Communion With Demons
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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Communion With Demons

COMMUNION WITH DEMONS; DEVILS

de'-monz, (dev'-'-lz):

I. Use of Term:

The actual expression "communion with demons" (koinonoi ton daimonion) occurs but once in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:20) where its figurative meaning is evident, but it is implied in the English version of a number of passages by the terms "one who has" or "those who have" "familiar spirits" (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27 Deuteronomy 18:11 1 Samuel 28:3, 7, 8, 9; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:24 1 Chronicles 10:13 2 Chronicles 33:6 Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 29:4). These passages seem to be somewhat incongruous with Paul's statement, but are in reality so intimately related to it as to give and receive light through the connection.

II. Teaching of Scripture.

To begin with, we may safely say, in general, that there is no ground for asserting that the Bible admits the possibility of conscious and voluntary communion with spirits. This is an essential element of popular demonology in all ages, but it is absent from Scripture. Even in the passages mentioned above which refer to necromancers and wizards, while, as we shall see, the words indicate that such practitioners professed to rely upon spirits in their divinations, the Scriptures carefully refrain from sanctioning these claims, and a number of features in the various passages serve to indicate that the true scriptural view is quite the opposite. As this is not a prevalent opinion, we should do well to examine the passages with some little care.

1. The New Testament:

(1) We may first deal with the New Testament. In the Gospels the demoniacs are consistently looked upon and treated as unconscious and helpless victims (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY). The frequent use of this term "demonized" (daimonizomenoi) together with all that is told us of the methods of treating these eases adopted by our Lord and His apostles (see EXORCISM) indicates the belief of the New Testament writers that the control of demons over men is obtained outside of or below the region of conscious volition and that the condition of the sufferers is pathological.

(2) The same must be said of the Lydian maiden whose cure by Paul is recorded in Acts 16:16. This is the one instance in the New Testament where divination is connected with spirits. The account emphasizes the excitable neurosis of the patient; and the belief on the part of the apostles and of the writer of Acts that the girl was not the conscious accomplice of her masters, but their unfortunate victim through her mysterious malady, is clear. She was treated, as the other eases recorded in the New Testament, not as a conscious wrongdoer, but as a sick person to be healed.

2. The Old Testament:

(1) Turning now to the Old Testament, the instance which requires the most careful treatment, because it holds the key to all the rest, is the narrative of Saul's visit to the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28:3-25. The Hebrew word 'obh which is usually translated "one who has a familiar spirit" (see list of passages at beginning of article) occurs in this narrative four times (verses 3, 7 twice, 8). According to the ordinary interpretation it is used in three different senses, two of which occur here. These three senses are

(a) a person who controls a spirit,

(b) the spirit controlled,

(c) the power to control such a spirit.

This meaning appears to be altogether too broad. Omitting to translate the word we have: (verse 3) "Saul had put away 'obhoth, and yidh`onim"; (verse 7), a woman, a mistress of an 'obh; (verse 8) "Divine unto me. by the 'obh." It is extremely unlikely that the same word should be used in two senses so far apart as "person who has a spirit" and the "spirit itself" in the same context. In the last passage mentioned (verse 8) there is a double indication that the word 'obh cannot have either signification mentioned. Saul says: "Divine unto me by the 'obh and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee." The expression "divine by" clearly points to some magical object used in divination. Control of a spirit through some magical object is familiar enough. The rest of Saul's statement confirms this view. The result of the divination is the calling up of a spirit. A spirit would hardly be used to call up another spirit. This conclusion is confirmed by the etymology. The word 'obh is supposed to mean "one who has a familiar spirit," from its root-significance of hollow and its primary meaning of wineskin. According to this derivation the word is applied to a necromancer on the supposition that the spirit inhabits his body and speaks from within. The transference to spirit is extremely unlikely and the explanation is not consistent with primitive ideas on spirit manifestation (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 'owb end).

(2) We, therefore, hold with H. P. Smith (International Critical Commentary, "Samuel" in the place cited.), though partly on different grounds, that the word 'obh has the same meaning in all the passages where it occurs, and that it refers to a sacred object or fetish by which spiritistic divination was carried on.

The significance of this conclusion is that the misleading expression "familiar spirit" disappears from the text, for Dr. Driver's interpretation of the companion word yidh`onim (see International Critical Commentary, Commentary on Deuteronomy in the place cited.) will scarcely be maintained in the face of this new meaning for 'obh. The prohibition contained in the law (Leviticus 20:27) against 'ohboth, and those using them, places them in the same catalogue of offense and futility with idol-worship in general.

(3) This opinion is confirmed by two separate items of evidence.

(a) In the Witch of Endor story Samuel's appearance, according to the idea of the narrator, was due to a miracle, not to the magic power of the feeble and cheating old woman to whom Saul had resorted. God speaks through the apparition a stern message of doom. No one was more startled than the woman herself, who for once had a real vision (1 Samuel 28:12). She not only gave a loud cry of astonishment and alarm but she described the figure which she saw as "a god coming up out of the each." The story is told with fidelity and clearly indicates the opinion that the actual appearance of a spirit is so violently exceptional as to indicate the immediate power and presence of God.

(b) In Isaiah 8:19 the 'obhoth and yidh`onim are spoken of as those who "chirp and mutter." These terms refer to the necromancers themselves (Septuagint translates 'obhoth by eggastromuthoi = ventriloquists) who practiced ventriloquism in connection with their magical rites. In Isaiah 29:4 it is said "Thy voice shall be as an 'obh, out of the ground." Here 'obh is usually interpreted as "ghost," but it is far more probable (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament sub loc.) that it refers as in 8:19 to the ventriloqustic tricks of those who utter their oracles in voices intended to represent the spirits which they have evoked. They are stamped in these passages, as in the Witch of Endor narrative, as deceivers practicing a fraudulent article. By implication their power to evoke spirits with whom they were in familiar intercourse is denied.

3. The Meaning of Idol-Worship:

This leaves the way clear for a brief consideration of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:20 in connection with cognate passages in the Old Testament.

(1) He argues that since idol-worship is really demon-worship, the partaking of heathen sacrifice is a communion with demons and a separation from Christ. It is usually taken for granted that this characterization of heathen worship was simply a part of the Jewish-Christian polemic against idolatry. Our fuller knowledge of the spiritism which conditions the use of images enables us to recognize the fact that from the viewpoint of heathenism itself Paul's idea was strictly correct. The image is venerated because it is supposed to represent or contain an invisible being or spirit, not necessarily a deity in the absolute sense, but a super-human living being capable of working good or ill to men.

(2) In the King James Version the term devils is used in four Old Testament passages (Leviticus 17:7 Deuteronomy 32:17 2 Chronicles 11:15 Psalm 106:37). In the Revised Version (British and American) "devils" has disappeared from the text-the word he-goats appears in Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15, while "demons" appears in Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. The translation of se`irim as "he-goats" is literally correct, but conveys an erroneous conception of the meaning. The practice reprobated is the worship of Satyrs (see SATYR) or wood-demons supposed to be like goats in appearance and to inhabit lonely places. The same word is used in Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14. The word translated "demons" in the Revised Version (British and American) is shedhim, a term used only twice and both times in connection with the rites and abominations of heathen worship. It is interesting to note that the word shidu is applied to the beings represented by the bull-colossi of Assyria (Driver, Deuteronomy in the place cited.). Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament holds that the word shedhim is an Assyrian loan-word, while Briggs (ICC, Psalm 106:37) holds that shedhim were ancient gods of Canaan. In either case the word belongs to heathenism and is used in Scripture to describe heathen worship in its own terminology. The interpretation of these beings as evil is characteristic of Biblical demonism in general (see DEMON, etc.). The worship of idols was the worship of personal beings more than man and less than God, according to Jewish and Christian ideas (see Driver op. cit., 363). Septuagint translates both the above words by daimonia.

4. Conclusion:

The term "communion with demons" does not imply any power on the part of men to enter into voluntary relationship with beings of another world, but that, by sinful compliance in wrongdoing, such as idol-worship and magical rites, men may enter into a moral identification with evil powers against which it is their duty to fight.

LITERATURE.

The Dictionaries and Commentaries dealing with the passages quoted above contain discussions of the various aspects of the subject. Jewish superstitions are ably treated by Edersheim, Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (8th edition), II, 771, 773.

Louis Matthews Sweet

Library

On the Use of Ointments and Crowns.
... excessively. We must have no communion with demons. Nor must we crown the
living image of God after the manner of dead idols. For ...
/.../clement/the instructor paedagogus/chapter viii on the use of.htm

Against those who Say that Demons Govern Human Affairs, and who ...
... Man cast aside all that he had, his right to speak freely, his communion with God,
his ... But nevertheless some dare to say that Demons administer our affairs. ...
/.../chrysostom/on the priesthood/homily i against those who.htm

Why it was the Son of God, and not the Father or the Spirit, that ...
... evil, we were stripped of our communion with God (for what communion hath light
with ... The worship of demons then has ceased: creation has been sanctified by the ...
/.../john/exposition of the orthodox faith/chapter iv why it was the.htm

Whether the Seminal Loss that Occurs During Sleep Hinders Anyone ...
... other times it is due to malice alone on the part of the demons who wish ... suffered
thus on those feast-days on which he had to receive Communion, his superiors ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether the seminal loss that.htm

1 Cor. x. 13
... "And I would not that ye should have communion with demon." Perceivest ... Ver.21. "Ye
cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake ...
/.../homilies on the epistles of paul to the corinthians/homily xxiv 1 cor x.htm

Of Avoiding Heresies and Superstitions, and what is the Only True ...
... But all of these, ensnared by frauds of demons, which they ought to have foreseen ...
It never occurred to him that communion with any one particular See was the ...
/.../lactantius/the divine institutes/chap xxx of avoiding heresies and.htm

Thanks are ever Due to God.
... Having left the heavenly companionship, it hankers after communion with inferior
things. The demons were driven forth to another abode; the first created human ...
/.../tatian/tatians address to the greeks/chapter xx thanks are ever due.htm

Of the Heresy of the Messaliani.
... leaders, and others besides, who did not hold aloof from the communion of the ... accurate
knowledge of human nature, and of the tricks of the demons who oppose us ...
/.../the ecclesiastical history of theodoret/chapter x of the heresy of.htm

The Holy Spirit in Relation to the Father and the Son. ...
... could set out in contrast to the "many gods""the demons"of the ... heathen readers might
understand, the Christian sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. ...
/.../the demonstration of the apostolic preaching/chapter 2 the holy spirit.htm

The Labours of John Cennick, 1739-1755.
... John Wesley learned from Boehler, John Cennick learned by direct communion with
God. ... And certainly they were all behaving now like folk possessed with demons. ...
/.../hutton/history of the moravian church/chapter xi the labours of.htm

Subtopics

Communion

Communion of Saints

Communion of Saints in Exhortation

Communion of Saints in Holy Conversation

Communion of Saints in Mutual Comfort and Edification

Communion of Saints in Mutual Sympathy and Kindness

Communion of Saints in Prayer for Each Other

Communion of Saints in Public and Social Worship

Communion of Saints in the Lord's Supper

Communion of Saints is With: Each Other

Communion of Saints is With: God

Communion of Saints is With: Saints in Heaven

Communion of Saints: According to the Prayer of Christ

Communion of Saints: Apostles

Communion of Saints: Christ is Present In

Communion of Saints: Daniel

Communion of Saints: David

Communion of Saints: Delight of

Communion of Saints: Exhortation To

Communion of Saints: God Marks, With his Approval

Communion of Saints: Jonathan

Communion of Saints: Opposed to Communion With the Wicked

Communion of Saints: Paul

Communion of Saints: The Church

Communion of the Lord's Supper is the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ

Communion of the Lord's Supper was Continually Partaken of, by the Church

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Both Bread and Wine are Necessary to be Received In

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Instituted

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Newness of Heart and Life Necessary to the Worthy Partaking

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Object of

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Partakers of, be Wholly Separate to God

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Prefigured

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Self-Examination Commanded Before Partaking of

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Unworthy Partakers of are Guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Unworthy Partakers of are Visited With Judgments

Communion of the Lord's Supper: Unworthy Partakers of Discern not the Lord's Body

Communion With Demons

Communion with God

Communion With God is Communion With the Father

Communion With God is Communion With the Holy Spirit

Communion With God is Communion With the Son

Communion With God: Abraham

Communion With God: Enoch

Communion With God: Holiness Essential To

Communion With God: Jacob

Communion With God: Moses

Communion With God: Noah

Communion With God: Promised to the Obedient

Communion With God: Reconciliation Must Precede

Communion With God: Saints: Desire

Communion With God: Saints: Have, in Meditation

Communion With God: Saints: Have, in Prayer

Communion With God: Saints: Have, in the Lord's Supper

Communion With God: Saints: should Always Enjoy

Communion: Abraham

Communion: Enoch

Communion: Gideon

Communion: Hagar

Communion: Isaac

Communion: Isaac, in Dreams

Communion: Joshua

Communion: Moses

Communion: Noah

Communion: Solomon

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