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The word Devils appears in the King James version of the Bible 55 times, and appears to refer to different entities in different places. This is apparently someone or something different from The Devil or Satan which I understand to refer to the fallen Angel Lucifer.

In Deuteronomy 32:17

They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

and Revelation 9:20

And 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, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

the apparent reference is to false gods.

In Matthew 8:16

When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

and in Revelation 18:2

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

it appears to just some kind of Spirits.

and in Revelation 16:14

For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

It seems to refer to some being which has a Spirit.

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This might be better on Hermeneutics? – David Dec 21 '13 at 3:14
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The King James Version (and perhaps others) confounds the English translation in this respect.

Using Blue Letter Bible, I performed a word search for "devil" in the King James Version, and it "occurs 61 times in 57 verses in the KJV." According to its lexicon search, three nouns are translated as "devil" in the King James Version:

  1. G1140 δαιμόνιον (daimonion)

    • 5 occurrences

      • devil(s): 5/5
  2. G1228 διάβολος (diabolos)

    • 38 occurrences

      • devil(s): 35/38
      • false accuser(s): 2/38
      • slanderer(s): 1/38
  3. G1142 δαίμων (daimōn)

    • 60 occurrences

      • devil(s): 59/60
      • god(s): 1/60

Regarding the verses you cited, you simply need to use a site like Blue Letter Bible and identify the underlying Greek word. Then, read my analysis below.

The English Word "Devil"

The English word "devil" is basically a loose transliteration of the Greek word διάβολος. But, an actual translation (thereby capturing the meaning of the Greek word) would be "slanderer" or "accuser," since διάβολος is a noun derived from the verb διαβάλλω, meaning "to slander, accuse, defame." In any case, as long as one understands the meaning of διάβολος' etymological origin (i.e., the verb διαβάλλω), it's okay to translate it into English as "devil," just like we write "Messiah" and understand by it, "anointed one," although the word "Messiah" is also a loose transliteration, not a translation. In conclusion, the English noun "devil" is a loose transliteration of the Greek noun διάβολος, which may be translated into English as "slanderer, accuser."

In the Greek New Testament, the Greek word διάβολος is most often used in reference to one particular heavenly being who led a rebellion against God and was cast out of heaven along with his fellow apostate angels (cp. Rev. 12:9). However, it may also be used in reference to humans who slander (cp. 1 Tim. 3:11).

The English Word "Demon"

You may have already guessed that the English word "demon" is also a loose transliteration of the Greek words δαίμων and δαιμόνιον. But, very few know what a demon is. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the King James Version almost always translates both δαίμων and δαιμόνιον as "devil" and not "demon." So, if someone did not bother to examine the Greek, they would never know a distinction exists. In fact, I did a word search on "demon" in the King James Version, and it never occurs. This is rather unfortunate.

There are various theories on what a demon is, and unfortunately, I don't have the time to critique them all.

Luke 4:33 seems to place πνεῦμα ("spirit") in apposition to δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου ("unclean demon"), thereby suggesting that a demon is a spirit. Heinrich Meyer notes, "The genitive is a genitive of apposition or of nearer definition...and δαιμόνιον, which, according to Greek usage, is in itself applicable to either good or evil spirits, being used by Luke for the first time in this passage, is qualified by ἀκαθάρτου."1 Elsewhere, in the Book of Tobit, we find Asmodeus referred to as an "evil demon" (τὸ πονηρὸν δαιμόνιον).2 The same author also mentions a "demon or evil spirit" (δαιμόνιον ἢ πνεῦμα πονηρόν),3 again suggesting that "demon" is equated to "evil spirit."

However, the word "spirit" can refer to a few things, including the immaterial and incorporal essence within man, sometimes referred to as his rational soul (cp. Heb. 4:12; 1 Thes. 5:23).2 Or, it can refer to angels (Heb. 1:7 cp. Psa. 104:4). So, is a demon, being identified as a "spirit," the former or the latter?

Josephus also mentioned demons.5 But he apparently believed they were the disembodied spirits of wicked humans who died. He wrote,6

ἔστι δὲ μετὰ τοσούτων κινδύνων διὰ μίαν ἰσχὺν περισπούδαστος: τὰ γὰρ καλούμενα δαιμόνια, ταῦτα δὲ πονηρῶν ἐστιν ἀνθρώπων πνεύματα τοῖς ζῶσιν εἰσδυόμενα καὶ κτείνοντα τοὺς βοηθείας μὴ τυγχάνοντας, αὕτη ταχέως ἐξελαύνει, κἂν προσενεχθῇ μόνον τοῖς νοσοῦσι.

Yet, after so many dangers, it is greatly desired because of one power: for, it quickly expels those called "demons" (now, these are spirits of wicked men which enter those who are alive and kill those who do not obtain help), and only if it is brought to the sick people.

It is up to the reader to further investigate this matter in order to determine the exact nature of demons, but one thing is certain, there is a difference between (1) διάβολος and (2) δαίμων/ δαιμόνιον.


1 Commentary on Luke 4:33

2 Tobit 3:8, 3:17

3 Tobit 6:8

4 Compare Philo, Who is the Heir of Divine Things, §132: «τὴν μὲν ψυχὴν εἰς λογικὸν καὶ ἄλογον»

5 Jewish Antiquities, 6.8.2, 6.11.2, 8.2.5

6 Wars of the Jews, 7.6.3


Meyer, Heinrich. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

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@ H3br3wHamm3r81 I am aware of the differences in the original Scriptures. In my studies I use these sources along with Josephus and others. Byzantine/majority text with Strong's numbers, Greek Orthodox, Greek new Testament with variants, Modern Hebrew Bible, Hebrew interpolated study Bible, Ralph's LXX A and LXXE, Westcott-Hort new Testament. My question was about the King James version, specifically because it seems to combine all of those into one word which appears to have differing connotations than any single one of the original words. – BYE Dec 21 '13 at 13:30
@ H3br3wHamm3r81 Your answer was fine, as far as it goes, but like you I often refer to the Hebrew or Greek versions for illumination on the KJV, however as you noted from the King James Version the word Devils has so many connotations it is hard to understand exactly which they are referring to. I cannot in some cases determine whether they mean a false god or a fallen Angel (demon). So I just would like to know how to read the word devils. Devil does not have other connotations and apparently only refers to Satan. Perhaps there is no definitive definition, but one can always hope. – BYE Dec 21 '13 at 20:34

Nice analysis. Do you speak Greek fluently?

You know, the thing is, many places in the Holy Scriptures where it is acknowledged as FACT that there are indeed many malevolent forces in the universe, some are more powerful than others, and also that there are many gods, all less powerful than God the Father, Yaweh or Jehovah. The first of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," makes it a very grave sin to WORSHIP these "other Gods."

Why would God specifically admonish against worshipping other GODS? Because they are in fact real. Would he have said anything if it was imaginary?

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@ Ztucker I'm not sure whether this comment was directed at me or H3br3wHamm3r81, but I will comment none the less. You might also want to check out the original Greek and Hebrew versions since the question was based on the fact that there are differences in those words translated devils and you will find hat is true also in the scripture you refer to. tיהוה(yehôvâh) thy אלהים ('ĕlôhı̂ym) in combination as opposed toאלהים ('ĕlôhı̂ym) alone which does not designate the Holy divinity. therefore I have voted down your answer. – BYE Dec 23 '13 at 17:08
If you haven't seen the tour and help center pages yet, please do. They will show you how to use the site's features correctly. You have enough rep now to comment freely on any post. Also, so you don't feel like I'm coming down on you, take a look at this meta post. I'm commenting on your posts because you show potential in both quality and enthusiasm. You could become a valued, regular site user if you wanted. – fredsbend Dec 23 '13 at 19:54
On your final sentence Isaiah 44 and 45 contain multiple verses that say things like "There is no God besides me," and "I look [for other gods] and see none." The Bible teaches clearly that there is no one and nothing that is like God, despite that some worship other things, whether imaginary or not, as a god. – fredsbend Dec 23 '13 at 20:02

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