble origin than the human race, having never inhabited human bodies (Plato, Tim. p. 41, 42, 69, 71, 75; Apuleius, De Deo Socratis, p. 690).
3. The heathens held that some daemons were malignant by nature, and not merely so when provoked and offended. Plutarch says, "It is a very ancient opinion that there are certain wicked and malignant daemons, who envy good men, and endeavor to hinder them in the pursuit of virtue, lest they should be partakers of greater happiness than they enjoy" (Plut. Dion. 1:958, Paris, 1624). On this passage bishop Newton remarks, "This was the opinion of all the later philosophers, and Plutarch undeniably affirms it of the very ancient ones" (Dissert. on the Proph., Lond. 1826, p. 476). Pythagoras held that certain daemons sent diseases to men and cattle (Diog. Laert. Vit. Pythag. p. 514, ed. Amstel.). Zaleucus, in his preface to his Laws (apud Stoboeum, Serm. 42), supposes that an evil daemon might be present with a witness to influence him to injustice.
II. By Hellenistic writers. — In the Septuagint the words δαίμων and δαιμόνιον, though not found very frequently, are yet employed to render different Hebrew words; generally in reference to the idols of heathen worship, as in Ps 95:3, for אלִֵילִים, the "empty," the "vanities" (rendered χειροποίητοι, etc., in Le 19:4; Le 26:1); in De 32:17, for שֵׁדִים, "lords" (comp. 1Co 8:5); in Isa 65:11, for גִּד, Gad, the goddess of Fortune: sometimes in the sense of avenging or evil spirits, as in Ps 91:6, for קֶטֶב, "pestilence," i.e. evidently "the destroyer;" also in Isa 13:21; Isa 34:14, for שָׂעִיר, "hairy," and צִיִּים, "dwellers in the desert," in the same sense in which the A.V. renders "satyrs." SEE SPECTRE. In the book of Tobit (3, 8) we meet with "an evil doemon" (πονηρὸν δαιμόνιον). SEE ASMODEAUS.
In Josephus we find the word "daemons" used always of evil spirits; in 7:6, 3, he says expressly, Daemons are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them;" and he speaks of their exorcism by fumigation (as in Tobit 8:2, 3). See also Ant. vi, c. 8, 2; viii, c. 2, 5. Writing as he did with a constant view to the Gentiles, it is not likely that he would use the word in the other sense, as applied to heathen divinities.
By Philo the word appears to be used in a more general sense, as equivalent to "angels," and referring to both good and evil. SEE GIANT.
III. The New-Testament writers always use the word in a bad sense when they speak as from themselves. In the Gospels generally, in Jas 3:18, and in Re 16:14, the daemons are spoken of as spiritual beings at enmity with God, and having power to afflict man not only with disease, but, as is marked by the frequent epithet "unclean," with spiritual pollution also. In Ac 19:12-13, etc., they are exactly defined as "evil spirits" (τὰ πνεύματα τὰ πονηρά). They "believe" the power of God "and tremble" (Jas 2:19); they recognize our Lord as the Son of God (Mt 8:29; Lu 4:41), and acknowledge the power of his name, used in exorcism, in the place of the name of Jehovah, by his appointed messengers (Ac 19:15); and look forward in terror to the judgment to come (Mt 8:29). The description is precisely that of a nature akin to the angelic, SEE ANGEL, in knowledge and powers, but with the emphatic addition of the idea of positive and active wickedness. Nothing is said either to support or to contradict the common Jewish belief, that in their ranks might be numbered the spirits of the wicked dead. In support of it are often quoted the fact that the daemoniacs sometimes haunted the tombs of the dead (Mt 8:28), and the supposed reference of the epithet ἀκάθαρτα, "unclean," to the ceremonial uncleanness of a dead body. In 1Co 10:20-21; 1Ti 4:1; and Re 9:20, the word δαιμόνια a is used of the objects of Gentile worship, and in the first passage it is opposed to the word Θεù (with a reference to De 32:17). So also is it used by the Athenians in Ac 17:18. The same identification of the heathen deities with the evil spirits is found in the description of the damsel having "a spirit of divination" (πνεῦμα πύθωνα, or πύθωνος) at Philippi, and the exorcism of her as a daemoniac by Paul (Ac 16:16); and it is to be noticed that in 1Co 10:19-20, the apostle is arguing with those who declared an idol to be a pure nullity, and while he accepts the truth that it is so, he yet declares that all which is offered to it is offered to a "daemon." SEE PYTHONESS. Indeed, it has been contended that evidence is found in the Old Test. to show that demons who had once been souls of men were the objects of immediate worship among the heathens (De 26:14; Ps 106:28; Isa 8:19), and it is in contradistinction to these that Jehovah is so frequently called "the living God" (De 5:6, etc. etc.; see Farmer's Essay on the Daemonacs, passim). More particularly,
1. As to their nature, daemons are πνεύματα, or spirits (comp. Mt 8:16; Mt 10:1; Mt 12:43-45; Mr 9:20; Lu 10:20, etc.). Hence there is ascribed to them intelligence and will (Mr 1:24; Lu 4:34; Jas 2:19; Jas 3:14), as well as great power (Mt 8:28-32; Mr 9:26; Eph 6:12). Whether they are to be reckoned as belonging to the class, and as fallen from the original condition of the angels, does not clearly appear from any statement of Scripture. As the messengers and agents of Satan (q.v.), they may be either the one or the other; but the probability seems to be that they belong to the same class as himself (see Doddridge, Family Expositor, 1:33, London, 1799; Campbell, Prelim. Dissert. p. 190). He is called the Prince of the Daemons; the daemons whom our Lord cast out are collectively called Satan (Mt 12:24-29; Lu 13:16); and the phrase "unclean spirits," which is applied to them (Mt 10:1; Mr 3:11; Mr 6:7, etc.), is applied also to fallen angels (Re 16:13; Re 18:2), and even in the singular to Satan himself (Mr 3:30; comp. 22). These considerations, we think, render it probable that the δαιμόνια of the N.T. belong to the number of those angels "who kept not their first estate;" and we conclude probably (though attempts have been made to deny the inference) that they must be the same as "the angels of the devil" (Mt 25:41; Re 12:7,9), "the principalities and powers" against whom we "wrestle" (Eph 6:12, etc.).
2. As to character, daemons are described as evil, unclean (πονηρά, ἀκάθαρτα) (Mt 12:45; Mt 10:1, etc.), as belonging to the kingdom of darkness, and used by Satan for his wicked designs (Mt 9:34; Mt 25:41; Eph 6:12).
3. As to their abode, they are represented as "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6; comp. 2Pe 2:4). They are said also to be in the abyss (Lu 8:31; comp. Re 9:1-11). SEE ABYSS. Such descriptions, however, can be understood as intimating nothing more than their being in a state of punishment, and under control; for the activity which is ascribed to them is incompatible with the idea of their being in a state of confinement; and, besides, such passages as Eph 2:2; Eph 6:12, would lead to the conclusion that a sphere of extended physical freedom is assigned to these fallen spirits.
IV. The fathers frequently refer to daemons in their writings. By some they are represented as angels who, originally created holy, fell into rebellion and sin (Joan. Damasc. Expos. Fidei, 2:4), while others represent them as the fruit of the intercourse of angels with women (Justin M. Apol. 2:5), and others that they are the souls of the giants whom the daughters of men bore to devils (Pseudo-Clementin. 8:18). They also teach that they are ἀσώματα, yet not in such a sense as to be absolutely impassable, but as σκίᾷ ὄντα (Clem. Alex. p. 791; comp. Chrysosom, Hom. 125; Theodoret, in Jes. 13). They all describe them as evil, as deceiving and destroying men, as being the object of worship to the heathen, and as employed by God to punish the wicked (Origen, Cont. Cels.v. 234; viii, p. 399, etc.). See the passages collected in Suicer, Thes. s.v. δαίμων, and in Usteri, Paulin. Lehrbegrigfe (Ant. 3, p. 421 sq., 5th ed.); comp. also on the whole subject Winzer, De Daemonologia in N.T. libris (Viteb. et Lips. 1812-22); Lindinger, De Hebroeor. arte med. de Doemone (Wittenb. 1774); Pisanski, Beleucktung der sogenannt. biblisch. Damonologie (Danz. 1778); Schmid, De lapsu doemonum (Wittenberg, 1775). SEE DAEMONIAC.