And the demons were begging him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” Bible

“Demons.” The Greek word for “demons” is daimōn (#1142 δαίμων), and in the Bible it means “demons,” evil spirit beings who are fallen angels. Demons are evil spirits, fallen angels, the 1/3 of the angels that followed “the Devil” and rebelled against God. Both the Greek words daimōn and daimōnion mean “demon.” The word daimōn occurs only once in the New Testament, here in Matthew 8:31, while the word daimōnion occurs 63 times, for a total of 64 occurrences (this count is based on the better Greek texts. In the Western Text family, the word daimon occurs 5 times and the word daimonion occurs 60 times. The difference between 64 total occurrences in the Nestle-Aland text and 65 in the Western texts is due to the addition of daimon in Mark 5:12 in the Western text).

To the average Greek, a daimōn was a god, the spirit of a dead person, or a supernatural being, and could be either good or evil, or like people, could do both good and evil depending on the circumstances. In fact, in the Greek classics a daimōn was more often than not a force for good. In contrast, the word daimōnion, especially by New Testament times, was considered to be a god, the spirit of a dead person, or a supernatural being, but was generally thought of as being evil or hostile. This fact explains why the word daimōnion is used almost exclusively in both the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and in the Greek text of the New Testament. To the Greek readers in the first century, using daimōnion would make it clear that the demon spirits were evil, while using daimōn would not unless the context clearly dictated it, which it does in Matthew 8:31.

The word daimōn also appears one time in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. Daimōn is the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word gad, the goddess of Good Fortune, in Isaiah 65:11. Translating gad as daimōn makes sense, because, “the Greek tragic poets use daimōn to denote fortune or fate” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN, 1992, p. 395).

Since a daimōn was often thought of as often doing good, and the demon “Good Fortune” brings “good things” (like winning in gambling, which only lures people into evil behavior and gets them hooked on it), the Greek translation of gad as daimōn makes sense in Isaiah 65 given the Greek culture.

The New Testament use of daimōn is in Matthew 8:31 where it is used in the plural for the demons who were inside the man who lived in the tombs. The record of the man of the tombs occurs in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. Mark does not use daimōn or daimōnion, but uses “unclean spirit.” Luke uses both daimōnion and “unclean spirit.” By comparing all three records, the reader can see that the Greek words daimōn and daimōnion referred to evil spirits, something that the Greek-speaking believers would need to know to be fully equipped in the spiritual battle.

It is sometimes taught that daimōnion is a diminutive form of daimōn as if daimōn ruled over daimōnion, but the two uses of daimōn in the Bible (Isa. 65:11; Matt. 8:31), as well as the use of the words in the Greek literature, do not support that conclusion. Furthermore, daimōnion is not technically the diminutive form of daimōn. It is the substantive of the neuter adjective daimōnios, i.e., “pertaining to a demon” (W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words “Demon.” W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, “daimonion.” Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 8).

[For information on the actual existence of the Devil, the “Slanderer,” and Demons, see commentary on Luke 4:2, “Slanderer.” For more on the Devil as the “serpent,” see commentary on Rev. 20:2. For more on the names of the Devil, see Appendix 14, “Names of the Devil”].

Commentary for: Matthew 8:31