2-2-1-3 New Testament Casting Out Of Demons
Yet in the New Testament we read of demons being cast out, of demons being responsible for illness – in fact, the New Testament is written as if the common idea of demons is correct. Bearing in mind conclusions one and two above, it is evident that the answer to this paradox lies in an understanding of the way in which the Spirit uses language in the Bible. The evidence given above is proof enough that demons do not exist. If the New Testament speaks as if they do exist, and the Bible does not contradict itself, it follows that the answer must lie in an analysis of the way in which God expresses Himself through His word.
One thing we must get clear; the Bible cannot contradict itself, it is the Word of Almighty God. If we are clearly told that God brings our problems and that He is the source of all power, then the Bible cannot also tell us that demons – little gods in opposition to God – bring these things on us. It seems significant that the word “demons” only occurs four times in the Old Testament and always describes idol worship, but it occurs many times in the Gospel records. We suggest this is because, at the time the Gospels were written, it was the language of the day to say that any disease that could not be understood was the fault of demons. If demons really do exist and are responsible for our illnesses and problems, then we would read more about them in the Old Testament. But we do not read about them at all in this context there.
To say that demons were cast out of someone is to say that they were cured of a mental illness, or an illness which was not understood at the time. People living in the first century tended to blame everything which they couldn’t understand on imaginary beings called ‘demons’. Mental illness being hard to understand with their level of medical knowledge, the people spoke of those afflicted as ‘demon possessed’. In Old Testament times, an evil or unclean spirit referred to a troubled mental state (Jud. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14;18:10); and in every Old Testament reference to evil spirits, they were sent by God, not an orthodox ‘devil’. In New Testament times, the language of evil spirit/demon possession had come to refer to those suffering mental illness. The association between demons and sickness is shown by the following: “They brought unto him (Jesus) many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with a word…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet (in the Old Testament), saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:16-17). So human infirmities and sicknesses are described as being possessed by “demons” and “evil spirits”.
People thought that Jesus was mad and said this must be because He had a demon- “He hath a demon, and is mad” (Jn. 10:20; 7:19-20; 8:52). They therefore believed that demons caused madness.
Healing The Sick
When they were healed, people “possessed with demons” are said to return to their “right mind” (Mk. 5:15; Lk. 8:35). This implies that being “possessed with demons” was another way of saying someone was mentally unwell – i.e. not in their right mind.
Those “possessed with demons” are said to be “healed” or “cured” (Matt. 4:24; 12:22; 17:18), implying that demon possession is another way of describing illness.
In Luke 10: 9 Jesus told His 70 apostles to go out and “heal the sick”, which they did. They returned and said, verse 17, “even the demons are subject unto us through Thy name” – again, demons and illness are equated. Sometimes the apostles cured people in the name of Jesus and here we have an example of this (see also Acts 3:6; 9:34). Christ not only rebuked unclean spirits, but also wind and waves (Matt. 8:26) and fever (Lk. 4:39) – all impersonal things.