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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: March 2010

27 - Demons and the Christian community



The anxiety over Satan, which led, in a reciprocal relationship of cause and effect, to the relentless persecution of devil-worshippers and acolytes, took hold fully half-way through the Middle Ages. Thus the devil claims an ancient history in Christianity, but the creation of a science of the devil, a demonology, seems to be much more recent. Also, during Christianity's first centuries the possessed could testify to the devil's plans and thus provide the church with useful knowledge. This chapter proposes that the process emerged out of the conjunction, revival and interaction of two ancient ideas: the pact with the devil and devil possession. The first great work of scholastic demonology is probably the lengthy discussion of devils in Thomas Aquinas' treatise On Evil, towards the end of his life. Various juridical bodies could deal with people who invoked demons: numerous episcopal law courts, the court of the Inquisition and ad hoc papal commissions.

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