Among the more spectacular supernatural events to occur today is demon possession. In our rational world,
such events are viewed skeptically and reinforced as fiction by the media (i.e. movies, television, computer
games, etc). Yet there are over 50 references to demon possession in the New Testament. So to dismiss this
phenomenon requires one to dismiss the historicity of Jesus Christ. To begin understanding this issue, one
must take a closer look at the meaning of "possession." This article will take a brief survey of the cases
What is meant by "demon possession"?
The English translation of "demon possession" is used to translate the Greek terms "diamonizomai" and "echein
Diamonizomai means "to be under the power of a demon." In all 13 occurrences of this
term in the New Testament, each case referred to some form of demonization where the demon appears to reside in
the human being.
The etymology of the participle daimonizomenos is revealing. The root word daimon
refers to demons. The causative stem iz indicates that there is an active cause to the verb daimonizomai.
The passive ending omenos indicates the passivity of the subject. Thus the etymological definition is "a
demon caused passivity."
Echein daimonion means "to have a demon." In all 9 occurrences of this term in the New
Testament, each case referred to some form of demonization where the demon appears to reside in the human being.
The majority of references in the New Testament that refer to demonic influences involve the
use of the Greek term "daimonion," which means "a demonic being." Of the 60 occurrences of this term in the New
Testament, 52 referred to some form of demonization where the demon appears to reside in the human being.
What does demonization do to the human being’s soul or body? In terms of function, does this mean that
the human being loses his will or mind?
Examine the cases of demonization where the demon, inside the human being, has intermittent
or complete control of the human body and mind:
The man at Capernaum (Mark 1:23-27;
The Gerasenes man with a legion of demons
The son with convulsions (Matt 17:14-21;
Examine the cases of demonization where the demon, inside the human being, causes the human
being to experience physical sickness, disease or disability without an apparent loss of will:
The man who was mute (Matt 9:32-33;
The man who was both blind and mute
Examine the cases of demonization where the demon, inside the human being, did not cause the
human being to exhibit any outward signs of physical sickness, disease, disability or loss of will:
Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3-6;
In all instances of demonization in the New Testament involving demons residing in
non-Christians, they appear to have the following characteristics:
- It is an active process by fallen angels.
- It afflicts non-Christians of any age.
- The affected human being is personally unaware of the demon’s residence.
- The affected human being appears to lose control of his body and / or mind only when the resident demon(s)
choose to seize control or perhaps only certain demons have the capability of controlling a human being’s
- It may wholly or partially afflict the physical and mental well being of the human being; demonic control
may not be total.
- The affected human being may have fits of rage.
- The affected human being may have split personalities and alterations in his voice.
- The affected human being may temporarily have supernatural strength (i.e. the Gerasenes man with a legion
of demons) or abilities such as clairvoyance (i.e. the slave girl with the spirit of divination
- The affected human being resists spiritual things.
There has been debate whether the translation "demon possession" accurately reflects the true meaning of the
Greek terms. The translators of the King James Bible introduced this translation to describe what they perceived
as an all encompassing level of "demonization" reflecting the demonic ownership of the human being and his will.
However, the biblical text limits our understanding to the bodily invasion of a demon(s) and
some degree of demonic control including the rare cases of total demonic control of a person’s will.
There does not appear to be any biblical evidence that the soul of a human being is "demonized."
Demonization seems limited to the physical, mental and volitional capabilities of human beings.
The process of demonization is not clear. Whether the demon(s) enter through the skin or through
an opening in the body is not specified in the Bible.
Is all physical and mental illness due to demonization?
With the understanding of what demonization (especially when there is a resident demon) is capable of, there is
the risk of attributing all illnesses and diseases to demonic influences. However, the biblical record clearly
Physical illness and disease may be caused intentionally by God:
Witness and testimony of the sovereignty of God
(Ex 9:8-12 – boils;
1 Kings 13:1-6 - shriveled hand;
Acts 9:1-9 – blindness;
John 9:1-5 - blindness)
Judgment (Num 12:1-15 – leprosy;
2 Chron 26:16-22 – leprosy)
Physical illness and disease may be caused intentionally and temporarily
by unfallen angels:
Protection (Gen 19:1-11 - blindness)
Punishment for a lack of faith
(Luke 1:18-22 – mute)
Physical illness and disease may be caused intentionally by the Holy Spirit working through an
Paul punishing a false prophet
(Acts 13:10-12 - blindness)
Physical illness and disease may be caused by sin:
Jesus reveals that sin was the cause, which He chose to heal as a testimony of His deity
(Matt 9:2-8 – Paralytic)
Self deceit (1 Cor 11:28-32)
Physical illness and disease may have natural causes:
Leprosy (Matt 8:3-2-4)
Various illnesses and diseases (Matt 4:24;
15:30; Mark 1:32;
While demonization may be the cause of some illnesses and diseases, it is not the cause of most. The Bible does
make a point when distinguishing demonic causes.