By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
I do not usually include such long texts but it is needed to show a pattern...a very significant pattern.This is but a small sampling of what occurs throughout the gospels.
Please slowly read these texts. Are you willing to change your mind if the bible is clear and contradicts what you believe? Specifically, are unclean spirits different than demons, as some assert? Is there a distinction between unclean spirits and demons? A careful reading of below texts should answer this question...unequivocally. More later...
v.7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits (ton pneumaton ton akatharton). 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff-no bread, no bag, no money in their belts- 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons (daimonia) and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Is there a distinction? (note verses 7 and 13)
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit (pneumati akatharto). And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit (to pneuma to akatharton), convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits(pneumasi tois akathartois), and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (please note below on Luke 4:31-37...parallel text)
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons (daimonizomenous). 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons (daimonia). And he would not permit the demons (daimonia) to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (daimonia).
Is there a distinction?
Mark 5...(if you are rushed and can only read one text, please read this one)
1.They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit (pneumati akatharto). 3 vHe lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (to pneuma to akatharton) 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits (ta pneumata ta akatharta)came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man (daimonizomenon), the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man (daimonizomino) and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus4 to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons (ho daimonistheis)begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Is there a distinction? (notice the clear and natural transition of terms as the narrative evolves) This one text should resolve the issue once and for all..
The debate continues unabated concerning who/what populates the spirit realm. One argument that I have seen recently is that there is a distinction between unclean spirits and demons. Stated differently, unclean spirits and demons are alleged to not be the same thing--they are different kinds of beings. They may have some similarities, but the alleged dissimilarities are said to be proof of their distinct identities. Usually the bible is used to demonstrate this distinction.Also, one of these beings is said to be stronger than the other. In addition, it is perhaps significant that those who do distinguish between the two, tend to also believe in some forms of trapped human spirits...but that is another story.
So what...what is the big deal? As we have noted before, when dealing with God's Word, we are ordered by God Himself to be as accurate as possible in our interpretation of every text.To mis-interpret is sin...a failure to love God with all of our minds. Second, once you begin multiplying spirit beings confusion is bound to follow. "Is this house occupied by a demon/s or by unclean spirit/s?" Confusion from the outset.(some say that they deal with unclean spirits and demons in the same manner, but that is irrelevant as to our purpose--determining what populates the spirit realm?)
Third, once the multiplying of spirit beings is begun, it is easy to step on the slippery slope of introducing additional beings.(e.g. purgatorial dead, malevolent dead, elementals, etc) But, most importantly, we are simply to be consumed with accurate exegesis and interpretation...handling the precious oracles of God with immense care.
My purpose in this blog is not to analyze the specifics of these texts, but to ask: does the bible differentiate between unclean spirits and demons? Are they different or the same? That is the issue before us.
IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY DONE SO, PLEASE READ SLOWLY THE ABOVE TEXTS FROM THE GOSPEL OF MARK. Btw, I chose these passages almost at random...what you read here is uniform throughout the New Testament, especially the gospels.Next week I think I will deal with what theologians call "progressive revelation", and the Old Testament view of demons and how it is consistent with the NT view, albeit not as clearly or as fully revealed.
Luke 4:31-37 is a parallel passage to Mark 1:21-28. In v 33 (and this is very significant) it states, "And in the synagogue there was a man with a spirit of an unclean demon (pneuma daimoniou akathartou)..." Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke called this being an "unclean demon" which Mark had called an "unclean spirit". The implications are very significant for our purpose. Also, uncleaness and "demoness" are connected in this one verse..further supporting that unclean spirits and demons were seen by the gospel writers as one and the same being. Is it not common sense to view demons as the epitome of uncleaness? That is a reason why the terms are interchangable.Let me elaborate a bit.
In Mark 1:23,26,27 Jesus comes into conflict with "unclean spirits" (pneumati akatharto...pneuma to akarthton....pneumasi tois akathartois--these are the different forms of the same words in the Greek for an unclean spirit/s) in these verses.
(However, hard on its heels, in v 32, 34, Jesus's ministry is casting out "demons" (tous daimonizomous....daiomonia ...ta daimonia ))
The point being that unclean spirits and demons are one and the same. In this text, the beings react the same whether they are called unclean spirits or demons.
Again, in a parallel text in Luke 4, verse 33 speaks of "unclean demons" 35 they are called " to daimonion" and in v 36 (akathrtos pneumasin)....interchangable. It could not be clearer....unless one does not want to see.
In the classic text of Mark 5, you will have noticed that this poor man is possessed by a being which is first called an unclean spirit/s, but as the story unfolds Mark begins to use "demon" terminology. To me, it could not be clearer--the Holy Spirit uses demons and unclean spirits as synonyms. The bible frequently uses multiple terms for the same being to accent different things. Jesus Himself, had many names/titles but they all refer to one and same Divine Person, accenting different facets of His person and work. Satan has multiple names as well, so why all the fuss about some alleged distinction between unclean spirits and demons? Every judicious commentator on these verses sees demons and unclean spirits as the same thing.
If you read the above passages carefully, then it should be obvious that the various gospel writers used "unclean spirits" and "demons" as synonyms..I have minimized my comments in order to let the focus be on the sacred text.
All of the Greek texts which refer to unclean spirits have some form of...pneumna (spirit) akatharton (unclean), and the texts which speak of demons have some form of (daimon). I try not to overdo the original languages because I don't want to undermine your confidence in the integrity of the English bible translations...in this case the ESV. I just wanted the reader to see in the original how these two terms are used interchangeably. Bottom line--unclean spirits are demons, and demons are unclean spirits.No distinction! It is clear as the noon-day sun.