Are Demons Really Fallen Angels?
Most likely, if you asked any Christian about demons they would say that they were fallen angels. This position is probably mostly informed by a (mis?)reading of Revelation 12, Hollywood, tradition, and Frank Peretti more than something that is explicitly stated in the biblical text, and I think it is an idea that would have differed from many of the authors of the New Testament.
In understanding how some NT authors may have understood demons there are two extra-biblical texts that are pertinent: 1 Enoch and Jubilees. These texts are important as they heavily influenced Second Temple Judaism, and therefore, the thought world of the authors of the NT.
The important story for the present purpose is found in the first book of 1 Enoch, the Book of Watchers (BW). Some angels in heaven led by Shemihaza and Asael see how beautiful the daughters of men are, make a pact among themselves, come down from heaven, marry human women, impregnate the women, and have giant half-breed babies. Finally, God fed up with the havoc they have unleashed on the created order commands four angels to various tasks:
“And to Michael he said, “Go, Michael, bind Shemihazah and the others with him, who have mated with the daughters of men, so that they were defiled by them in their uncleanness. And when their sons perish and they see the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, until the day of their judgment and consummation, until the everlasting judgment is consummated. Then they will be led to the fiery abyss, and to the torture, and to the prison where they will be confined forever.” (1 Enoch 10:11-13)
Now here’s the important part: The angels are imprisoned in a pit in the wilderness until the day of the Lord’s judgment. They are not left loose to roam around and do any more damage. You see in BW and other Enochic materials the angels are not just responsible for the impurity of improper sexuality, but for also teaching humans all sorts of forbidden knowledge. For instance Azazel teaches mankind about metallurgy which leads to war and killing. So these are some dangerous beings that God locks up forever.
The second part of the story is equally important. The giant offspring of the angels and humans are destroyed, except their parents were spirit and flesh, so while their bodies are destroyed their spirits live on as demons who cause sickness, fever, and hurling people to the ground. It is the disembodied spirits of the giants who are the demons.
“But now the giants who were begotten by the spirits and the flesh–they will call them evil spirits on the earth, for their dwelling will be on the earth. The spirits have gone forth from the body of their flesh and are evil spirits, for from humans they came into being, and from the holy watchers was the origin of their creation… And the spirits of the giants lead astray, do violence, make desolate, and attack and wrestle and hurl upon the earth and cause illnesses. They eat nothing, but abstain from food and are thirsty and smite… thus they will make desolate until the day of the consummation of the great judgment, when the great age will be consummated.” (1 Enoch 15:8-16:1)
The same story is told in Jubilees with a twist: the demons are starting to lead Noah’s grandchildren astray so he prays to God to put all the demons in the pit with the angels. God grants the request and the angels round up the evil spirits, but Mastema (another name for Satan) comes and requests ten-percent of the spirits to do his work among men (Jubilees 10).
A little different take on the story but the conclusion is the same: the fallen angels are buried in the wilderness awaiting judgment, and it is the disembodied spirits of their children who are the demons.
The primary thing that needs to be remembered is that both 1 Enoch and Jubilees appear to have been authoratative texts for some groups in Judaism and some early Christians, so their “angelology/demonology” appearing in the NT should not really be that surprising.
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
Obviously, this is only the first half of the equation above: the angels are in deepest darkness bound in chains awaiting judgment. But what about the second half of the equation? Are demons the disembodied spirits of the giants?
Well, if it’s not the angels then by analogy I would say yes, but I am doing more tangible work on this for my MA thesis that requires I go into the Greek in another book that I believe demonstrably strengthens the connection between an NT author’s understanding of demons as the disembodied spirits of the giants and that description in BW.