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δαιμόνιον – Subject to Divinely Determined Fate

A closer look at the word interpreted as “evil spirit/demon.”

In the Sphere of the Divine

  1. Divinity often equivalent to οἱ θεοί (the gods) and θεῖον (divine):
    • This usage signifies that “divinity” or “δαιμόνιον” is frequently used interchangeably with references to the gods or things divine in ancient texts such as those of Herodotus, Euripides, Isocrates, and others. For example, “Divinity or indeed either a god or a work of a god” (Arist. Rh. 1398a15), cf. 1419a9; “The gods will also be and the divinity” (D. 19.239); “Much of the discourse has turned towards the divine and the divinity” (Hp. Morb. Sacr. 1.27), cf. 12.2; “The gifts of divinity” (Plato. Epin. 992d)
  2. Individualized but indefinite divinity:
    • This usage refers to divinities that are individualized but not specifically defined, such as in Plato’s “Apology” (24c, 26b), where it states, “”So I would speak of him in this way, that I praise him for virtue and courage, and for his family and the place of his allies, whom some think are not his allies, but different new divinities.” In this context, δαιμόνιον can refer to new divinities that are distinct from traditional gods.
  3. Being supranatural, divine spirit distinct from οἱ θεοί (the gods):
    • This division highlights how δαιμόνιον stands as a supranatural entity or divine spirit that exists distinctively between gods and mortals, as seen in Plato’s “Symposium” (202d).

The word δαιμόνιον (daimonion) encompasses a wide range of meanings in ancient Greek texts, including divine beings, spiritual intermediaries, individualized divinities, and even supernatural forces of both good and evil. Its usage varies depending on the context and philosophical or religious perspective of the author or text. See Logeion on δαιμόνιον.

So what does it mean in the NT usage?

The phrase “εἰσὶν πνεύματα δαιμονίων” found in Revelation 17:14 can be translated into several possible meanings depending on the context and intended interpretation:

  1. They are spirits of demons: This is the traditional translation emphasizing the malevolent nature of the spirits
  2. They are spirits of divinities: This translation highlights the divine or spiritual nature of the beings referred to as δαιμόνια, suggesting they are intermediary spirits or lesser divinities.
  3. They are spiritual forces: This interpretation focuses on the supernatural or spiritual aspect of “δαιμόνια,” suggesting they are forces or energies with spiritual influence controlling outcomes.

The phrase “Ξένων δαιμονίων” found in Acts 17:18 translates to “strange or foreign demons” or “demons of foreigners.” Here, δαιμόνιον apparently retains its general meaning of divine beings or divinities, while “Ξένων” (Xenōn) indicates that these beings are associated with strangers or foreigners. Depending on the context, it could refer to:

  1. Foreign or unfamiliar divinities: Spiritualities that are not native or familiar, possibly with unknown or mysterious attributes.
  2. Spirits of foreign gods: Divine beings worshipped by foreigners or in other cultures.
  3. Strange or alien spiritual influences: Spiritual forces perceived as unfamiliar or outside of one’s own tradition or belief system.

Look for the Metaphor – 1 Corinthians 10:20

The phrase “κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι” found in 1 Corinthians 10:20 is most revealing and can be translated as “becoming companions or associates of the daimonion” or “partaking in communion/fellowship with the demons.” Here’s a breakdown of the components:

  • κοινωνοὺς (koinōnoús): This is the nominative plural form of “κοινωνός,” which means a companion, partner, or sharer.
  • τῶν δαιμονίων (tōn daimoniōn): “τῶν” is the genitive plural of the article “ὁ” (the), indicating possession or association. “δαιμόνιον” (daimonion) refers to spirits, divine beings, or supernatural forces.
  • γίνεσθαι (ginesthai): This is the infinitive form of the verb “γίνομαι” (to become), indicating the action of becoming or being made.

Together, “κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι” suggests the idea of entering into a relationship or association with spirits or supernatural entities. Depending on the context, it could imply:

  1. Becoming followers or worshippers of certain spirits: Engaging in rituals or practices associated with specific spiritual beings.
  2. Entering into communion with divine forces: Participating in religious or spiritual activities that involve interaction with supernatural entities.
  3. Forming connections with spiritual entities: Establishing a relationship or bond with spirits for guidance, protection, or other purposes.

δαιμονίζομαι “Demon Possessed” as “Fate Appointed”

This term in the NT translated traditionally as “possessed” by demons (Strong’s #1139) is a single word in the passive that means “demonized”:

The reference to Philémon (as cited in Stobaeus’ Eclogues, p. 196) regarding “δαιμονίζομαι” underscores a profound aspect of ancient Greek thought regarding human destiny and the influence of divine will (cf. Logeion δαιμονίζομαι).

In ancient Greek philosophy and literature, the concept of “δαιμόνιον” (daimonion) or “δαίμων” (daimon), often translated as “divine power” or “spirit,” played a crucial role in understanding human fate and agency. The term “δαιμονίζομαι” (to be subject to divine will) encapsulates this belief that individuals are not entirely masters of their own destinies but are rather subject to the overarching plan or design of the gods or divine forces.

  1. Divine Will and Destiny: The use of “δαιμονίζομαι” in this context suggests a passive acceptance or submission to the course of one’s life as determined by divine decree. It implies that human actions and outcomes are shaped by forces beyond mere mortal control, highlighting a belief in predestination or fate guided by divine providence.
  2. Philémon’s Perspective: Philémon, as referenced in Stobaeus’ Eclogues, explores this theme through philosophical discourse or dramatic dialogue. His writings would have reflected the prevailing views of his time, which often integrated divine intervention and fate into the fabric of human existence. The specific citation would have elucidated how individuals are perceived as being “δαιμονίζομαι,” thus elucidating the interconnectedness of human life with cosmic order and divine purpose.
  3. Literary and Philosophical Context: In literature and philosophical dialogues of the ancient Greek world, discussions about “δαιμονίζομαι” would have sparked contemplation on the nature of free will versus determinism, the role of gods in human affairs, and the ethical implications of divine guidance. These discussions were not merely theological but also deeply philosophical, exploring the limits of human agency and the nature of virtue.

In summary, the use of “δαιμονίζομαι” in Philémon’s context as cited by Stobaeus underscores a worldview where individuals are seen as subjects of divine will and destined to fulfill roles within a broader cosmic framework. It reflects a belief system that acknowledges human limitations in controlling one’s destiny while emphasizing the role of divine guidance and providence in shaping the course of human life.

The overarching definition of these words seems quite clear, that one is not in control of his or her own life but subjected to a divinely determined fate.