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Elliott On Demons


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#1 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 09:05 AM

The Baptist minister Edward Elliott (author of 'Horae Apocalypticae', the 2,400 page exposition of Revelation which remains the largest extant commentary on the book), writes cogently and intelligently on the subject of demons.

He demonstrates that in both the Old and the New Testaments, the word was used to refer to pagan gods, not fallen angels (as the Early Fathers claimed), nor supernatural (but non-Divine), entities of evil (as modern Christians claim).

In the following quotes from Elliott, Hebrew words in Elliott’s original text have not been transcribed or transliterated. Their absence has been noted in each case. All emphasis in bold has been added.

Next as to daimonion, daemon.  This is a word used both in the Septuagint and New Testament, alike in the plural as the singular, in two senses.

In the Septuagint, its first and clearest signification is as a simple designative of the imaginary heathen gods

So in Psalm xcvi. 5; oi theoi twn ethnwn daimoniaeisin 'the gods of the heathen are daemons'; also in Deuteronomy xxxii, 17; ethusan daimoniois, ka ou thew 'they sacrificed to daemons, and not to God:' and again Psalm cvi. 37; ethusan tas thugateras autwn daimoniois.

In these passages the Hebrew words corresponding to daimonia are [Hebrew word in original text] and [Hebrew word in original text]: the one, according to Gesenius, signifying vanities; the other, lords or rulers[2]

So that there is nothing in them to fix on these spirits the character of devilish, or satanic; as the word satanim, or some indubitable equivalent, would have done.  [2]

Nor, though the tone of the two latter statements be deemed objurgatory, does there need any such explanation of the word to account for it.

It is sufficiently explained, on the hypothesis of its simple meaning, by multitudes of parallel Scriptural passages: in the which Israel's sin is depicted as made up of two evils; viz., 1st, forsaking God; 2ndly, forsaking Him (not for devilish or satanic spirits, but) for them that were no gods, but profitless idol vanities.  (Deut. xxxii. 21, &c.)

Thus, there being nothing implied of devilish, or satanic, in the original Hebrew, so neither, we may reasonably infer, as it seems to me, in the daimonia of the Septuagint translation.

It is plain that the Alexandrine translators used the word in its popular meaning, simply to signify the gods or daemons of heathen mythology; Alexandria being a place where the Platonic philosophy had necessarily made that meaning most familiar to them.

[1]  In 1 Chron xvi, 26 the former of these two Hebrew words also occurs; but in the Septuagint it is rendered eidwla, instead of daimonia.  Buxtorf derives [Hebrew word in original text] from [Hebrew word in original text], vastavit: whence the word in Psalm xci. 6, noted in the next page.

[2]  Compare too 2 Chron. xi. 15; where it is said of Jeroboam, katesthsen eautw iereis twn upshlwn, kai tois eidwlois, kai tois mataiois, kai tois mosxoios, a epoisen, answering to our authorized version, 'priests for the devils, (daemons,) and for the calves which he had made.' Heb. [Hebrew word in original text] the same word as in Is. xiii. 22, xxxiv. 14. referred to overleaf.


Elliott, 'Horae Apocalypticae', volume 2, pages 498-9, 5th edition, 1862



#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 09:05 AM

Nor must I forget to remind the reader, that there was one particular notice in the Hebrew Scriptures on the subject of the heathen gods or dmmons spoken of, which must have appeared to the Seventy to make the word daimonia peculiarly appropriate in the translation.

For, just as the daimonia of the Greek religion were reocognised by the Platonics, agreeably with the doctrine of all their older poets and philosophers, to be the spirits of dead men, raised to to rank of demigods, - so the Hebrew Scriptures declared that the Baalim, or god., to whom Israel turned aside to worship, were also dead men deified: as it is said in Psalm cvi. 28 ; 'They joined thcmselves to Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead; " Hebrew [Hebrew word in original text]Septuag. twn nekrwn.  - (Compare Numb. xxv. 2, 3.)

The same fact is also intimated in Isaiah viii. 19, lxv. 14  in which latter passage the heathen worship is further described as celebratcd at the tomb, of the dead.

Such is the primary use of the word in the Septuagint, and in passages where heathen worship is the direct subject.


Elliott, 'Horae Apocalypticae', volume 2, pages 499-500, 5th edition, 1862



#3 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 09:06 AM

In the New Testament the word daimonia is similarly used in this sense.

First, it is used as a simple designative of the imaginary heathen god.. So in the narrative of St. Paul's visit to Athens, Acts xvii. 18, 22, by the Athenians directly; " He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange daimonia, or gods;" xenwn daimwniwn: also impliedly by St. Paul ; "I see that ye are deisidaimonesteroi , very much given to worshipping daimonia, demons, heathen gods."

His comment on which, as well as on the idol-inscription he had seen, is not to be forgotten; "Him, whom ye ignorantly worship, [God, not the daemon,] declare I unto you."

The same, I believe with Dr. Campbell, is the meaning of the term in 1 Cor. x. 20, 21 ; "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice daimonois, to daemons, and not to God." For by Corinthians, as by Athenians, such would, I conceive, be understood as the meaning of the word.

St. Paul's representation of the case of the heathen, so understood by them, would then precisely agree with that given in Deut. xxxii. 17, already commented on; and indeed with the Apostle's own notice of it at Athens. - Nor, as to his argument against intercommunion in respect of things offered to heathen gods, would it be rendered nugatory by this view of them as mere idol vanities; any more than in the appeal made elsewhere in the epistle, "What communion hath the temple of God with (not a devil but) an idol?" 2 Cor. vi. 16.

There is certainly no necessity here for the sense of devil, so as Dr. Maitland would have it, on this ground. And indeed Dr. C.'s remark seems unanswerable :-that the heathen could not be said to have sacrificed to devilish satanic spirit, either abstractedly considered, or in respect of intention; seeing they had not even a notion of the Devil, or Satan, of Holy Scripture.

Elliott, 'Horae Apocalypticae', volume 2, pages 500-1, 5th edition, 1862



#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 09:06 AM

Let it be known, however, that Elliott still maintained a belief in daimonia as malignant evil spirits:

'Now then, such being the twofold Scripture use of the word daimonia, when applied to the objects of Gentile worship, – it being in its direct and primary meaning simply a designative of those objects, the heathens’ gods and goddesses, very much as an adoption of their own phrase, and with their own ideas of the term attached to it, - but conveying secondarily, and by inference from its use elsewhere, the idea of the agency of real malignant spirits, not as worshipped in the system, but as suggesting, acting and deceiving in it…'

Elliott, 'Horae Apocalypticae', volume II, page 502, 5th edition, 1862


It is sad that such a good expositor should be led to cling to ‘orthodox’ doctrines by appealing to ‘inference’, after having clearly refuted the position with sound Bible study.




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