TheKing James Version of the Bible often used the term
"devils" which some readers assume are Satan's
demons. Other translations use "heathen gods," "idols,"
etc. In reality, they simply refer to the Gods worshiped by Pagan tribes (or the idols
that represented those Gods):
Leviticus 17:7: "And they shall no more offer their sacrifices
unto devils, [literally "hairy ones"] after whom they have gone a
Deuteronomy 32:17: "They sacrificed unto devils, not to
God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up..."
2 Chronicles 11:15: "And he ordained him priests for the high
places, and for the devils, and for the [statues of] calves which he had made."
Psalms 106:35-37: "But were mingled among the heathen, and
learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they
sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils."
Evil spirits which cause mental disturbances are
mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. But they were not dispatched or controlled by Satan;
they were sent by God to torment people:
Judges 9:23: "Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech
and the men of Shechem..."
1 Kings 22:23: "...behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in
the mouth of all these thy prophets..."
1 Samuel 16:14: "But the Spirit of the LORD departed
from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him." (KJV)
1 Sam 18:10: "And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil
spirit from God came upon Saul..."
1 Sam 19:9: "And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon
The Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
The belief in Satan and his army of demons first appears in Jewish writings after 300 BCE. At the time
of the 1st century CE, it is a well developed concept in Palestine. There are literally
dozens of passages referring to demon possession causing mental and physical illnesses. A
major feature of Jesus' ministry is portrayed as curing people of demonic possession
Matthew 4:24: "...they brought unto him [Jesus] all sick
people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed
with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy..."
Matthew 8:16: "When the even was come, they brought unto him
many that were possessed with devils..."
Matthew 8:28-34: "And when he [Jesus] was come to the other
side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming
out of the tombs, exceeding fierce..." (KJV; devils are normally
translated as demons in other Bible versions).
Matthew 9:32-33: "As they went out, behold, they brought to
him a dumb man possessed with a devil."
Matthew 10:1: "And when he had called unto him his twelve
disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all
manner of sickness and all manner of disease."
Matthew 12:22: "Then was brought unto him one possessed with a
devil, blind, and dumb..."
Matt 12:43-45: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man,
he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none."
Matthew 15:22: "And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the
same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my
daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."
Matthew 17:14-18: "There came to him a certain man, kneeling
down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore
vexed...And Jesus rebuked the devil; "
Mark 1:23: "And there was in their synagogue a man with an
unclean spirit; and he cried out..."
Mark 3:11: "And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down
before him, and cried..."
Mark 3:22-26: "And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem
said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils."
Mark 5:2-20: "...there met him [Jesus] out of the tombs a man
with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him,
no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the
chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could
any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs,
crying, and cutting himself with stones."
Mark 6:7: "And he called unto him the twelve, and began to
send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;"
Mark 7:2: "For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an
unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:"
Mark 9:17-25: "I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a
dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth
with his teeth, and pineth away:... and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him;
and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming...[Jesus] rebuked the foul spirit..."
Mark 9:38: "...Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy
name, and he followeth not us..."
Mark 16:9: "...Jesus...appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out
of whom he had cast seven devils."
Mark 16:17: "And these signs shall follow them that believe;
In my name shall they cast out devils..."
Luke 4:33: "And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a
spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice..."
Luke 4:41: "and devils also came out of many, crying out..."
Luke 8:2-3 "And certain women, which had been healed of evil
spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna
the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others..."
Luke 8:33: "Then went the devils out of the man, and entered
into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were
Luke 9:38-42: "...a man of the company cried out, saying,
Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit
taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and
bruising him hardly departeth from him....And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit..."
Luke 10:17: "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying,
Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name."
Luke 11:14: "And he [Jesus] was casting out a devil,
and it was dumb..."
Luke 11:15: "But some of them said, He casteth out devils
through Beelzebub the chief of the devils."
John 7:20-21: "The people answered and said, Thou hast a
devil: who goeth about to kill thee?"
John 8:48-49: "Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say
we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?"
John 10:20: "And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is
mad; why hear ye him?"
A number of references relate to the final destiny of Satan and his
demons. They are to be thrust into Hell, described as a
lake of fire. In these passages, Satan's angels apparently refer to his demons:
Matthew 25:4: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
1 Peter 2:4: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but
cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto
judgment." Jude 1:6: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but
left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the
judgment of the great day."
Revelation 12:9: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old
serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out
into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Demons are also mentioned elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures:
Acts 19:13-16: "And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped
on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that
house naked and wounded."
James 2:19: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou
doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
Revelation 9:20: "And the rest of the men which were not
killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not
worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which
neither can see, nor hear, nor walk"
Various passages describe how Satan can adopt a spirit form, reside inside a person, and
influence their thoughts and behavior in the same way as a demon can:
Ephesians 2:2 describes him as a spirit who works within "the
children of disobedience."
John 13:2 describes how Satan "put into" Judas
Isariot's mind the decision to betray Jesus.
Acts 5:3 describes how Satan filled Ananias' heart with the decision to
lie to the Holy Ghost about the proceeds of a real estate sale.
How these passages are interpreted:
Fundamentalist Christians generally believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. They regard the text, as originally
written, as inspired by God. Thus, they are drawn to several beliefs:
That Satan and his demons exist.
That they are continually in spiritual warfare with humans.
That some people can become indwelled by a demon and exhibit symptoms of mental illness.
The indwelling demons can often be removed through exorcism.
That when non-Christians worship their own Gods and/or Goddesses, they are actually
The alternative to these beliefs is to regard the Bible as inaccurate and mistaken; and
this is unthinkable.
The Roman Catholic church has abandoned its belief that mental
illnesses are generally caused by indwelling demons. However, they still believe that in rare cases, demon posession can happen. They also retain their existing
beliefs in Satan, his demons, and spiritual warfare. Their rituals of exorcism no longer
stress the presence of Satan or a demon spirit within people.
Religious liberals have long abandoned belief in:
Satan as a living entity
An army of fallen angels who do the bidding of Satan
Demonic possession causing mental and physical illnesses
They also accept that various non-Christian religions teach beliefs about their Gods
and/or Goddesses that are at variance with Christianity. However, they feel that those
beliefs should be respected as meaningful to other people.
They see an all-evil Satanic entity and his army of demons as symbols by which a
pre-scientific society attempted to explain natural occurrences. Now that we know the
causes of thunder, lightening, hurricanes, movement of the stars, mental disorders,
physical illnesses, epilepsy, and many thousands of other phenomena, we can relegate Satan and
demons to the status of myth -- a very beautiful fable, but not descriptive of the real