OPERATION OF DÆMONS;
NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME,
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
FROM THE ORIGINAL GREEK,
ILLUSTRATED WITH NOTES,
PUBLISHED BY JAMES TEGG, BOOKSELLER AND STATIONER,
PRINTED BY D. L. WELCH,
AT THE ATLAS-OFFICE, OPPOSITE THE POST-OFFICE,
Of whom the work may be had.
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Sydney, February, 1843.
Your kindness to a stranger at this extremity of the globe, and your well-known encouragement of general literature, induce me to dedicate this Translation of Psellus’ Dialogue on Dæmons, as a small, but sincere token of grateful
acknowledgment, hoping you will extend that indulgence which first literary attempts seem to call for.
I have the honor to be,
Your obliged and obedient humble Servant,
Dr. Charles Nicholson.
MICHÆL PSELLUS, who flourished in the eleventh century, the Author of this little treatise on the operation of Dæmons, was an eminent philologist, philosopher, and scholar, and filled the office of Tudor to the young Prince Michiel, son of Constantine Ducas, with great credit to himself, as appears from the eulogium passed on him by Anna Comnena, daughter of the emperor Alexis (Alexiados, lib. v.) Beside other works, he wrote an exposition of Aristotle’s Philosophy, and Commentaries on the Book of Psalms and Solomon’s Song. Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian, pays the following tribute to his worth:—“But the greatest ornament of the Republic of Letters in the eleventh century was Michael Psellus, a man illustrious in every respect, and deeply versed in all the various kinds of erudition that were known in his age. This great man recommended warmly to his countrymen the study of philosophy, and particularly the system of Aristotle, which he embellished and illustrated in several learned and ingenious productions.”
The work (now for the first time published in an English dress) was written A. D. about 1050, and was distinguished by the learned Barthius with the honorable title, “ The Little Golden Book.” It is interesting as a literary curiosity, being now exceedingly scarce, as well as by its subject, on which mankind have generally shown themselves very inquisitive.
It is further interesting from its detailing most minutely the extraordinary secret proceedings of the Euchitæ, otherwise called Massalians (which, it must be admitted, is a disideratum), and it seems to determine the true meaning of the expression “doctrines of dæmons” (1st Tim. iv., 1).
We may further remark respecting the work, it may be considered a fair specimen of the manner in which heathen philosophy was blended with Christian theology in the author’s day, and of the plausible reasonings with which the most absurd theories were supported; and it goes far to show that certain terms, which by ecclesiastical usage have obtained a harsh signification, had not acquired such harsh signification so early as the period for which Psellus’ dialogue is laid. It relates also an instance of dæmoniacal possession which cannot be accounted for on the supposition that such possessions were imaginary.
The propriety of apprising the mere English reader of the distinction between a dæmon and the devil suggests itself here.1 The Pagan world, for the most part, knew nothing whatever of the devil, though well acquainted with dæmons, and addicted to their worship; and nothing can be more clearly evinced from Scripture than the fact that there is but one devil, whereas the dæmons are numerous; the distinction between them, though invariably observed in Scripture, has not been carried out in either our authorized
1 Properly speaking, the Pagan mythology, though it taught a future state of punishment, had nothing analogous with the hell of revelation. Neither Charon, nor Plato, nor Æacus, nor Rhadamanthus, thus bears the slightest resemblance to that apostate being who is variously designated Adversary, Tempter, and Traducer. The local arrangement, too, or the Pagan hell, and the administration of its punishments, essentially distinguished it from the hell of the Christian system. The Pagan hell was ludicrously divided into compartments, in which men were punished according to their respective
demerits, and had, besides, attached a region called the Elysian Plains, to whence heroes (first-rate characters, in the Pagan’s estimate) were admitted immediately on their decease, and minor offenders after they had undergone a purgatorial process. It is true the Latin Christians adopted the tern Inferni to express hell; yet that was rather because it was more convenient to adopt a term in general use, and which, in its widest signification, included the idea of a future state of punishment, than because there was much natural fitness in the term to convey the idea intended.
translation, the German of Luther, or the Geneva French. It has been rigidly preserved, however, by the Syriac version,
all the Latin translations, ancient and modern, and Diodatti’s Italian version. We cannot do better than cite what Dr. Campbell has so lucidly written on this subject; after remarking that there is scarcely any perceptible difference between and , this acute critic observes (Diss. vi. p. 1, § 8):—“ , Daimonion, dæmon, occurs frequently in the Gospels, and always in reference to possessions, real or supposed; but the word , devil, is never so applied. the use of the term daimonion, dæmon, is as constantly indefinite as the term , devil, is definite: not but that it is sometimes attended by the article, but that is only when the ordinary rules of composition require that the article be used of a term that is strictly indefinite. Thus when a possession is first named, it is called simply , or dæmon, or , an unclean spirit; never to , or ; but when in the progress of the story mention is again made of the same dæmon, he is styled to daimonion, the dæmon, namely, that already spoken of; and in English, as well as Greek, this is the usage in regard to all indefinites.
Further, the plural daimonia occurs frequently, applied to the same order of beings with the singular; but what sets the
difference of signification in the clearest light is that though both words, diaboloV and daimonion, occur often in the
Septuagint, they are invariably used for translating different Hebrew words; diaboloV is always in Hebrew רע , tsar,
enemy, or שטן ; Satan, adversary, words never translated daimonion. This word, on the contrary, is made to express
some Hebrew term signifying idol, Pagan deity, apparition, or what some render satyr. What the precise idea of the
dæmons to whom possessions were ascribed then was, it would, perhaps, be impossible for us with any certainty to
affirm; but as it is evident that the two words diaboloV and daimonion are not once confounded, though the first occurs
in the New Testament upwards of thirty times, and the second about sixty, they can by no just rule of interpretation be rendered by the same term; possessions are never attributed to the being termed o diaboloV, nor are his authority and dominion ever ascribed to dæmons. Nay, when the discriminating appellations of the devil are occasionally mentioned. diamonion is never used as one.
It may be proper to subjoin here the most striking instances of the term being mistranslated in the authorized version. Acts xvii., 18: “Others said he seemeth to be a setter forth, of strange gods,” should be strange dæmons. 1st Corinth. x., 20, 21: “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils, and not to God, and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils; ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and the table of devils.” Here in every instance the word rendered devils should be rendered dæmons. Rev. ix., 20: “The rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils;” read dæmons. 1st Tim. iv., 1: “Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrine of devils,” should' be dæmons. James ii., 19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble;” substitute dæmons.
With respect to the instance of dæmoniacal possession recorded in Psellus’ work, and which is irreconcileable with
the supposition that such possessions were imaginary, although, indeed, it may be objected that that particular case
is not duly authenticated, yet we can hardly conceive it possible for any one who implicitly believes the infallible truth of Scripture, and reads it with ordinary attention, to call in question the reality of dæmoniacal possessions, atleast in the apostolic age. Nothing can be more pertinent than Dr. Campbell's remarks on this subject (Diss. vi., p. 1, § 10):—“A late learned and ingenious author (Dr. Farmer),” observes Dr. Campbell, “has written an elaborate dissertation to evince that there was no real possession in the demoniacs mentioned in the Gospel, but that the style there employed was adopted merely in conformity to popular prejudice, and used of a natural disease.
Concerning this doctrine, I shall only say, in passing, that if there had been no more to argue from sacred writ in favour of the common opinion than the name , or even the phrases , &c., I should have thought his explanation at least not improbable; but, when I find mention made of the number of dæmons in particular possessions, their action so expressly distinguished from that of the man possessed, conversations held by the former in regard to the disposal of them after their expulsion, and accounts given how they were actually disposed of—when I find desires and passions ascribed peculiarly to them, and similitudes taken from the conduct which they usually observe, it is impossible for me to deny their existence, without admitting that the sacred historians were either deceived themselves in regard to them, or intended to deceive their readers. Nay, if they were faithful historians, this reflection, I am afraid, will strike still deeper.”
Without consenting to all that Psellus advances on the origin, nature, modes of action, and occasional manifestation of dæmons, yet, believing implicitly the sacred Scriptures, we can have no more doubt of the existence of such beings than we have of our own. Dr. Campbell also observes,. (Diss. vi., p. 1, § 11):—“Though we cannot discover with certainty, from all that is said in the Gospel concerning possessions, whether the dæmons were conceived to be the ghosts of wicked men deceased, or lapsed angels, or (as was the opinion of some early Christian writers, Iust. M. Apol.
1.) the mongrel breed of certain angels (whom they understood by the sons of God, mentioned in Genesis, ch. vi.,
2) and of the daughters of men, it is plain they were conceived to be malignant spirits. They are exhibited as the causes of the most direful calamities to the unhappy person whom they possess—dumbness, deafness, madness, palsy, and the
like. The descriptive titles given them always denote some ill quality or other; most frequently they are called , unclean spirits; sometimes , malign spirits; they are represented as conscious that they are doomed to misery and torments, though their punishment be for a while suspended. ‘Art thou come hither, , to torment us before the time?’ Matt. viii., 29.”
Calmet seems to be of opinion that the dæmons are identical with the apostate angels: we cannot but believe that such as were connected with dæmoniacal possession were the same with the apostate angels, the more especially as we find not the remotest allusion to their origin as a distinct class, and as both they and the apostate angels are represented as destined to future torment. The possessed with dæmons at Gadara cry out, on our Lord's approach, “Art thou come to torment us before the time” (Matt. viii., 29) —whilst our Lord says, delivering the future judgment, “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” from which passages it would appear that neither Satan nor the dæmons are yet enduring the extreme punishment prepared for them; indeed, the scriptural opinion appears to be that, as the devil walketh about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, going to and fro in the earth, walking up and down in it, so his emissaries, the apostate angels, the dæmons, roam through every part of it, inflicting diseases, tempting to sin, and blasting physical as well as moral good. If it be said that such a supposition is irreconcilable with the power and beneficence of the Divine Being, will those who make such objection venture to deny the existence of moral and physical evil? and if that be reconcilable with the power and beneficence of the Supreme, why may not the doctrine just laid down? Will it be said that such a supposition is irreconcilable with the immutability and permanency of the
Divine laws? Will those who make such objection assert, that the superficial knowledge they may have acquired of nature's laws warrants them in saying that they understand the Divine laws? —who can tell all the causes that lead to
any one, even the most insignificant, event? —and who can tell but that the laws of nature, without our perceiving it,
are controlled by dæmonic agency? We only see a few of the links—we cannot see all the links of the chain that lead
to anyone result.
It may be proper to examine here the Heathen notion of the word dæmon, by which means ( ) we will be better able to understand its scriptural application.
Its etymology conveys the idea either of an acute intelligence or of an appointed agent; but as these may exist separately, in distinct beings, or combined in the same being, it is obvious mere etymology cannot guide us to a safe conclusion in our enquiry. Homer applies the epithet dæmons, in more than one instance, to the dii majorum
gentium (Iliad, v. 222); but whether he regarded the dii majorum gentium as an inferior order of beings, subordinate
to a superior intelligence, or heroes advanced to this eminence, or merely applied this term as suitable, in its primary sense of an acute intelligence, to beings of the very first order, is somewhat doubtful. The scholiast seems to favour the view last mentioned (Hom. Diad. Cantab. 1711, vers. 222). We cannot but be persuaded that Homer considered all the gods and goddesses of human origin, and occasionally gave glimpses of his opinion on this point, though he dared not openly to avow his sentiments. One very striking instance of this furtive way of insinuating his private opinions we have in the 22nd book of the Iliad, 74th line, where, speaking of a river in the Troade, he says, , “which the Gods call Xanthus, but men Scamander;” Xanthus being the