As I was looking for information on evil spirits meant to wander the earth for all time as violent apparitions, I found this little quote from John Chrysostom.
It came to pass,” it is said, “that Lazarus died; and he was carried up by angels,” (Luke 17:22). Here, before I proceed, I desire to remove a wrong impression from your minds. For it is a fact that many of the less instructed think that the souls of those who die a violent death become wandering spirits (or demons).
But this is not so. I repeat it is not so. For not the souls of those who die a violent death become demons, but rather the souls of those who live in sin; not that their nature is changed, but that in their desires they imitate the evil nature of demons. Showing this very thing to the Jews, Christ said, “Ye are the children of the devil,” (John 7:44). He said that they were the children of the devil, not because they were changed into a nature like his, but because they performed actions like his. Wherefore also He adds: “For the lusts of your father ye will do.” Also John says: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Do therefore works meet for repentance. And think not to say, We have Abraham for our father” (Matt. 3:7-9). The Scripture, therefore, is accustomed to base the laws of relationship, not on natural origin, but on good or evil disposition; and those to whom any one shows similarity of manners and actions, the Scripture declares him to be their son or their brother.
And as those who live in prison are always in sorrow and pain, and especially on that day when they are to be led forth, and brought to the place where they are to be tried, and placed at the bar, and hear the voice of the judge within; as they then are full of fear, and seem no better than dead men, so the soul, though it is much pained at the very moment of the sinful act, is much more afflicted when about to be hurried away.
Of course, what we may redact from this is that there was the myth at the time that evil spirits were those who had died violently, before their time. Like Dolesus.
- Chrysostom’s fiery preaching on the poor (for those who don’t know Jack about John) (gratefultothedead.wordpress.com)