Carnal relations of demons with humans is an ancient belief among Christians and Jews

Carnal relations of demons with humans is an ancient belief among Christians and Jews. Photo: Wikimedia
Carnal relations of demons with humans is an ancient belief among Christians and Jews. Photo: Wikimedia

The Houston doctor and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of controversial claims about the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for covid, has some other very unconventional viewpoints

In addition to believing that scientists are working on a vaccine to make people less religious and that the United States government is run by reptilian creatures, Immanuel, leader of a Christian church called Fire Mountain Ministers (MFM, in the English acronym), also believes that s… with demons causes miscarriage, impotence, cysts, and endometriosis, among other diseases.

This has exposed her to ridicule. But, as a scholar of early Christianity, I am aware that the belief that demons – or fallen angels – regularly have relations with humans is deeply rooted in Jewish and Christian traditions.

Demonic love

The first account of demonic relation in Jewish and Christian traditions comes from the Book of Genesis, which details the origins of the world and the early history of humanity.

Genesis says that, before Noah’s flood, the fallen angels mated with women to produce a race of giants.
The brief mention of angels mating with human women contains few details. It was up to later writers to fill in the gaps.

In the third century BC, the Book of Watchers, an apocalyptic vision written in the name of a mysterious character named Enoch mentioned in Genesis, expanded this intriguing story. In this version, the angels, or “Watchers”, not only have sex with women and giants at birth, but also teach humans magic, the arts of luxury, and knowledge of astrology. This knowledge is commonly associated in the ancient world with the advancement of human civilization.

The Book of Watchers suggests that the fallen angels are the source of human civilization. As scholar Annette Yoshiko Reed showed, the Book of Watchers had a long life in early Jewish and Christian communities until the Middle Ages. Its descriptions of fallen angels were very influential.

The story is cited in the canonical epistle of Jude. Jude quotes the Book of Watchers in an attack on perceived opponents whom he associates with demonic knowledge.

Medieval fascination

2nd century AD Christians, like the influential theologian Tertullian of Carthage, treated the text as scripture, although it is now considered scripture only by some Orthodox Christian communities.
Tertullian recounts the story of the Watchers and their demonic arts as a way to discourage Christian women from wearing jewelry, makeup or expensive clothes. Dressing in anything other than simple clothes, for Tertullian, means that one is under the influence of demons.

Christians like Tertullian came to see demons behind almost every aspect of ancient culture and religion.

Many Christians justified abstaining from everyday aspects of ancient Roman life, from consuming meat to wearing makeup and jewelry, arguing that such practices were demonic.

The Christian fascination with demons having sex with humans developed significantly in the medieval world. Historian Eleanor Janega recently showed that it was in the medieval period that beliefs about nocturnal sex with demons – the ones echoed by Immanuel today – became common.

For example, the legendary wizard Merlin, from the tales of King Arthur, was said to have been conceived by an incubus, a male demon.

Demonic liberation

Ever since they were concerned with demons, Christians have also thought about how to protect themselves from them.
The first biography of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark, written around 70 AD, presents Jesus as a charismatic preacher who both heals people and drives out demons. In one of the first scenes of this gospel, Jesus drives an unclean spirit out of a man in the synagogue of Capernaum.

In one of his letters to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul argued that women could protect themselves from being raped by demons by wearing veils over their heads.

Christians also turned to ancient traditions of magic and magical objects, such as amulets, to help avoid spiritual dangers.

Evangelical Christianity and Pentecostalism

In the wake of the Enlightenment, European Christians became deeply engaged in debates about miracles, including those related to the existence and expulsion of demons.

For many, the rise of modern science questioned such beliefs. By the late 19th century, Christians seeking to maintain faith in demons and miracles found refuge in two separate but interconnected developments.

A large number of American evangelicals turned to a new theory called “dispensationalism” to help them understand how to read the Bible. Dispensationalist theologians argued that the Bible was a book coded by God with a blueprint for human history, past, present, and future.

In this theory, human history was divided into different time periods, “dispensations,” in which God acted in particular ways. Miracles were attributed to earlier dispensations and would only return as signs of the end of the world.


For dispensationalists, the Bible prophesied that the end of the world was near. They argued that the end would come about through the work of demonic forces operating through human institutions. As a result, dispensationalists often tend to be quite distrustful and prone to conspiracy thinking. For example, many believe that the United Nations (UN) is part of a conspiracy to create a world government ruled by the upcoming Antichrist.

This distrust helps explain why Christians like Immanuel can believe that reptilian creatures are working in the U.S. government or that doctors are working to create a vaccine that makes people less religious.

Meanwhile, the end of the 19th century also saw the emergence of the Pentecostal movement, the fastest-growing segment of Christianity in the world. Pentecostalism featured a renewed interest in the work of the Holy Spirit and its manifestation in new signs and wonders, from miraculous healings to ecstatic utterances.

As scholar André Gagné wrote, Immanuel has deep ties to a prominent Pentecostal network in Nigeria, the MFM. This network was founded in 1989 in Lagos by Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, a geneticist turned popular preacher. Olukoya’s church has become a transnational network, with branches in the U.S. and Europe.

Like many Pentecostals in the Southern hemisphere, MFM adherents believe that spiritual forces can be the cause of many different afflictions, including divorce and poverty.

Deliverance Christianity

For Christians like Immanuel, spirits pose a threat to humans, both spiritually and physically.
In her recent book Saving Sex, religion scholar Amy DeRogatis shows how beliefs about “spiritual warfare” became increasingly common among Christians in the mid-20th century.

These Christians claimed to have the knowledge and skills needed to “deliver” humans from the bonds of demonic possession, which can include demons lodged in DNA. For these Christians, spiritual warfare was a battle against a dangerous array of demonic enemies attacking both the body and the soul.

The belief that demons have sex with humans is thus not an aberration in the history of Christianity.

It may be tempting to see Immanuel’s support for conspiracy theories as separate from her claims that demons cause gynecological diseases.

However, as demons have also been associated with the influence of culture and politics, it is not surprising that those who believe in them may distrust government, schools, and other things that unbelievers might consider common sense.

* Cavan W. Concannon is an Associate Professor of Religion at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California (USA).

** This article was republished from the The Conversation website under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

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