Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

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Stefan Kristensen
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Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:44 am

In the OT desease and sin is only extremely rarely spoken of in terms of evil forces such as demons or spirits. Isn't it true that practically every other religion had the idea of evil spirits, demons, divine beings, etc. populating the world and existing everywhere around us?

Where are all those hundreds or thousands of evil beings in the OT? Why is desease and sin almost everywhere throughout all the texts of the OT just treated as, well, desease and sin? It is punishment from God, but it is (almost) never understood within the frame of evil spirits or demons? Isn't that unusual?

semiopen
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by semiopen » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:15 am

I'm not sure how this interesting question rates on a Richter scale measuring unusuality.

Generally speaking, Jewish theology doesn't blames the victim of possession and/or disease or disability. Although, I have heard chachams (http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish- ... words/1375)- חכם - mention that a disabled person had done something to deserve their situation in a previous life.

Certainly there is not much in the Hebrew bible about it.

Demonic Possession & Oppression; Exorcism
BIBLE PASSAGES http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_exor1.htm
Pagan cultures surrounding the ancient Israelites appear to have been obsessed by these two topics. But Judaism was an exception in the Middle East. The Hebrew Scriptures contain relatively few references to demon possession, and none at all to exorcism. The only references to evil spirits indwelling humans are found in 3 stories about Abimelech (Judges 9), some prophets (1 Kings 22) and Saul (1 Samuel 16, 18 & 19). In each case, it was God who specifically sent an evil or lying spirit to torment individuals. The relative scarcity of demonic spirits in the Hebrew Scriptures might have been caused by the Hebrew's strong monotheistic beliefs. Their belief in a single God may have caused them to reject the existence of any other supernatural entities.
Of course the Christian bible has better examples, as the link discusses.

Demons seem to avoid atheists.

Personally, I had an ambition to become an exorcist when I was a kid (mainly I wanted to be an elevator operator) but those jobs are hard to find.

Ethan
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Ethan » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:48 am

Spirit is just רוח, AIR, that we breath in and out, so demons are breathed in and out through Inspiration and Exorcism.

Ezekiel 2:1-2
I will speak unto thee.
The breath(רוח) entered into me
He spake unto me

Act 2:4
They were all filled with the Holy Breath
Began to speak with other tongues
The Spirit gave them utterance.

Exodus 28:3
I have filled with the breath(רוח) of wisdom

New Testament influenced by the Philosophy of Plato, hence the emphases on demons.
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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:21 pm

semiopen wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:15 am
I'm not sure how this interesting question rates on a Richter scale measuring unusuality.

Generally speaking, Jewish theology doesn't blames the victim of possession and/or disease or disability. Although, I have heard chachams (http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish- ... words/1375)- חכם - mention that a disabled person had done something to deserve their situation in a previous life.

Certainly there is not much in the Hebrew bible about it.

Demonic Possession & Oppression; Exorcism
BIBLE PASSAGES http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_exor1.htm
Pagan cultures surrounding the ancient Israelites appear to have been obsessed by these two topics. But Judaism was an exception in the Middle East. The Hebrew Scriptures contain relatively few references to demon possession, and none at all to exorcism. The only references to evil spirits indwelling humans are found in 3 stories about Abimelech (Judges 9), some prophets (1 Kings 22) and Saul (1 Samuel 16, 18 & 19). In each case, it was God who specifically sent an evil or lying spirit to torment individuals. The relative scarcity of demonic spirits in the Hebrew Scriptures might have been caused by the Hebrew's strong monotheistic beliefs. Their belief in a single God may have caused them to reject the existence of any other supernatural entities.
Of course the Christian bible has better examples, as the link discusses.

Demons seem to avoid atheists.
Thanks. My thought is also that it has to do with the monotheism aspect. But in the OT it doesn't seem like some kind of 'cleansing' of the texts have taken place removing all mentions of evil spirits and demons. Maybe in the more mythological texts of Genesis, but it's clearly the worldview of the authors who wrote the prophetic and wisdom literature that there really are no demons and evil spirits that are directly responsible for sin and disease. We get the notion of foreign deities perhaps being evil creatues, but we never get the notion that they should be responsible for sin and disease. We also have the notion of the world being populated by divine beings that serve Yahweh such as angels.

Basically, I guess what I'm wondering is what did the OT writers think disease was exactly? We hear that it's caused by Yahweh, but what exactly is disease in the OT? Is it just some strange force of God causing the human body to become ill and that's it? So according to the people who wrote all the various works of the OT, if you become sick what you need to do is get straight with Yahweh, get forgiveness of sin, or ritual cleansing somehow? Are there no spirits involved?


In the second temple literature we get alot more of angels and demons. In Daniel we have the idea of evil angelic forces connected with the evil empires on earth. In the apocrypha we see some of the texts (e.g. Tobit) having this worldview of the universe being populated with evil spiritual beings, and very much in the pseudepigrapha and the DSS. In Jubilees we have perhaps the first real notion of Satan as the prince of demons, connected with the 'fallen angels' mentioned in Gen 6.

At the time of the NT the worldview is clear: There are evil spiritual beings everywhere causing sin and disease and ruled by Satan. And maybe that's the real difference from the OT to the NT: all the angels and demons suddenly populating the world? Am I missing something?

Is the religion of the OT characterized by some sort of ban on magic? Is there any real polemic against magic rituals?

In rabbinic literature there are plenty of demons. Apparantly Rabbi Huna says that "each one of us has a thousand demons to his left and ten thousand to his right" (Ps 91:7).
Personally, I had an ambition to become an exorcist when I was a kid (mainly I wanted to be an elevator operator) but those jobs are hard to find.
It's never too late.

andrewcriddle
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:57 am

The OT is clearly hostile to dealings between the living and the dead. See the witch of Endor narrative.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:16 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:21 pm
Is the religion of the OT characterized by some sort of ban on magic? Is there any real polemic against magic rituals?
Probably relevant: Leviticus 19.26-31; 20.6; Deuteronomy 18.9-14; 2 Kings 17.17; Isaiah 8.19; 19.3, 11-12; Jeremiah 10.2; 27.9; 29.8-9; Ezekiel 21.21-23; Zechariah 10.2; Malachi 3.5.
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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:00 am

Thanks. So it seems that in the world of the OT there are the spirits of the dead who can be summoned, and in Is 8:19 these seem to be equated with "gods". And there are some kind of forces that can be wielded with sorcery(?), and there are all the heavenly beings with God (angels and others). So apart from the spirits of the dead, are there any spiritual beings that are not connected with God's court. What about foreign gods, are they real beings according to the worldview of the OT writers?

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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by DCHindley » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:50 am

Stefan,

Let's not import too much of our own worldview when interpreting theirs. Mainly the Jewish scriptures speak of angels who have some powers on the authority of the one (God) who sends them. It speaks very little about how physical changes (weather, illnesses, etc.) occur.

While the pagan world seemed to venerate the local deities of this or that place, I don't know if they had a rigid hierarchy for the spirit world that controlled these things. It was all God.

Plato (5th century BCE) accepted that there were, in fact, local deities or spirits that controlled mundane things in this world, which were created as parts of the "World Soul" that came to be when the universe of necessity came into being, upon the direction of divine "principals" that are eternal. I think there were three (The One, the Craftsman, and Matter itself, IIRC).

This seemed to be the case for a while, but in the "middle platonic" period there was a lot of speculation about whether the divine beings that did the grunt work (the spirits created as part of the world soul) were by nature evil or not-good. I think, though, that most Platonists continued to believe it was part of the one World Soul or something similar. Aristotle did not seem to seriously question its existence, nor did the Stoics, and most of the others except maybe the Epicureans(?).

I think that continued Greek contact with Persia after the war with them had introduced Greeks to Zoroastrian beliefs about Good/Evil, and their hierarchy of good & bad elemental beings. Yet I have heard that the Dualism usually attributed to Zoroastrians with the highly developed angelology and demonology was a product of the middle ages (about 500 CE on to about 11th century CE), so the sacred Zoroastrian scriptures that mention it are really later works written to seem seminal. Zoroastrians had their problems too.

For instance the Magi, priests of Media who were believed to be highly proficient at influencing the actions of angels and demons so were often given really important duties within the governments, fell out of favor for a while and the usually tolerant political leaders became intolerant (same as happened in Islamic Spain and N. Africa at a later time, I think) towards Jews and Christians.

So there you go. Blame syncretistic influence of Zoroastrian ideas on the cosmological beliefs both Greeks (incl Romans) and the Judean diaspora who remained in Mesopotamia. The latter transmitted it to Judaea and the traditionally Judean regions. It probably took a while for them to get to the Hellenized Judeans of the Greek and Latin Diaspora, but the Greeks/Romans were long influenced by them already.

A dizzying array of spiritual beings were believed to exist in the background carrying out orders from on-high like soldiers in an army or slaves/freedmen in a royal household.

I have seen no systematic analysis of the literature, but there have been some studies in "Angelology" (Judean and Christian POV) and "Demonology" for the popular Judean and Christian beliefs about spirits that cause pain and suffering.

Some of this did not even form into complex hierarchies until 1-2 Century CE, even in Parthian controlled territories like Mesopotamia! Magic spells from 2nd-3rd century CE are best known for their very precise interest in controlling spirits, both good and evil.

But the angelic hierarchies of Judean heavenly ascents/throne mysticism was also becoming very complex and the secret orders that must be given to the functionary angels were ever more exactly precise. This may go back to 1st or 2nd centuries CE, but most place it around 400-600 CE.

Tobit knows a bit of this lore for controlling the functionary beings.

In one of the books of Enoch there is a variant mystic ascent known as Palace mysticism, where the heavenly palaces within palaces take the place of the multiple heavens of throne mysticism.

DCH (Fun fun!)

semiopen
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by semiopen » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:00 pm

The OT is sort of against magic, but that seems mostly because the writers seem to think it works.

The article below is an interesting semi-related discussion of Rabbinics on this issue.

Shai Secunda, “Studying with a Magus/Like Giving a Tongue to a Wolf,” https://www.academia.edu/37708940/Shai_ ... 09_151-157

Noticed Ben missed my favorite verse -
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
You shall not tolerate a sorceress. (Exod. 22:17 TNK)
‎מְכַשֵּׁפָ֖ה לֹ֥א תְחַיֶּֽה (Exod. 22:17 WTT)

Bible Verses About Sorcery https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bi ... t-Sorcery/

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Is the lack of demons in OT unusual?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:39 pm

semiopen wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:00 pm
Noticed Ben missed my favorite verse -
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
You shall not tolerate a sorceress. (Exod. 22:17 TNK)
‎מְכַשֵּׁפָ֖ה לֹ֥א תְחַיֶּֽה (Exod. 22:17 WTT)
True. My list was not exhaustive.
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