Theological origins of demon possession in Judaism:
The ancient Hebrews believed in evil spirits who were capable of indwelling
human minds. They were mentioned in Judges, 1 Kings. and 1 Samuel. However they did
not form a major part of their religious belief system when compared to the
beliefs of the Pagan tribes surrounding them.
Judaism, during the 1st
century CE, began to believe in Satan as a profoundly evil
entity controlling hordes of demons. S.H.Y. Page wrote in his book: "Powers of Evil: A Biblical study of Satan & demons:
"Among other things, the forces of evil [were considered to]
promote injustice, the oppression of the people of God, idolatry, deception and violence."
Many theologians believe that these
concepts were picked up from the Zoroastrian faith in Persia many centuries previously
during the Hebrew's captivity in Babylonian. Zoroastrians believe in an all-good
deity and an all-evil deity. They were viewed as having equal powers. This may have morphed into an evil
Satan accompanying Yahweh as two main supernatural forces in the universe.
Christian teachings on demonic possession and exorcism:
Christianity has historically taught that Satan
roams about the world attempting to harm, harass, and destroy humans. Perhaps
because of the Christian belief that Satan is a created being -- a fallen angel
-- who is incapable of being in more than one place at one time, Satan was
viewed as being in control of
hordes of demons who were largely responsible for
performing evil acts.
There are many dozens of passages in the Christian
Scriptures which describe the belief that demons can indwell or possess a human being and cause them
to behave strangely. Much mental and physical illness was attributed to this origin
1st century CE. A major part of the Gospels and
Acts involve Jesus' healing
ministry of exorcism. He is recorded as having cured numerous sick people by banishing one
or more demons from their body. In one memorable incident, he transferred a
thousand demonic spirits from one person to a herd of pigs. However, Paul's
epistles, Revelation and other books in the Christian Scriptures are silent on
According to the Christian Scriptures:
Demon possession is not related to sin that a person may have performed.
Both humans and animals can be possessed, sometimes by many demons.
Demons cause physical effects in possessed people: one woman was able to
foretell the future; others were made mute, unable to straighten their back,
giving the person superhuman strength, etc.
The Gods worshiped by non-Christians are either Satan or one of his
Do evil spirits exist; is exorcism needed?
There is no consensus in North America about the existence of indwelling evil spirits, and
effectiveness of exorcism:
A Barna Research
poll in 2002-AUG showed that 54% of adult Americans believe that: "a human
being can be under the control or the influence of spiritual forces such as
Belief in demonic spirits is particularly common among conservative
Christians, Generally speaking, these groups believe in the
of the Bible. The Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) contain so many references
to exorcisms by Jesus and the Apostles, that believers who interpret the Bible literally
are almost compelled to believe in demons, demonic possession, and
exorcism as the cause of much or all mental illness and profoundly evil
||Roman Catholicism continues to teach the existence of demonic
possession. Until recently, every baptism contained what was basically an exorcism of the
infant. However, they believe that most people coming for exorcisms are not
the victims of demonic possession. Rather, they need help from a mental health
therapist. For the small percentage of people who seek exorcisms who are
under the control of demons, the Church is suggesting that each of its
dioceses have a trained exorcist on staff.
Essentially all liberal Christians have long abandoned belief in demons. They regard Biblical passages
about demons as quaint literature from ancient times, which are unrelated to reality. They are
valuable only as myths, and as now discredited explanations of schizophrenia, epilepsy and other
disorders by a pre-scientific society in first century CE Palestine.
All or essentially all Atheists,
Agnostics, Wiccans, other Neo-pagans have also
abandoned belief in Satan and demons.
Cultural icons die hard. Hollywood continues to crank out many
grade B movies, and the occasional feature film, which includes demon possession and exorcisms
as main themes.
Physical abuse during exorcisms occasionally causes serious injury
death. 4 Accidental homicides occur at the rate of about one
per year in North America. In the past few years, we have noticed news items about
exorcism murders in Ontario, Canada, and in California and New Jersey in the
- S.H.Y. Page, "Powers of Evil: A Biblical study of Satan & demons," Baker Books, (1995), Page 82.
"Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View," Barna Research Online, 2002-OCT-8, at:
D. Trull, "Crucifixes in throat hospitalize woman," at:
"Woman admits guilt in exorcism death," at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JAN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson