Abbildungen der Seite

where persons are spoken of as being possessed, it is this word demon which is used, though our translators have very improperly rendered the word DEVIL. With all those passages therefore we have nothing to do.

They have no reference to our subject.*

• Upon a subject of such importance, clear and very satisfactory evidence appears to be necessary to establish a fact. The absence of evidence is a strong argument against it. I shall therefore take the liberty, in this note, of introducing few quotations respecting the dæmonology of the Jews and heathens, and of assigning a few reasons, why I must doubt that the Jews had any idea of the existence of such a personage as the devil is now represented.

“ Many eminent philosophers, and Plato in particular, had taught, several centuries before the coming of Christ, that all intercourse between the celestial gods and men on earth, was carried on by the mediation of dæmons, who, on that account, were to be worshipped and invoked. This doctrine was in such high 'reputation, when the gospel was first published, that it was generally received by the devout Pagans, and even by many learned Jews, who ascribed to angels (that is to such human spirits as, in their opinion, became angels) the same offices which the heathens did to dæmons." Farmer on the General Prevalence of the Worship of Human Spirits, Preface, p. 17.

« The Essenes differed from all the sects we have mentioned, as they estranged themselves not only from politics and public affairs, but, as much as the nature of man and the constitution of society admit, from the common concerns and intercourse of private life. They held, says the Bishop of Dromore, ist. that God was surrounded by dæmons or angels, who were me

It will be impossible, in the course of one lecture, to introduce all the passages, in which the words occur which are sup

diators with God, and therefore to be worshipped.” Butler's Horæ Biblicæ." Vol. i.


35. 4th ed. “ Dæmons by the Hebrews were whimsically supposed to be descendants of Adam; and were imagined not to be absolutely spiritual or incorporeal." Wilson's Archäological Dictionary. Art. Dæmon.

“ The word devil seems in general acceptation to signify nothing more than that propensity to ill, observable in the human mind; and, like many occult qualities, is found of great use in the solution of various difficulties. His existence, now, like that of ghosts and fairies, seems to be called in question. The doctrine of devilism appears to have been borrowed from the Persian theology, or to have been conjured up by philosophers, at a non-plus to account for the origin of evil.” Wilson's Archæological Dictionary. Art. Devil.

It seems to me probable, that the Jews, in our Saviour's time, had no belief in the existence of such a being, for the following reasons: Ist. I understand it forms not a part of their creed at present. 2nd. The quotations adduced from Josephus and Philo, in the text above, are negative evidence of their belief only in dæmons. 3rd. It seems to be taken for granted, that the Jews must have imbibed all the notions of the Persian philosophy, although this opinion of a devil was contrary to the express declarations of their own prophets. Isaiah xlv. 7. Amos iii. 6. 4th. It seems to be taken for granted, that the expressions in the New Testament were occasioned by the general prevalence of such an opinion among the Jews; whereas, the arguments, which shew that the writers did not encourage such an opinion, and that their expressions may be differently understood, afford some evidence that such an opinion was not

posed to teach the existence of a devil. What I propose to do is, to select the principal passages upon




then prevalent, and that their expressions were not then so understood. 5th. I cannot find that this opinion is stated to be entertained by any of the particular sects into which the Jews were at that time divided. Of the Sadducees, it is expressly said, that they believed neither angel nor spirit. The opinion of the Essenes has been stated in a former quotation. Respecting the Pharisees, Beausobre and L'Enfant state; “ the holy scripture testifies that they believed the resurrection, as also the existence of angels and spirits. From the account Josephus gives of them, it seems probable that they had fetched their opinions concerning those matters not so much out of the sacred writings, as out of the philosophy of Pythagoras or Plato, since they believed a transmigration of the souls of good men in other bodies, which is a kind of resurrection.” Introduction to the New Testament. Watson's Tracts, vol. 3, P

188. I find not a word stated of their belief of a devil. Dr. Enfield, speaking of the Samaritans, and particularly of Simon Magus, who was a Samaritan, says, “ according to the usual practice of the Asiatics at this time, he visited Egypt, and there, probably, became acquainted with the sublime mysteries taught in the Alexandrian school, and learned those theurgic or magical operations, by means of which it was believed that men might be delivered from the power of evil dæmons.Speaking of the dogmas of the Pharisees he says,

“ besides the soul of man, there are other spirits, or angels, both good and bad.” Of the Essenes he states,

“ what was meant, in the oath administered to the noviciates, by "guarding the names of the angels, may be conjectured from the notion, which commonly prevailed in the East and in Egypt, concerning the power of dæmons, or angels, er the affairs of the world.” Till he comes to treat

the doctrine, and shew you the inconsistency, even of them, with the popular opinion and with each other. I shall then

of the middle ages, I find no statement of the belief of the Jews in a devil, as the word now signifies. Eufieid's History of Philosophy, vol. ii, p. 161, 180, 185. The quotations adduced by Mr. Simpson in his most judicious Essay upon the subject, p. 228, do not appear to me to substantiate the fact. That from Dr. Sykes does not bring the opinion home to the Jews. Hyde evidently refers solely to the religion of the Persians ; as does also the ancient Universal History. I believe I am correct in saying that Lowth does not state the Jews to have believed this doctrine, but says, “ that this opinion prevailed among the Persians, as early as the time of Cyrus, we may, I think, infer from this passage of Isaiah.” If the Jews had been inclined to adopt the opinion, this express declaration of which Lowth is speaking from the Almighty himself, one would imagine must have prevented them; " I form the light and create darkness : I make peace and create evil : I the Lord do all these things.” Isaiah xlv. 7. 6th. The belief in the existence of a devil appears to me of much more importance than the belief in the existence of dæmons. The latter may

be considered as a mere question of speculative philosophy, and, as such, might be properly disregarded and passed over by our Saviour: but the former, involves in it the attributes of Deity, may be considered as a religious question, and, I am inclined to think, if the belief of it had been general at the time, would have come within the objects of our Saviour's mission. 7th. The prevalence of the opinion in subsequent ages may be well accounted for, after the introduction of the Gentiles into the Christian church, by their eagerness to procure converts by accommodating Christianity to the Platonic philosophy, and by the diffusion of the principles of the Manichæans.

present you with a few other passages, in which the same word occurs, and which, you will acknowledge, were never intended to teach the doctrine, but must be differently explained. This mode, with a very brief explanation of each passage, will I trust enable us to form a tolerably accurate idea of the scripture use of the terms Satan and Devil.

It is somewhat remarkable that, in the common English translation of the Old Testament, the word devil, in the singular number, is not to be found. Four times* we meet with it in the plural number devils. Two of these. ought to have been translated dæmons, that being the word used. The other two sufficiently explain themselves, for they are both introduced in this connection, of the Jews sacrificing to devils. Now we know that they did not sạcrifice to such an infernal being as the devil is now represented; the word therefore explains itself, things adverse to, opposed to, the One God. The Hebrew word satan, has by our translators been anglicised and retained.

Lerit. xvii. 7. Deut. Ixxï. 17. 2 Chron. xi. 15. Psalm cri. Se

« ZurückWeiter »