Can a Christian become possessed by a demon? Does the word ‘possession’ actually occur in the Bible where Jesus or the apostles cast out evil spirits? Bible scholars answer these questions about demons and point to a warning.
“And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,”
The idea of demon possession in the Bible is not as clear-cut as it seems.
Scholars point out that we must first define what the English word possession means, which denotes “ownership.”
So when we read an expression such as “demon-possessed” or “demon possession,” our understanding in English is that it expresses that a person is “owned” or taken over by a demon.
In the examples of Jesus and the apostles casting out evil spirits occurring in the New Testament, which was written in Greek. Still, the Greek word used is daimonizomai, which in Greek means “demonized.”
In his book “Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness,” biblical scholar Michael S. Heiser refers to the research of another biblical scholar, Arnold, and points out that there is no Greek word for “possession.” Arnold says “demonized” is the best choice for transliterating the Greek word daimonizomai.
The problem that occurs is that some English translations have chosen the words “demon possession” or “demon-possessed” as a translation for daimonizomai. Arnold adds that some translators have noted the problem of English semantics to words like “possess” and instead have rendered the translation for daimonizomai as “tormented” or “troubled” (by demons).
Another scholar, Thomas Sappington, says the word daimonizomai should be translated as “with an unclean spirit” or “having a demon.”
Which leads to the following question: Is having an unclean spirit or having a demon the same as being possessed? Or does it refer to torment or harassment?
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,”
– Colossians 1:13
The main argument against Christians being demon-possessed is that, especially once someone has been baptized, they have been purchased by the blood of Christ. Christ owns the Christian. Believers have been delivered from darkness.
Therefore, as Heiser states in his book, “a member of the body of Christ cannot be owned by Satan or demons.”
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
– Acts 20:28
Conversely, we could assume those that do not belong to Christ would be the only ones with the potential to be demon-possessed.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact, the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
– Romans 8:9
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,”
– 1 Timothy 4:1
Bible scholar Arnold makes an insightful argument of demonic influence versus possession
“Can Christians come under a high degree of influence by a demonic spirit?” Arnold asks. “Is it possible for Christians to yield control of their bodies to a demonic spirit in the same way that they yield to the power of sin?”
Based on Arnold’s assessment, Heiser agrees that demonic influence is something that is possible for the Christian.
In the above verse, the Bible answers this question for us as well, as Paul warns that professing believers can surrender their will and devote themselves to “deceitful spirits” and “demons,” accepting their influence and suggestion.