Definition of Demoniac

June 16th, 2013

This article is a free sample from The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, included in a Subscription to the Ministry Matters Premium Library.


DEMONIAC di-moh´nee-ak [daimonizo/menoj daimonizomenos].

In the NT, demoniac, meaning a person having or possessed by a demon or evil spirit, is found only in the gospels (seven of thirteen occurrences in Matthew). It is considered a distinct unspecified illness (diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics in Matt 4:24 ) cured by Jesus, although sometimes it is associated with violence (8:28), being blind, mute (9:32), or tormented (15:22). In John, having a demon, or being a demoniac is a charge against Jesus and is equated with madness (John 10:20-21 ). In Mark 3:21-22, 30 a charge of madness against Jesus is associated with having a BEELZEBUL or unclean spirit. Although demoniac is probably an old idea (Homer, Od. 18:327), the word is rare before the NT period (e.g., Philemon, Comicus 191). The Dead Sea Scrolls (11Q5 XXVII, 10) and later Jewish literature (e.g., y. Sabb. 6:8b) use the term “the stricken.”

Graham H. Twelftree


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