Non‐material beings. In the ancient world there was a common belief in spiritual beings, either good or bad, inhabiting the world, independently of any deity, and capable of influencing human beings. In the philosophy of the Greek Plato the ‘demons’ are guardian spirits who determine the fate of individuals, and are thus precursors of guardian angels. In late Judaism the demons are wholly bad; they exist as an army under a general (Satan) and they engage in battle with God and his angels. These demons were thought to invade human personalities and destroy the power of reason and health. They caused disasters: their proper place was in the abyss (Mark 5: 13). Jesus, having vanquished Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4: 10), is known to be one who casts out demons (Luke 8: 26–39). But whether this was by the power of the prince of demons (Matt. 9: 34) or was a sign corroborating Satan's defeat (Luke 10: 17) was debated. The genuineness of the healings does not seem to be disputable. Although in John there is reference to the Jewish charge that Jesus is possessed by a demon (John 8: 48–9), there are no accounts of exorcisms in the fourth gospel. Not being unique (Matt. 12: 27) they could not be Johannine ‘signs’. But Exorcisms are reported in the early Church (Acts 19: 11–16).
Returning missionaries sometimes describe what they take to be demon‐possession as distinct from physical or mental disorder. Several bishops have appointed official exorcists in order to establish some control over modern healers with convictions that the NT world‐view is still directly applicable today.