International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
COMMUNION WITH DEMONS; DEVILS
I. Use of Term:
The actual expression "communion with demons" (koinonoi ton daimonion) occurs but once in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:20) where its figurative meaning is evident, but it is implied in the English version of a number of passages by the terms "one who has" or "those who have" "familiar spirits" (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27 Deuteronomy 18:11 1 Samuel 28:3, 7, 8, 9; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:24 1 Chronicles 10:13 2 Chronicles 33:6 Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 29:4). These passages seem to be somewhat incongruous with Paul's statement, but are in reality so intimately related to it as to give and receive light through the connection.
II. Teaching of Scripture.
To begin with, we may safely say, in general, that there is no ground for asserting that the Bible admits the possibility of conscious and voluntary communion with spirits. This is an essential element of popular demonology in all ages, but it is absent from Scripture. Even in the passages mentioned above which refer to necromancers and wizards, while, as we shall see, the words indicate that such practitioners professed to rely upon spirits in their divinations, the Scriptures carefully refrain from sanctioning these claims, and a number of features in the various passages serve to indicate that the true scriptural view is quite the opposite. As this is not a prevalent opinion, we should do well to examine the passages with some little care.
1. The New Testament:
(1) We may first deal with the New Testament. In the Gospels the demoniacs are consistently looked upon and treated as unconscious and helpless victims (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY). The frequent use of this term "demonized" (daimonizomenoi) together with all that is told us of the methods of treating these eases adopted by our Lord and His apostles (see EXORCISM) indicates the belief of the New Testament writers that the control of demons over men is obtained outside of or below the region of conscious volition and that the condition of the sufferers is pathological.
(2) The same must be said of the Lydian maiden whose cure by Paul is recorded in Acts 16:16. This is the one instance in the New Testament where divination is connected with spirits. The account emphasizes the excitable neurosis of the patient; and the belief on the part of the apostles and of the writer of Acts that the girl was not the conscious accomplice of her masters, but their unfortunate victim through her mysterious malady, is clear. She was treated, as the other eases recorded in the New Testament, not as a conscious wrongdoer, but as a sick person to be healed.
2. The Old Testament:
(1) Turning now to the Old Testament, the instance which requires the most careful treatment, because it holds the key to all the rest, is the narrative of Saul's visit to the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28:3-25. The Hebrew word 'obh which is usually translated "one who has a familiar spirit" (see list of passages at beginning of article) occurs in this narrative four times (verses 3, 7 twice, 8). According to the ordinary interpretation it is used in three different senses, two of which occur here. These three senses are
(a) a person who controls a spirit,
(b) the spirit controlled,
(c) the power to control such a spirit.
This meaning appears to be altogether too broad. Omitting to translate the word we have: (verse 3) "Saul had put away 'obhoth, and yidh`onim"; (verse 7), a woman, a mistress of an 'obh; (verse 8) "Divine unto me. by the 'obh." It is extremely unlikely that the same word should be used in two senses so far apart as "person who has a spirit" and the "spirit itself" in the same context. In the last passage mentioned (verse 8) there is a double indication that the word 'obh cannot have either signification mentioned. Saul says: "Divine unto me by the 'obh and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee." The expression "divine by" clearly points to some magical object used in divination. Control of a spirit through some magical object is familiar enough. The rest of Saul's statement confirms this view. The result of the divination is the calling up of a spirit. A spirit would hardly be used to call up another spirit. This conclusion is confirmed by the etymology. The word 'obh is supposed to mean "one who has a familiar spirit," from its root-significance of hollow and its primary meaning of wineskin. According to this derivation the word is applied to a necromancer on the supposition that the spirit inhabits his body and speaks from within. The transference to spirit is extremely unlikely and the explanation is not consistent with primitive ideas on spirit manifestation (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 'owb end).
(2) We, therefore, hold with H. P. Smith (International Critical Commentary, "Samuel" in the place cited.), though partly on different grounds, that the word 'obh has the same meaning in all the passages where it occurs, and that it refers to a sacred object or fetish by which spiritistic divination was carried on.
The significance of this conclusion is that the misleading expression "familiar spirit" disappears from the text, for Dr. Driver's interpretation of the companion word yidh`onim (see International Critical Commentary, Commentary on Deuteronomy in the place cited.) will scarcely be maintained in the face of this new meaning for 'obh. The prohibition contained in the law (Leviticus 20:27) against 'ohboth, and those using them, places them in the same catalogue of offense and futility with idol-worship in general.
(3) This opinion is confirmed by two separate items of evidence.
(a) In the Witch of Endor story Samuel's appearance, according to the idea of the narrator, was due to a miracle, not to the magic power of the feeble and cheating old woman to whom Saul had resorted. God speaks through the apparition a stern message of doom. No one was more startled than the woman herself, who for once had a real vision (1 Samuel 28:12). She not only gave a loud cry of astonishment and alarm but she described the figure which she saw as "a god coming up out of the each." The story is told with fidelity and clearly indicates the opinion that the actual appearance of a spirit is so violently exceptional as to indicate the immediate power and presence of God.
(b) In Isaiah 8:19 the 'obhoth and yidh`onim are spoken of as those who "chirp and mutter." These terms refer to the necromancers themselves (Septuagint translates 'obhoth by eggastromuthoi = ventriloquists) who practiced ventriloquism in connection with their magical rites. In Isaiah 29:4 it is said "Thy voice shall be as an 'obh, out of the ground." Here 'obh is usually interpreted as "ghost," but it is far more probable (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament sub loc.) that it refers as in 8:19 to the ventriloqustic tricks of those who utter their oracles in voices intended to represent the spirits which they have evoked. They are stamped in these passages, as in the Witch of Endor narrative, as deceivers practicing a fraudulent article. By implication their power to evoke spirits with whom they were in familiar intercourse is denied.
3. The Meaning of Idol-Worship:
This leaves the way clear for a brief consideration of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:20 in connection with cognate passages in the Old Testament.
(1) He argues that since idol-worship is really demon-worship, the partaking of heathen sacrifice is a communion with demons and a separation from Christ. It is usually taken for granted that this characterization of heathen worship was simply a part of the Jewish-Christian polemic against idolatry. Our fuller knowledge of the spiritism which conditions the use of images enables us to recognize the fact that from the viewpoint of heathenism itself Paul's idea was strictly correct. The image is venerated because it is supposed to represent or contain an invisible being or spirit, not necessarily a deity in the absolute sense, but a super-human living being capable of working good or ill to men.
(2) In the King James Version the term devils is used in four Old Testament passages (Leviticus 17:7 Deuteronomy 32:17 2 Chronicles 11:15 Psalm 106:37). In the Revised Version (British and American) "devils" has disappeared from the text-the word he-goats appears in Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15, while "demons" appears in Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. The translation of se`irim as "he-goats" is literally correct, but conveys an erroneous conception of the meaning. The practice reprobated is the worship of Satyrs (see SATYR) or wood-demons supposed to be like goats in appearance and to inhabit lonely places. The same word is used in Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14. The word translated "demons" in the Revised Version (British and American) is shedhim, a term used only twice and both times in connection with the rites and abominations of heathen worship. It is interesting to note that the word shidu is applied to the beings represented by the bull-colossi of Assyria (Driver, Deuteronomy in the place cited.). Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament holds that the word shedhim is an Assyrian loan-word, while Briggs (ICC, Psalm 106:37) holds that shedhim were ancient gods of Canaan. In either case the word belongs to heathenism and is used in Scripture to describe heathen worship in its own terminology. The interpretation of these beings as evil is characteristic of Biblical demonism in general (see DEMON, etc.). The worship of idols was the worship of personal beings more than man and less than God, according to Jewish and Christian ideas (see Driver op. cit., 363). Septuagint translates both the above words by daimonia.
The term "communion with demons" does not imply any power on the part of men to enter into voluntary relationship with beings of another world, but that, by sinful compliance in wrongdoing, such as idol-worship and magical rites, men may enter into a moral identification with evil powers against which it is their duty to fight.
The Dictionaries and Commentaries dealing with the passages quoted above contain discussions of the various aspects of the subject. Jewish superstitions are ably treated by Edersheim, Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (8th edition), II, 771, 773.
Louis Matthews Sweet
ko-mun'-yun: The terms "communion" and "fellowship" of the English Bible are varying translations of the words koinonia, and koinoneo, or their cognates. They designate acts of fellowship observed among the early Christians or express the unique sense of unity and fellowship of which these acts were the outward expression. The several passages in which these terms are used fall into two groups: those in which they refer to acts of fellowship, and those in which they refer to fellowship as experienced.
I. Acts of Fellowship.
The acts of fellowship mentioned in the New Testament are of four kinds.
1. The Lord's Supper:
Our information concerning the nature of the fellowship involved in the observance of this sacrament is confined to the single notice in 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?" Owing to the presence of the material elements in the sacrament there is a temptation to limit the word for communion to the sense of partaking. This, however, does not entirely satisfy the requirements of the context. The full significance of the term is to be sought in the light of the argument of the whole section (verses 14-22).
Paul is making a protest against Christians participating in idolatrous feasts on the ground that such feasts are really celebrated in honor of the demons associated with the idols, and that those who participate in them come into fellowship with demons. As a proof of this point the apostle cites the Lord's Supper with which his readers are familiar. By partaking of the cup and the bread the communicants are linked together in unity: "We, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread." Thus the communion of the elements is a real communion of the worshippers one with another and with Christ. Unless the communion be understood in this spiritual sense Paul's illustration falls short of the mark.
The term for fellowship as used in Acts 2:42 is by some interpreted in this sense: "They continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers." The fact that the four terms are used in pairs and that three of them refer to specific acts observed by the company of believers suggests that the term for fellowship also refers to some definite act similar to the others. It is very plausible to refer this to the community of goods described in the verses immediately following (see COMMUNITY OF GOODS). The author might, however, with equal propriety have regarded the interchange of spiritual experiences as an act of worship in the same class with "the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Christian fellowship found a natural mode of expression in almsgiving. This is enjoined as a duty in Romans 12:13 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16. An example of such giving is the great collection raised among the Gentileconverts for the poor saints of Jerusalem (Romans 15:26 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13). To this collection Paul attached so much importance as a witness to the spirit of fellowship which the gospel inspires in all hearts alike, whether Jew or Gentile, that he desired even at the peril of his life to deliver it with his own hand.
A form of fellowship closely related to almsgiving was that of formal aid or cooperation in Christian work, such as the aid given to Paul by the Philippians (Philippians 1:5). A unique form of this cooperation is the formal endorsement by giving the fight hand of fellowship as described in Galatians 2:9.
II. Fellowship as Experienced.
From the very beginning the early Christians experienced a peculiar sense of unity. Christ is at once the center of this unity and the origin of every expression of fellowship. Sometimes the fellowship is essentially an experience and as such it is scarcely susceptible of definition. It may rather be regarded as a mystical union in Christ. In other instances the fellowship approaches or includes the idea of intercourse. In some passages it is represented as a participation or partnership. The terms occur most frequently in the writings of Paul with whom the idea of Christian unity was a controlling principle.
In its various relations, fellowship is represented:
(1) As a communion between the Son and the Father. The gospel record represents Jesus as enjoying a unique sense of communion and intimacy with the Father. Among many such expressions those of Matthew 11:25-27 (compare Luke 10:21, 22) and John 14-15 are especially important.
(2) As our communion with God, either with the Father or the Son or with the Father through the Son or the Holy Spirit. "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3; compare also John 14:6, 23, 16).
(3) As our communion one with another. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). Sometimes the idea of communion occurs in relation with abstract ideas or experiences: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11); "the fellowship of his sufferings" (Philippians 3:10); "the fellowship of thy faith" (Philemon 1:6). In three passages the relation of the fellowship is not entirely clear: the "fellowship of the Spirit" (Philippians 2:1); "the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:14); and "the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:9). The fellowship is probably to be understood as that prevailing among Christians by virtue of the grace of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It is not to be inferred that the idea of fellowship is limited to the passages in which the specific words for communion are used. Some of the clearest and richest expressions of unity and fellowship are found in the Gospels, though, these words do not occur in them. In fact, perhaps, the most familiar and forcible expressions of the idea are those in which they are represented symbolically, as in the parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1) or in the figure of the Body and its Members (Matthew 5:29 Romans 12:5 1 Corinthians 12).
Russell Benjamin Miller