Christian demonology

From Academic Kids

Christian demonology is the study of the demons from a Christian point of view. It is primarily based on the Bible (Old Testament and mainly New Testament), the exegesis of these scriptures, the scriptures of some Christian philosophers and hermits, tradition, and legends incorporated from other beliefs.

First it has to be noted that, as well as theology, demonology is not a science, since it has not been (and cannot be) proved by any scientific method and is based only in personal beliefs. Unlike in the case of theology, in demonology there was never agreement among authors.

As it is common in monotheistic religions, some deities of other cults were turned into demons, which in this particular case increased the number and names of those entities adding peculiar characteristics to them.

Since early Christianity, demonology has evolved from an almost simple belief in some demons to a complex study that has abandoned the original idea taken from Jewish demonology and Christian scriptures to become an imaginative subject. Christian demonology is mainly Roman Catholic, but other Christian churches do not deny the existence of demons or their nature, although concepts can vary depending on the church. Some concepts have changed in modern times, but the basis is the same.

According to Christian demonology demons are angels, spiritual, immutable, eternal and pure evil. They are not omniscient, but each one has a specific knowledge (sometimes on only one subject, sometimes on more than one). Their power is limited to that which God allows, so they are not omnipotent. No obvious allusion has been made about omnipresence, so it is unclear if they can be in different places at the same time, but according to the tradition of the Sabbath, two conclusions can be reached: or the Devil can be in different places at the same time, or he sends an emissary in his name, but it seems that the only omni thing they are is malevolent; it is deducible from some passages of the Bible that they are not omnipresent.

Christian demonology states that the mission of the demons is to induce humans to sin, often by testing their faith in God. Christian tradition holds that temptations come from three sources: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Demons have also the duty of punishing the souls of those people that died out of God's grace (in sin), torturing them in Hell.

Tormenting people during their life, like the case of Job or by possessing them, causing disgraces and diseases, or simply showing themselves before persons to afraid them, provoking visions that could induce people to sin or to be afraid, are things believed to be their work too. (Luke 13:16; Matt. 17:15-16)

Another of their works is trying to make people abandon the faith, commit heresy or apostasy, remain or turn themselves Pagan or venerate idols and gain the highest number of "satans" or adversaries of God. (Eph. 6:12)

According both to Christian theology and Christian demonology, all evilness in this world is allegedly caused by demons with God's permission, as their mission serving God (Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8).

According to the Book of Revelation (Rev 12:9), demons are the angels that fell from heaven with Satan when he chose to rebel against God.

Justin Martyr, a Christian who lived circa 150 AD, believed (based on Gen 6:2-4) that demons were the offspring of angels and men. The Greeks viewed demons as the spirits of wicked dead men (Heb 9:27).

In John 8:44 Jesus calls the Devil "the first homicide" (perhaps referring to the murdering of Abel by Cain), liar, and father of all lies.

Referring to their appearance, demons can take any desired appearance, even that of an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). Nevertheless, they were generally described as ugly and monstrous beings by Christian demonologists, without any valid reason. Many of these descriptions have inspired famous painters like Luca Signorelli, Hieronymus Bosch, Goya, the artist that made the drawings for the Dictionnaire Infernal, and others.

Some early theologians described demons with the appearance of "dirty Ethiopians".

Incubi and succubae are described as beautiful to accomplish their mission.

But according to Nicholas Remy, the figure of the demons is imperfect, which he deduced from the descriptions given by those accused persons interrogated during the witch trials; he wrote:

"...that proves how marvellous God's love is, even for the most miserable human beings, being that demons can never take a human figure in a perfect form, and so the most stupid people are able to discover them".

The idea that demons have horns seems to have been taken from the Book of Revelation 13:1 (here seems that John was inspired by Leviathan) and 13:11. The book of Revelation seems to have also inspired some absurd depictions of demons (Revelation 13:1-2). This idea can also been associated with the depiction of certain ancient gods like Baal, Moloch, the shedu, etc, which were portrayed as bulls, as men with the head of a bull, or wearing bull horns as a crown.

Nothing explains the idea that the Devil could be represented with a tail, but the trident attributed as his "sceptre" might have been inspired by an early contact of Christians with Hindus (that contact is registered in history and still exist some communities of Christians that follow the ancient rite of apostolic times in India), because the trident is Shiva's weapon, and that god is considered by most followers of Hinduism, the Vaishnavas, worshippers of Vishnu as main deity (with the exception of the minority of the Shaivas, Shiva's worshippers) as the destroyer, Kali's husband, comparable although not equal to the Devil.


Christian demonology studies

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