Today’s question isn’t one submitted on this website but instead one posted on Reddit many moons ago. This is the question.
One of the predominating thoughts in fundamentalist Christianity is that pagan gods of the Old Testament were demons in disguise. Its gotten to the point that any time discussion about religion gets involved with cultures that Moses and his descendant Prophets heck the Jews never got into contact with during the Biblical period such as say the Chinese, there is immediate accusation that these cultures’ deities are demons posing as humanoid divine beings.
I cannot tell you how many blogs there are out there by Christian fundamentalists accusing Shiva and the Hindu gods as demonic entities or videos on Youtube proclaiming Buddha is a servant of Satan (under the wrong assumption that Siddartha Guatma is worshipped as the God of Buddhism), etc with frequent citation of Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 as proof.
With that said I am curious on the Jewish pov? Is Shedim correctly translated as demons like most English translations of the bible state the verses?
Or is there so much misunderstanding on shedim and “demonology” of Judaism by Christians? If shedim is correctly translated as demons, do they apply to all other Gods including Amaterasu, Mithras, Ganesh, Zeus, the Trinity of Christianity, and Allah (even if Muslims and Christian believe they are the same as Yahweh)? Or are they only region-specific around Israel and the border countries around her today?https://reddit.com/r/rabbi/comments/kf4grh/are_all_pagan_gods_particularly_religions_judaism/
While it is correct that the term “shedim” does mean “demons” in English it isn’t the same as people typically understand the word demon when viewed from a Christian interpretation. Within Judaism, the concept of shedim is nowhere as clearly defined as the Christian ideas of demons and the word itself only appears a few times within the Hebrew Bible and even then its meaning is somewhat ambiguous. In some places, it has been used regarding false gods or idols while in other places it refers to different spirits that live in desolated places.
In Judaism, the concept of shedim is not as clearly defined as the Christian concept of demons. The word appears a few times in the Hebrew Bible, and its precise meaning is somewhat ambiguous. In some instances, it is associated with false gods or idols, while in others, it refers to spirits or beings that inhabit desolate places.
Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 are often cited in discussions about shedim. Deuteronomy 32:17 (ESV) says, “They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.” Psalm 106:37 (ESV) states, “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons.”
While these verses would suggest a negative association it is important to know that these beings are not always sinister as with the Christian concepts of demons. In other words, they are not universally evil or against HaShem and the interpretation of these verses can vary from scholar to scholar.
To get to the answer to the question I first must say it is important to be sensitive but Judaism traditionally teaches monotheism and there is only HaShem and that worshipping of other gods is incompatible. With this sad NOTHING suggests that these other deities are “demonic” in the way that Christian fundamentalists might argue. Sadly while Judaism does generally acknowledge there are different beliefs there are no actual judgements as they never directly engaged with each other but ultimately Judaism focuses on the personal relationship with HaShem rather than if other gods are demonic or not.
Kyle ben Avraham Avinu (קייל בן אברהם אבינו) (2023) Shedim in Judaism is not universally demonic.. [online] Ask a Jew. Available at: https://askajew.co.uk/question/shedim-in-judaism-is-not-universally-demonic/ [Accessed 29 Feb 2024]