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Bowring's Matins and Vespers,
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(Continued from Vol. XIV. p. 547.) CHAPTER VIII.-DEMONIACAL POSSESSION. VERSES 28 to end: " And when he was come to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, * *.” The subject of DEMONIACAL POSSESSION, has, like many other subjects, been darkened, and made additionally perplexing, by à mistranslation in the authorised version of the Scriptures. • Possessed with devils,” is not the language of the Greek original; it is, “possessed with demons." No two words can be more different in spelling, in sound, and in sense, than the two words, “ devil” and “ demon;" and it is strange that King James's translators should have continually used the one, and never the other. The Evangelists and Apostles were not thus heedless. They never use the words as synonymous.
When they speak of the imaginary enemy of the human race, the Prosopopoia of Wrong, the personification of the principle of evil, they style him invariably, the Devil; when they speak of persons being possessed, they as invariably say, they are possessed by demons. In not one place, out of the multitudes in which possessions are spoken of in the New Testament, is any person said to be possessed by the “ Devil,” or by “ Devils.” Araßoros is tbe Greek parent of our English word devil; it is never, even once, applied to possessions. Aaruw is the Greek parent of our English word demon; it is invariably, in every instance (for there is no exception) applied to possessions. There is, then, no such thing spoken of, or even hinted at, in the Gospel, as being “possessed with devils;" but there is such a thing spoken of as being “possessed with demons." This latter is, accordingly, the phrase into whose signification we are about to inquire. Evidently,
the first step of the investigation will be, to answer the question, What is a demon? It should here be observed, in passing, that the word “demon," and the phrase
possessed with demons,” were in common use in Judea, and indeed all through the East, long before the coming of Jesus; so, it is no new language that is used by the writers of the New Testament, but language used before they were born. A DEMON, then, is the spirit of a deceased human being, deified and worshipped by the heathen. It is well known to every school-boy, that almost all heathen nations deified, after death, their monarchs, generals, and benefactors. All the gods and goddesses of the Greeks and Romans, were deceased human beings. Bacchus first taught mankind the art of making wine, and they placed him among the gods, and worshipped him. Čeres first showed them some improvements in agriculture; and when she died, they deified her also. In like manner, Romulus, the founder of the Roman Empire, was placed among the celestial hierarchy, and honoured with the vows and hecatombs of his admiring countrymen. All these deified human beings, worshipped by the heathen, were called demons. Thus, when Paul saw the immense number of gods worshipped by the Athenians, for some of which they had not even invented a name, he addressed them, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.” The word translated “ too superstitious,” is in the Greek (see Acts xvii. 22), orígida Love Oregous; and literally means, “ too much attached to the worship of demons." Here the Apostle uses the word “demon” in its true sense, as designating those deified spirits of mortals, which were worshipped by the heathen. The Gentile nations were in the habit of attributing all the diseases with which they were afflicted, to the agency of these demons or gods —these deified human spirits, whom they supposed to enter into the bodies of men. All are aware how ready the Jews were to fall into the idolatrous practices and superstitious notions of the heathen; their whole history exhibits proof of this spirit. Shortly before the coming of the Messias, they were peculiarly exposed to this source of corruption; for they lived under the Roman yoke, and the Greek literature was universally studied
in Judea. From their masters and instructers, they may have derived their knowledge of demons and of demoniacal possession; and it were easy to show, that they held the very same notions on the subject. The Pharisees, the most learned of their sects, had imbibed the idea that demons were the gods of the Gentiles. Thus, one of them said of Jesus, “ He casteth out demons (not devils] by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” We learn who Beelzebub was, by referring to 2 Kings i. 2, where it is said that Ahaziah “sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Beelzebub, the God of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease?” Beelzebub was a demon; he was the God of Ekron, one of the cities of the Philistines ;—in the opinion of the Pharisees, demons and heathen gods, i. e. deified human spirits, were synony
That the spirits who were supposed to possess the bodies of mankind, were conceived by the Jews themselves, to be such human spirits as became demons after death, appears still more clearly from the language of Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, who was nearly cotemporary with the Apostles, and wrote in the same language as they did, the Greek. In his book, entitled the “Wars of the Jews,” he says (chap. vii.), “ Demons are the spirits of wicked men, who enter the living, and kill those who receive no help.” To the question, What is a demon ?---frequent and clear replies have now been given, both by Gentiles and by Jews. “Demons," in the words of Josephus, “ are the spirits of wicked men who enter the living;” in briefer terms, demons are ghosts. “ Demoniacs,” or those “possessed with demons," were, consequently, persons supposed to be inhabited by human ghosts, who occasioned the diseases with which they were afflicted.
This has been a common superstition in all and in all countries. When men behold any remarkable occurrence, with the natural cause of which they are unacquainted, they assign to it a supernatural origin. By thus acting, they get rid at once of the labour of inquiry, and minister to that love of the marvellous, which is so common to man in a state of ignorance. More especially are unenlightened men accustomed to attribute bodily diseases (for which they cannot other