God isn’t so paranoiac or primitive as to need to “cover His back” all the time when He speaks, endlessly footnoting, as it were, His statements, lest they be misinterpreted. He speaks and writes quite calmly in the language of the time. In Digression 3, I pointed out how God alludes to mistaken ideas about demons, sinful gods etc. and corrects them by employing the language used about them in relation to Himself as the ultimate source of all in human life. Thus we saw the way God’s word deconstructs error without as it were primitively confronting it in a “I am right, your ideas are wrong and pitiful” kind of way. I find this bears the stamp of the Divine and the ultimately credible. Cassuto has a very fine comment upon this, made in the context of his view that Genesis 6 is deconstructing Canaanite legends about sinful gods, demons and giants: “The answer contradicts the pagan myths, but without direct polemic. This is the way of the Torah: even when her purpose is to oppose the notions of the gentiles, she does not derogate, by stooping to controversy, from her ingrained majesty and splendour. She states her views, and by inference other ideas are rejected”¹. This has bearing on why the Lord Jesus didn’t in so many words state that “demons” don’t exist; rather by His miracles did He demonstrate “by inference” that they have no effective power or existence. We see something similar in how the Old Testament initially presents Yahweh as “the greatest of all gods” (e.g. Exodus 18:11)—without specifically stating that those other gods don’t exist. But as God’s relationship with Israel unfolds, the later prophets declare Yahweh as the only God and the other gods as no gods, mocking them as utterly non-existent.
It is worth noting that Matthew, Mark and Luke use the “demon” language, because those records are basically a transcript of the Gospel they taught to unbelievers. John’s Gospel, which seems more aimed at believers facing pressure from Judaists and Gnostics, omits any reference to them. The Lord uses demon language in connection with healings in rural Galilee rather than in the presence of more educated people in cities like Jerusalem—because presumably it was in the rural areas where the inability to grasp a direct denial of “demons” would have been more deep rooted. It has been observed: “Demon possession in the Gospel accounts is not a geographically-uniform phenomenon. Specific cases of demon possession in the synoptics occur in regional clusters, always in northern regions such as Galilee, rather than occurring throughout every location in which Christ travelled and performed healings. Conversely, there are no descriptions of demon possession in Judea or Jerusalem in the four Gospel accounts. Moreover, there are several summaries of demon possession in Galilee and the northern regions that imply demon possession was a common and even characteristic phenomenon in this area. No comparable statements for the Judean area are found in the Gospel records. Finally, certain ostensibly physical pathological conditions, such as blindness, deafness and muteness are sometimes attributed to demon possession in the north, but are never so characterized in the south, even though descriptions of these conditions do occur in texts commenting on the Judean ministry”. Clearly enough, the Bible writers reflected the perceptions of the people about whom they wrote. If they were writing about Galileeans, they spoke of healing the mentally sick in terms of demons being cast out; but they don’t use this language in speaking about Jerusalem. The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics clarifies further: “Galilee was the centre of Palestinian demonology, and it will almost invariably be found that the Galileean teachers accepted, whilst the Judean teachers rejected, the existence of spirits”².
2 Kings 17:9 speaks of Israel doing “secretly those things that were not right”. There was no ultimate secret, for God knew their ways, and their actions were manifest on “every high hill and under every green tree” (v. 10). The “secrecy” was in that they thought their deeds could be kept secret from God. And the record reflects their wrong perspective with no further comment. It is for us to perceive it. And the same is true with the matter of demons. This is one reason why the apparent error isn’t corrected.
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Author: Duncan Heaster
Keywords: Sacred disease, Epilepsy, Epileptic, Demonology, Demons, Demon, demon cast out, Devils, Devil possession, Demoniac, Demon posession, Possessed of a demon, Possessed by a devil, Devil possessed, Demon possessed, Sicknesses, Illnesses, Illness, Sickness, Lunacy, Lunatic, Mental illness, Mental afflictions, Afflictions, Evil spirits, Devil spirits, Wicked spirits, Medicine, Accomodation, Demon accomodation, Ancient sickness, Ancient illness, Ancient sicknesses, Ancient illnesses, Exorcism, Moonstruck, Moon struck, Casting out demons, Casting out devils, Exorcize, Exorcise, Exorcize demons, Exorcise demons, Mental illnesses, Mental sickness, Mentally ill, Mentally sick
Bible reference(s): Matthew 4:24, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:28, Matthew 8:31, Matthew 8:33, Matthew 9:32-34, Matthew 10:8, Matthew 11:18, Matthew 12:22, Matthew 12:24, Matthew 12:27-28, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 17:18, Mark 1:32, Mark 1:34, Mark 1:39, Mark 3:15, Mark 3:22, Mark 5:9, Mark 5:15-16, Mark 5:18, Mark 6:13, Mark 7:26, Mark 7:29-30, Mark 9:17, Mark 9:38, Mark 16:9, Mark 16:17, Luke 4:33-35, Luke 4:41, Luke 7:33, Luke 8:2, Luke 8:27-30, Luke 8:33, Luke 8:35-38, Luke 9:1, Luke 9:42, Luke 9:49, Luke 10:17, Luke 11:14-15, Luke 11:18-20, Luke 13:11, Luke 13:32, John 7:20, John 8:48-49, John 8:52, John 10:20-21, James 2:19
Source: “The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration.”
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