Continuing from last week, discerning truth from fiction is even worse when it comes to demonology. History repeats itself, and although in Bible times superstition was much more common place, there are places in our world today where the same problems have much the same grip. This week I’ll summarize about demons, the ancient beliefs about them, how these affected Christ’s ministry, and how demons still do affect even the majority of us.
DEMONS, WHY LEARNING THIS MATTERS
The difference between the Satanology of the Rabbis and of the New Testament is, if possible, even more marked than that in their Angelology. In general…with the exception of the word Satan, none of the names given to the great enemy in the New Testament occurs in Rabbinic writings. More important still, the latter contains no mention of a Kingdom of Satan. In other words, the power of evil is not contrasted with that of good, nor Satan with God. The devil is presented rather as the enemy of man, than of God and of good.From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Why does this matter? How can you combat an enemy you don’t understand? During World War I and II, why was it so important to have spies? To know what the enemy was up to. Without this, we don’t stand a chance! How much do we see replicated today in our society what the Rabbis taught about Satan and demons?
CONTRASTING THE NEW TESTAMENT WITH RABBINISM
The New Testament sets before us 2 opposing kingdoms, or principles, which exercise absolute sway over man. Christ is “the Stronger one” …but…it is a moral contest…. This implies the deliverance of man from the power of the enemy…and the substitution of a…spiritual life for the old one…. The doctrine of Christ…fundamentally different from, and incomparably superior to, that of Rabbinism. “Whence hath this Man this wisdom?” Assuredly…not from His contemporaries.From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
BLURRING BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
…Rabbinism viewed the “great enemy” only as the envious and malicious opponent of man…. We have only a clumsy and…often a stupid hater…holds equally true in…the threefold aspect under which Rabbinism presents the devil: as Satan (also called Sammael); as the Yetser haRa, or evil impulse personified; and as the Angel of Death—in other words, as the Accuser, Tempter, and Punisher….
The fall of Satan and of his angels…took place…subsequently to the creation of man…the primary cause of it was jealousy and envy on the part of the angels. Their opposition to man’s creation is described…a somewhat blasphemous account of the discussions in the heavenly Sanhedrin, whether or not man should be created. While the dispute was still proceeding God actually created man and then addressed the ministering angels: “Why dispute any longer? Man is already created.” …[mankind’s] superiority was evidenced by his ability to give names to all creatures, induced them to “lay a plot against Adam,” so that by his fall they might obtain supremacy.From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
The Talmud changes more about the creation story from the Bible. Adam and Eve are more victims of the angels’ jealousy than responsible for their own actions. The Talmud also explains away David’s fall with Bathsheba, why and how Moses had to die, etc.
Evil Spirits…. Here also…we mark the presence of Parsee elements of superstition. In general, these spirits resemble the gnomes, hobgoblins, elves, and sprites of our fairy tales. They are cunning and malicious, and contact with them is dangerous; but they can scarcely be described as absolutely evil. Indeed, they often prove kind and useful…even made serviceable…. Opinions differ as to their origin…created…male spirits…and female spirits…they propogate themselves…. Like the angels they have wings, pass unhindered through space…they appear…[as] human beings, they may assume any other form….From The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Because demons can “even be made serviceable” it was easy for the Pharisees to assume that Jesus was healing through the power of demons and “Beelzebul.”
In Acts 19:11-17 rabbis tried to do magic in Christ’s name but weren’t Christians themselves. The result was catastrophic. Jesus reasoned with the Pharisees that Beelzebul’s house wouldn’t continue to stand if it turns against itself (Matthew 12:27). The ancient Jews were used to being divided against each other over various beliefs and issues. It would’ve been painfully obvious that their division weakened them against their common enemy: the Romans. Clearly their superstition would’ve blurred the lines of truth and fiction almost beyond hope. But Jesus made undeniable who stood for the truth.
I had a friend who grew up in what was truly a haunted house. It was many years before she became a Christian, and her stories made my skin crawl. I marvelled over how much demons obviously fed on her paralyzing fear. In contrast, I was even more impressed with how ineffectual the demons were when her younger sister’s resolve pushed her own fears back. Although this is an interesting topic, it’s not nearly as common or important for us with what we normally face today. The lines of good and evil are blurred. The enemy has infiltrated undetected. We normally face scepticism, humanism, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency. Worst of all, people don’t want to face the truth.
Do you adhere to the truth? It shall set you free (John 8:31-32).