What is the nature of the 7 demons in Mary of Magdalene that Jesus cast out?
First of all let us take a close look at what the Evangelist Luke has to say about it in his Gospel:
1Soon afterward, Jesus traveled from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, 2as well as some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3Joanna the wife of Herod’s household manager Chuza, Susanna, and many others. These women were ministering to them out of their own means. - Luke 8:2
The Gospel text in itself is quite clear that Mary Magdalene had 7 demons expelled from her. Did she suffer from any ailments as a result of the diabolical possession or even aside of the demonic interferences in her life: possibly.
Now if one wants the gospel writer's conception of demons that Jesus cast out, we need to realize that they took this matter very seriously.
The Scriptures make it clear difference from when Jesus heals someone from a purely physical infirmity, and from an expulsion to of the spiritual entities possessing some individual, known as demons.
Jesus healed a deaf and mute man from his infirmities and physical ills, but no Evangelist ever called him possessed. They understood the reality of a diabolical interference in human life from some form of physical illness.
In general, people considered to be possessed are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions, because possession is considered to be manipulation of an unwilling victim by a demon resulting in harm to self or others. Accordingly, Jesus and his Apostle would regard exorcism as more of a cure than a punishment.
The spiritual reality the was instilled into the followers of Jesus can be witnessed on two accounts mentioned in Scripture. On one account Jesus mentioned that certain types of demon can not be expelled except by prayer and fasting. Obviously there are heavy weights amongst the bad angels.Fr. Gabriele Amorth in his book An Exorcist Tells his Story (page 93-94) that ”when the demon has a biblical name or one given in tradition (for example, Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Meridian Asmodeus), we are dealing with ”heavyweights“, tougher to defeat. The decree of difficult is also relative to the intensity with which the demon possesses a person. When several demons are present, the chief is always the last to leave.” This is the very reality faced by the Apostles In their ministry.
St. Luke goes on to recount in the Book of Acts how the demons hurt some vagabond Jews doing exorcisms. Thus the Evangelists understood the possibility of physical harm that could be done when confronted with a demoniac.
13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. - Acts 19:13-19
The Catholic Encyclopedia goes into detail about exorcisms in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus himself ”expressly distinguishes between the expulsion of evil spirits and the curing of diseases”:
Among the Jews
There is no instance in the Old Testament of demons being expelled by men. In Tobias, viii, 3, it is the angel who "took the devil and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt"; and the instruction previously given to young Tobias (VI, 18, and 19), to roast the fish's heart in the bridal chamber, would seem to have been merely part of the angel's plan for concealing his own identity. But in extra-canonical Jewish literature there are incantations for exorcising demons, examples of which may be seen in the Talmud (Schabbath, xiv, 3; Aboda Zara, xii, 2; Sanhedrin, x, 1). These were sometimes inscribed on the interior surface of earthen bowls, a collection of which (estimated to be from the seventh century A.D.) is preserved in the Royal Museum in Berlin; and inscriptions from the collection have been published, and translated, by Wohlstein in the "Zeitschrift für Assyriologie" (December, 1893; April, 1894).
The chief characteristic of these Jewish exorcisms is their naming of names believed to be efficacious, i.e. names of good angels, which are used either alone or in combination with El (=God); indeed reliance on mere names had long before become a superstition with the Jews, and it was considered most important that the appropriate names, which varied for different times and occasions, should be used. It was this superstitious belief, no doubt, that prompted the sons of Sceva, who had witnessed St. Paul's successful exorcisms in the name of Jesus, to try on their own account the formula, "I conjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth", with results disastrous to their credit (Acts, xix, 13). It was a popular Jewish belief, accepted even by a learned cosmopolitan like Josephus, that Solomon had received the power of expelling demons, and that he had composed and transmitted certain formulae that were efficacious for that purpose. The Jewish historian records how a certain Eleazar, in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian and his officers, succeeded, by means of a magical ring applied to the nose of a possessed person, in drawing out the demon through the nostrils—the virtue of the ring being due to the fact that it enclosed a certain rare root indicated in the formulae of Solomon, and which it was exceedingly difficult to obtain (Ant. Jud. VIII, ii, 5; cf. Bell. Jud. VII, vi, 3).
But superstition and magic apart, it is implied in Christ's answers to the Pharisees, who accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, that some Jews in His time successfully exorcised demons in God's name: "and if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?" (Matt., xii, 27). It does not seem reasonable to understand this reply as mere irony, or as a mere argumentum ad hominem implying no admission of the fact; all the more so, as elsewhere (Mark, ix, 37-38) we have an account of a person who was not a disciple casting out demons in Christ's name, and whose action Christ refused to reprehend or forbid.
Exorcism in the New Testament
Assuming the reality of demoniac possession, for which the authority of Christ is pledged (see Demoniacal Possession Obsession), it is to be observed that Jesus appealed to His power over demons as one of the recognised signs of Messiahship (Matt., xii, 23, 28; Luke, xi, 20). He cast out demons, He declared, by the finger or spirit of God, not, as His adversaries alleged, by collusion with the prince of demons (Matt., xii, 24, 27; Mark, iii, 22; Luke, xi, 15,19); and that He exercised no mere delegated power, but a personal authority that was properly His own, is clear from the direct and imperative way in which He commands the demon to depart (Mark, ix, 24; cf. i, 25 etc.): "He cast out the spirits with his word, and he healed all that were sick" (Matt., viii, 16). Sometimes, as with the daughter of the Canaanean woman, the exorcism took place from a distance (Matt., xv, 22 sqq.; Mark, vii, 25). Sometimes again the spirits expelled were allowed to express their recognition of Jesus as "the Holy One of God" (Mark, i, 24) and to complain that He had come to torment them "before the time", i.e. the time of their final punishment (Matt., viii, 29 sqq.; Luke, viii, 28 sqq.). If demoniac possession was generally accompanied by some disease, yet the two were not confounded by Christ or the Evangelists. In Luke, xiii, 32, for example, the Master Himself expressly distinguishes between the expulsion of evil spirits and the curing of diseases.
Christ also empowered the Apostles and Disciples to cast out demons in His name while He Himself was still on earth (Matt., x, 1 and 8; Mark, vi, 7; Luke, ix, 1; x, 17), and to believers generally He promised the same power (Mark, xvi, 17). But the efficacy of this delegated power was conditional, as we see from the fact that the Apostles themselves were not always successful in their exorcisms: certain kinds of spirits, as Christ explained, could only be cast out by prayer and fasting (Matt., xvii, 15, 20; Mark, ix, 27, 28; Luke, ix, 40). In other words the success of exorcism by Christians, in Christ's name, is subject to the same general conditions on which both the efficacy of prayer and the use of charismatic power depend. Yet conspicuous success was promised (Mark, xvi, 17). St. Paul (Acts, xvi, 18; xix, 12), and, no doubt, the other Apostles and Disciples, made use regularly, as occasion arose, of their exorcising power, and the Church has continued to do so uninterruptedly to the present day.