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In This Article Demons

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Greco-Roman

Biblical Studies Demons
by
Matthew Goff

Introduction

The term “demon” is used to describe a wide variety of spiritual beings. The word derives from the Greek term daimōn which refers to all sorts of beings, by no means only ones that are evil. The conventional definition of “demon,” however, is that it refers to malignant supernatural entities who seek to harm humans. There is a rich mythology of such creatures throughout the ancient world. They were understood to cause a variety of problems that people face in everyday life, such as disease and problems in childbirth. For this reason magical practices, including incantation spells and use of amulets, constitute important evidence for the study of demons. There is a rich lore regarding demons in the ancient Near East. The evidence, however, is surprisingly sparse for such figures in the Hebrew Bible. There is a resurgence of interest in demons in Early Judaism. Jewish traditions about demons from this era inform not only conceptions of evil spirits in later periods of Judaism but also comprise an important part of the Jewish heritage of Christianity, which is evident in both the New Testament and subsequent Christian literature.

General Overviews

Two works set the stage for the study of demons within the domain of biblical studies—the large collection of essays Demons (Lange, et al. 2003) and the encyclopedia Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (van der Toorn, et al. 1999). They both cover demonic figures not simply in the Bible but also in related contexts such as the ancient Near East. People interested in demonological research should consult these items first. There is no comprehensive, scholarly online resource for demons, but there are several websites that are beneficial for the study of demons, although these sites should be used with caution. The formats of these websites tend to be like that of an encyclopedia. They in general provide basic information on various named demons, without containing extensive analysis. DeliriumsRealm and Monstropedia are often quite helpful and should be the first online sources consulted. Demons Central and Weird Encyclopedia contain useful material but typically provide less information the others reviewed here. Lange et al. 2003 and van der Toorn et al. 1999 are leading bibliographic resources.

  • DeliriumsRealm.

    E-mail Citation »

    A good online resource with numerous alphabetical entries on demons. The articles often consist of citations of relevant passages from ancient texts or later demonological treatises, such as Johan Weir’s Pseudomonarchia daemonum (1583).

  • Demons Central.

    E-mail Citation »

    This website includes a “demonic encyclopedia” that covers many demonic figures. The entries are in general much briefer than those of the other demon-related websites covered in this bibliography.

  • Lange, Armin, Hermann Lichtenberger, and K. F. Diethard Römheld, eds. Demons: The Demonology of Israelite-Jewish and Early Christian Literature in Context of their Environment. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book contains numerous essays on demons in the ancient Near East, ancient Israel, Early Judaism, Greco-Roman literature, the New Testament, Gnosticism, and Jewish texts written after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). Some of the essays in the book are written in German.

  • Monstropedia.

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    “Monstropedia” describes itself as a “monstrous encyclopedia” and “the original open-source bestiary.” Some articles are taken from Wikipedia or at least appear reliant on this source. The articles in general are informative and useful but many are quite brief. The website includes a range of entries on named demons, which are listed in the category “angels and demons.”

  • van der Toorn, Karl, Pieter W. van der Horst, and Bob Becking, eds. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Grand Rapids, MI: Brill/Eerdmans, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    A core resource for the study of demons in the ancient world. The book contains a wide range of helpful entries on divine beings (not only evil demons) in Mediterranean, Israelite, and ancient Near Eastern religious traditions.

  • Weird Encyclopedia.

    E-mail Citation »

    This website includes a long alphabetical list of named demons that appear in a variety of religious traditions, with a very brief description of each one.

LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0013

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