John HolbertJohn Holbert

The language of demons, devils, and Satan in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are metaphorical attempts to take with utmost seriousness the realities of evil in the world. Such language personifies the darkest fears of those of us who have sensed and experienced and perpetrated heinous acts, acts that somehow passed far beyond our best intentions. With Paul we readily say, "The things we know to do, we do not do."

Still, it does not help us to make such acts merely the results of horned, crabbed, and tailed figures who haunt the night, seeking pliable victims of their dastardly desires. Ironically, such literal beliefs in effect do the opposite of what the believers hope for them. To blame the demons is to let us off the hook; "it is not I, but the sin within," and the sin within is, to some, a ravening beast, devouring us for purely evil intent.

This plainly will not do. Jesus in Luke 10:18 announces that he has seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Despite John Milton's fabulous epic poem, "Paradise Lost," wherein he enshrined this "fallen angel" myth in the hearts of many, we would do better to enshrine the fact that Satan and his minions are but metaphors, ways poetically of reminding us of the realities of our sometimes nasty desires, both individually and corporately. Those desires are all too real, far more real than red-caped devils, undead ghouls, and insidious demons. Satan has fallen in the life and ministry of Jesus, fallen into metaphor only. We now are asked to follow him, Lord and giver of life.

John Holbert is a Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and is the author of eight books and many articles.


George ElerickGeorge Elerick

I used to think demons existed. I do believe evil exists, but its a choice, not something inherently wrong with us or society.

As you can see here also the Greek word daemon is the character of a person. It was a reference to a creative internal spirit, much like what can be seen on the movie Golden Compass where each character had an animal (a daemon) who reflected what their owner felt. It is how our character is being formed. Being a "demon" is a choice.

So when we enter into Christ's temptation narrative, what could be going on is what naturally happens in Jewish texts -- hyperbole. When Jesus is specifically tempted with power, the scene is set up in high Jewish fashion through exaggerative story telling. His temptation is a test of character, not a test of his divinity. It's possibly to discover his divinity.

As one blogger shares: "Daemon (or Daimon) was a title given to good spirits in Hellenic religions. They brought connections between the humans and Gods closer, they were guides and helpful. But then when Christianity and other religions spread, the word Daemon was turned to Demon to scare people into their faith."

Again, we are demons when we intentionally seek out evil or quite possibly do nothing when we see evil. We also can be angels; we can choose to be the messengers of God. It is up to us.

George Elerick is a cultural theorist, human rights worker, and author of Jesus Bootlegged, coming in January 2011. He blogs at The Love Revolution.