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Den Boeft 213f., with Civ. Dei IX,19. It is not easy, however, to define the extent to which patristic demonology was determined in its particular positions by its non-Christian surroundings. If, on the one hand, during the first four centuries theologians in general did not deal systematically with the question and their references are mostly scattered, we should also note that certain pagan authors like Celsus and Porphyry were influenced by the JudeoChristian tradition RAC 5,53-60. Benin Map Tourist Attractions The matter is considerably complicated by the bewildering variety of reference points: evil spirits and Judeo-Christian demons on the one hand, and on the other, the demons some even considered good, aeons, ghosts, nature spirits, mediators and souls of certain dead people, of the pagan tradition. We must nonetheless hold firmly to our previous statement that the Jewish matrix of patristic demonology was by far the most important.
None of this puts in doubt and indeed it confirms that the devil and demons held an important place in the thought and devotion of the early Christian churches. In fact, Christians attributed every fact and phenomenon that in any way hindered the person’s union with God and the submission of the world to Christ to demonic influence, seeing it everywhere. Faced with this demonization of the whole environment felt to be hostile to faith they took unceasing pains to discover and combat the nefarious action of demons: in liturgy, in ascesis, in popular devotions the sign of the cross, in prayer, in preaching and even in theology itself.
To better understand the crucial, ongoing confrontation taking place on the theological level as a gradual reinterpretation of the Judeo-Christian heritage, it is helpful to distinguish the fields in which Christian thinkers were concerned with the question of demons. In the first place they took account of it in antipagan apologetic. Faced every day and everywhere with expressions of pagan life, judged as contrary to Christian faith and morals be it idolatry, entertainments, mythology, superstition, divination the 2nd-c. apologists tried to work out a demonological explanation; they thus attributed idol-worship to the action of demons who had taken possession of the images erected in honor of the gods, i.e., of certain famous dead men see so-called euhemerism: RAC 9,740ff.. Similarly, they attributed pagan worship to the intent of demons, who wished to feed on the aroma of sacrifices or receive honors reserved to God alone RAC 9,742ff.. They likewise condemned myths, magic, divination and other pagan practices as means by which the demons tried to prevent conversion and seduce believers RAC 9,744-750. At the same time, the Christians of the 2nd c. were forced to defend their own existence against public opinion that accused them of immorality and atheism, and indeed to explain the violent and unjust hostility toward them. In this also, they cited the pernicious action of demons, who had ever stirred up people against the truth, provoking the persecution of the just RAC 9,755ff.. In the same way, later authors would see the instigation of demons behind heresies, indeed continually stigmatizing the demonic possession of the heretics RAC 9, 756.
Included in all this antipagan polemic was a more fundamental problem that not only concerned Christians, but was also felt by pagans, i.e., the question of the origin of evil. Origen was clearly aware of this philosophical knot of demonology when he wrote: It is impossible to know the origin of evil without knowing the teaching on the devil and his angels, that is, what he was before becoming the devil, as well as the reason why his angels shared his apostasy C. Cels. IV, 65. Indeed, against the dualistic tendencies of the times, theologians of the Great Church the apologists and, more clearly, Origen C. Cels. IV, 65 and so many other Fathers after him see the texts in RAC 9,701.721 stressed that even the devil and demons were creatures of God and that their wickedness was not innate, but due to their own completely free decision. Rejecting the Manichean positions in which the gnostic dualism of the 2nd c. survived, Augustine deepened Catholic doctrine on the origin of the devil and demons HDG 45f.; Den Boeft 214. His position ultimately received official confirmation by the Synod of Braga 561, which condemned the errors of Spanish Priscillianism HDG 57.