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Two Types of Demons?
September 05, 2013
Today I was browsing some of the writers of the Nicene era (c. AD 325). I ran across a very interesting passage in Lactantius' The Divine Institutes. Interestingly enough, Lactantius spent some time teaching the emperor Constantine.
The interesting passage concerns the origin of demons. Lactantius traces it back to Genesis 6:4 and the sons of God who married the daughters of men and bore children called Nephilim often translated "giants."
"When, therefore, the number of men had begun to increase, God in His forethought, lest the devil, to whom from the beginning He had given power over the earth, should by his subtilty either corrupt or destroy men, as he had done at first, sent angels for the protection and improvement of the human race; and inasmuch as He had given these a free will, He enjoined them above all things not to defile themselves with contamination from the earth, and thus lose the dignity of their heavenly nature. He plainly prohibited them from doing that which He knew that they would do, that they might entertain no hope of pardon. Therefore, while they abode among men, that most deceitful ruler of the earth, by his very association, gradually enticed them to vices, and polluted them by intercourse with women. Then, not being admitted into heaven on account of the sins into which they had plunged themselves, they fell to the earth. Thus from angels the devil makes them to become his satellites and attendants. But they who were born from these, because they were neither angels nor men, but bearing a kind of mixed nature, were not admitted into hell, as their fathers were not into heaven. Thus there came to be two kinds of demons; one of heaven, the other of the earth. The latter are the wicked spirits, the authors of all the evils which are done, and the same devil is their prince."
We tend to trace the origin of demons to a heavenly battle in which the devil led 1/3 of the angels in rebellion against God. They were overthrown by Michael the archangel and the rest of the loyal angels.
It's very odd that we believe this, since the story of the rebellion in heaven is in Revelation 12, something that none of us would read as history from before the time of man.
There is nothing else in the Bible that suggests something like that happened. We can make some questionable but plausible inferences from Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 that the devil used to be a highly exalted angel, but there is no indication of a battle with Michael in eternity past.
The early Christians (meaning Christian writers from the late first century until Nicea in AD 325, about a 250 year period) not only did not believe that the demons were fallen angels from the battle described in Revelation 12, they had clearly never heard of such a doctrine. They never address it or mention it.
Instead, the early Christians all seemed to be familiar with the Book of Enoch and its interpretation of the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4.
Basically, the idea is as described in the quote from Lactantius. The sons of God were angels sent to earth for the benefit of mankind, but they "left their first estate" (Jude 6), married women, and had children who were giants. God judged both the angel fathers and their children.
The fathers were put into prison to await the final judgment (1 Pet. 3:18), and the giants were slain, and their spirits were cursed to walk the earth.
These were the demons, and this is the only story of the origin of demons that seem to be known to the early Christians.
As referenced above, 1 Pet. 3:18 and Jude 6 both seem to confirm this interpretation, and we know that Jude was familiar with the Book of Enoch because he quoted it (vv. 14-15).
This would also explain the behavior of "Legion," the demons possessing the demoniac of the tombs on the other side of the See of Galilee (Mark 5:1-20). The demons did not want to leave the country, and they did not want to be without a host. They were even willing to accept pigs as a host. Apparently, it is not comfortable to be a disembodies spirit.
I leave that for all of you to consider.
I've been reading the early Christian writings for 23 years now, and like to think my mind has been renewed by that and I've gained a purer, fresher insight into the Scriptures than I had before. I'd really like to let you look for yourselves at the unique things that were believed across the board by early Christians, but sometimes I find I've grows so used to their beliefs that I don't notice that something is unique.
The other issue is that the early Christians were much simpler than us. We have numerous denominations that are distinguished by their various views of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. The early Christians barely discuss either, though they had a set, universal method for imparting the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
I guess I should cover that in the next newsletter.
I'm working on digging those kind of things out for future newsletters. I would like to increase the frequency (but not too much).
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Thanks. I hope you enjoy these insights into early Christianity as they come!
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