05 February 2008

Won't you take me to... Demon Town?

by Dan Phillips

The scene described in Mark 5 has the makings of a pretty effective little horror story:
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.

2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 8 For he was saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"

9 And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

He replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." 10 And he
begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them."
13 So he gave them permission.

And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.

17 And they began to beg Jesus to
depart from their region.

18 As he was getting into the boat....

It has many of the classic elements. It was apparently nighttime. There had been a terrible storm. Graveyards — and demons. Lots and lots of demons.

On most occasions Jesus cast the demons out with a word (Matthew 8:16). Here, more of a process is involved. The demon tells Jesus that there is a "legion" of them in the man. We stagger at the thought that there could have actually been six thousand demons in one man. It could have been demonic bravado — boastful, if pointless, exaggeration.

Yet they then inhabited and enfrenzied a herd of two thousand pigs. We simply must admit that there is more that we do not know about demons, than what we do know.

The really important thing to know about demons, though, is that they are utterly subject to Jesus' word. He who had stilled the elemental storm at sea with a word, could do the same to the spiritual storm inside the man. The demons know they have no choice but to go where He sends them. As many as six thousand demons versus one Jesus — and they're hopelessly outmatched. They wait, quavering to see what He will do to them, knowing they are bound to His word.

So they implore Him to send them into the herd of pigs. Particularly, the spokesman "begged [Jesus] earnestly not to send them out of the country."

Did that ever strike you? "Pigs, fine, whatever. Just please let us hang around these parts." Something about that area, that region, appealed to them, felt like home to them.

Now comes the great irony, and probably the key to the demons' petition. They are cast out into the pigs, the pigs drown, the demoniac is restored to his right mind, the townspeople come and see this all....

And what is their reaction? They all know about this notoriously insane, demonized man. His feats of insane strength were the stuff of local legend. Yet here he sits, calm, sane, sober. And Jesus is responsible.

Their response?

They ask Jesus to leave.

I never get over that, it just so amazes me. "Wow, that's really great, with the, heh-heh, the demons, and the... the... all that — so, could you, like, go? Please? Now?"

That's their priority-system. A man saved — but that herd of pigs, all gone. All that profit, gone. You did this? You go.

So I wonder: was that area just a really great place to be a demon? These people, all obsessed with order and propriety, and profit; not so concerned about this wasted wretch of a man... "Mmm-mm! Smells like Hell to me!" Was that it?

But I haven't even gotten to the scariest part of this little horror yarn yet.

The scariest part isn't the storm, or the thought of graves at night, or the raging, raving demoniac. The scariest part isn't the image of thousands of vicious, heartless, ravening demons, holding the soul of a helpless man captive.

No, this is the scariest part.

They ask Jesus to leave —

And He does.

Dan Phillips's signature

117 comments:

DJP said...

I know there were two demoniacs (Matthew 8:28-34), I know there's a textual issue about the place-name, and neither is the point. I simply focus where Mark focuses, and the place-name is irrelevant. Let's not go too far afield, please.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Maybe they just didn't like deviled ham?

[I know, old joke, but new audiences...]

You're absolutely right about the scariest part. Asking Jesus to leave...it's almost (but not quite) as scary as the "comedians" today who mock Jesus and his followers, completely oblivious to the awful consequences that await them.

And BTW, welcome back TeamPyro!

Daryl said...

Wow Dan.

Grew up in the church...know all the stories...read that one a zillion times...never got the scariest part, new saw it, never heard anyone mention it.

I get it now.

Welcome back.

Leberwurst said...

"These people, all obsessed with order and propriety, and profit; not so concerned about this wasted wretch of a man..."

May it never be said of us.

Welcome back!

Hadassah said...

I wonder what ended up happening to the man with the demons thrown out of him. I don't suppose his fellow countrymen gave him a warm reception, considering what happened to the pigs.

And I agree, the scariest part is that they rejected Jesus. That is something I wouldn't want to answer for come Judgment Day!

centuri0n said...

Dan is having internet trouble at work, so if he doesn't get back to you today, don't be put off.

Here's my thing about this story (besides Dan's spot-on view of why this story is scary): what can the postmodern mind make of this little narrative?

This is a situation in which Jesus has an interaction with the supernatural, commands the demons and they must obey, saves a man, and destroys a giant herd (2000? pigs? You ever see 20 pigs in one place -- what's 2000 like?) of pigs.

Without sinning.

The more I get to know him, the more I like this Jesus. I hope the same can be said for you.

centuri0n said...

Aaaand ... Dan broke the sidebar.

I'm working on it. :-(

centuri0n said...

Got it. Nevermind.

philness said...

1. Its scary that Jesus left them to their own mire.

2. Its scary what the carnal mind constructs. (Who would guess they bid him further off?) WOW!

3. Its scary to think that those same demons will be coming back to that same region to possess even more.

Daryl said...

It may be worth pointing out that, as scary as Jesus agreeing to leave is, he did leave the ex-demoniac behind to be his witness there. Perhaps that mitigates the scariness just a little?

C.T. Lillies said...

I think thats a good point daryl. Even in the worst situations there is generally a witness, someone in the situation who can give some answers when things swerve back down into the ditch.

Strong Tower said...

The man with the possessed eyebrow said- what can the postmodern mind make of this little narrative?

Answer: "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." or

"That all depends on what you mean by name."

Mike Riccardi said...

LoL... good call, Strong Tower.

Nice to have you guys back.

stratagem said...

Mr. Postmodern might say that the pigs are just a parable, an unclean animal representing the gentile nations. And, the pigs then get really tired of being possessed by the devil and run into the water to get baptized. Then they die to themselves. The moral of this pomo story is that we shouldn't judge anything, and that eventually all people will be saved, just because that's always the moral of postmodern stories. It just is, that's all, so there.

Daryl said...

Stratagem,

Great summation!!

It brought me back to the story...Jesus looked at the man and said to the demons "Yer leavin', that's all, so there."

And they went. (If only the pomo's would leave too...)

Rhology said...

Whoa, good call.

"And He does."

I literally said "Whoa" to myself. That is scary indeed.

Chris Latch said...

Good post.

I knew the story, knew they asked Him to leave, had considered the impl;ications there.....but like others, had overlooked the fact that yes, He did leave.


Wow....thanks for the insight.

Carrie said...

Great post, Dan.

Except I now have "funky town" stuck in my head...

Ron said...

Faithfully following Jesus with willing hearts versus personal, family economics and the inherent tension between the two has been a topic of much discussion in my circles lately. Counting the cost.

Thanks Dan.

Strong Tower said...

Ah, but this post is categorized depravity. Odd 'tis a daemon possessed man falls before Christ, recognizes who he is, but these 'sane' hog herders d'n.

NoLongerBlind said...

I'll never be able to read this account without recalling John MacArthur's comments made in his sermon on this passage from Luke 8:30-39, regarding the pigs drowning:
"They ran down the hill and did a swine dive"....."they committed sooey-cide" ;o) !!

I always thought it sad and somewhat perplexing that Jesus was asked to leave; also, that the new convert was "left behind" with no like-minded souls to fellowship with! John M's sermon was titled "The Maniac Who Became a Missionary"....

Good post, Dan

Jay said...

Do do do...won't you take me to...do do do...

Peregrina said...

I have always wondered what the renewed man did after Jesus left...if he stayed to minister, or if he was asked to leave as well.

Strong Tower said...

Wonders how the SPCA would view this?

It was definitely sooey-cide, but they were driven to it by guilt mongerin Christianity! You might say they were sowered on life. And did you know that Cuba was once in situated in the Sea of Galilee...I think my eyebrow is beginning to twitch. Before I get back to my Golden Plates, anyone got a lead on a good exorcist?

stratagem said...

He became a street vendor selling barbecued pork sandwiches. Some manuscripts mention his name, Oscar Meyer.

Tyler said...

OKAY I don't want to sound like a modernist, but I met Jesus in the second year of a higher-critic Religious Studies degree and for the life of me I dont know what to really make of this passage. Whenever I read it, because of the way I was trained to read this text, I automatically think, "Oh; that's just the way that the early Jesus community wanted to show how how Jesus' intentions were to 'exorcise' the demons of Roman Imperialism from Israel-in-exile and drive the Gentiles into the sea in good Maccabean zeal. It really has nothing to do with demons (cause that's a pre-modern superstition) or Jesus' authority over them."

Why isn't the passage about that? I'm not trying to cause a fight for the sake of causing a fight, I honestly don't know how to answer 'my own' objections to Dan's commentary. Can anyone help me out?

stratagem said...

Tyler: I can help you out, but you have to be willing to change your thinking or it won't do any good for me to try.

Sounds like your higher criticism class viewed the Bible as 1st century propaganda, rather than as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you also believe that, then you need to recognize that for the lie that it is, before anything can change.

The people who write politically-oriented interpretations of the Bible are unable to conceive of Jesus's agenda and kingdom as really being 'not of this world'. But his agenda wasn't of this world, so why would he care to throw off Roman Imperialism or any other ism? He was trying to save people's souls, not to save the political life of the Jews.

Daryl said...

Tyler,

Just a thought...you might want to start by re-reading the passage and taking it at face value.
Notice the lack of statements like "the kingdom of God is like..." or "Jesus, in order to deomonstrate Roman's inevitable fall..."
Notice the whole story is predicated on a real Jesus going to a real place and dealing with a real man. Given that all of that is portrayed as real, now assume that we can take the demons as real, simply because the writer deals with them on the same level as the boat and the lake and the man and the tombs etc.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP,

Magnificent post! Simply outstanding! Your insights into Scripture are precious jewels. Like the time you wondered whether Jesus ever asked a "dumb" question. Like: "Do you want to be healed?"

Tyler, you've really got brain-washed and indoctrinated by your higher criticism religious studies professor in college. It's so scary that I'm thankful that you're sharing it so that I can assist my daughter, my family, and my friends from making the same hermeneutical and exegetical mistakes that you and your professor have made.

Gummby said...

Tyler: in addition to the suggestions above, you might ask yourself this.

If this is primarily a political text, then why do the demons (ie, the Romans) identify Christ as the "Son of the Most High God?" And how, exactly, would Jesus torment any Romans?

You might also ask yourself if the political interpretation is true, why the Jews of that community sent him away, instead of hailing him as the one to come. The Jews of this time were clearly waiting for the Messiah to free them from Roman imperialism, right? Indeed, the problem with Jesus is that he didn't do that.

Only a literal reading makes sense.

jeff said...

Glad you guys are back. I've missed you all.

centuri0n said...

Tyler:

Others have given you some reasons to think otherwise about this passage in this text. Let me give you some as well.

[1] There is no way any normal reader can interpret Mark's overarching goal in writing his book as a political jeremiad against Rome. Why, you may ask?

Here's why: Mark doesn't mention Rome until Chpt 15 when he brings in Pilate and the Roman guards. They are parts of the landscape of this book, not part of the foreground.

[2] Mark's foundational thesis for his book is this: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

I mean, that's the opening sentence. It has some relationship with what mark was trying to say -- and notice the absurd lack of mention of anything to do with politics.

[3] One of the key matters of Mark is the conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. How can this be a political treatise against Rome by a Jewish zealot when the writer scorns the spiritual leaders of the Jews so plainly?

Think about that. This is an important topic.

Stefan said...

Tyler:

As a fellow "reformed anabaptist" ("anabaptist" is a term I'm hesitatant to use because it's been co-opted by postmodernists) who grew up as a skeptical atheist, let's praise God that He calls us even in the most unusual circumstances (like a higher criticism course!).

At the most cynical, skeptical point in my life, I assumed the whole Bible was more or less a pious fabrication, put together by men to maintain some kind of socioreligious status quo. This is what I'd surmised from reading liberal scholarship. If you start from that position—as the higher critics do—then you can deconstruct everything in Scripture. (Never mind pesky details like the fact that passage after passage in the Old Testament plays up every embarrassing blemish, even in the "heroes"; or the fact that during the whole Apostolic period in the New Testament, Jewish and Gentile Christians were a despised, persecuted minority with no power to protect.)

Where does such a fallacious presupposition leave us? No faith in a sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, infinite God with the power to redeem lost souls. No hope for humankind.

And keep in mind that higher criticism is an outgrowth of the Enlightenment, when man's scientific advances led many to conclude that the Bible was little more than the outdated myths and fairy tales of what was originally a primitive tribe of desert nomads. The whole discipline is thus built on some very fundamental presuppositions.

But as others have suggested here, what if we simply take the story at face value? It flies in the face of every naturalistic assumption—Jesus has miraculous control of the weather; demons exist, and can be commanded by Jesus; and so on. But if we accept that Jesus is both the Son of God and God himself, and if we accept that God is sovereign over creation, then it makes perfect sense that the incarnate Christ would have had the power to do some pretty amazing things. More generally, if we accept that God created the world—this incomprehensibly vast universe with forces and matter and dimensions that we haven't even fully grasped yet—then surely he has the power to do relatively simple things, like the parting of the Red Sea, the Virgin Birth, or Christ's bodily resurrection. ...Which in turn means that not only does God have the power to create, but He has the power to redeem. His promises are sure, and He will fulfill His promises to those whom He loves.

Stefan said...

Oh, I should have mentioned something else. Humanistic scholars assume that we today are far too enlightened to believe the Bible, whereas ancient peoples were naive and credulous.

But within Scripture, there is ample testimony to the fact that even in those "unsophisticated" times, many were quite ready to dismiss miracles or reject God's claims to authority in other ways, even in the face of miraculous occurrences.

So the materialistic dismissal of Scripture today is not because scientific knowledge contradicts Scripture (it doesn't; although that is the pretext that is advanced), but because of a desire to reject the sovereignty and authority of God.

donsands said...

'And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him."

I wonder if the man himself was aware of who Christ was? Or was he totally incapable of recognizing Christ, and the demons were in full control?

Thanks for the well done post.

Kristine said...

Wow, Dan. This was very, very nicely done.

Strong Tower said...

donsands- I think so, as I intimated earlier. This post is categorized depravity. And, we see, that even in this man's most horrid state, that corruption known as depravity. We define that not as being corrupted to the uttermost, to the anihilation of the person, but that in every part of that person is corruption. This parabolic look at depravity hits that mark to the 6000th degree. And, it goes to the fact that the people of the village are equally as corrupt and deny Christ in every part of their being also. What makes the difference? How does this man who broke chains and cut himself with rocks, that no other man could enslave, come to Christ in a pose of submission? How is it that 6000 daemons could not keep him away? That is a powerful dragging of dead flesh. It is also a beautiful picture of God's election. What is the difference between this man's condition and the villager's? Surely it isn't sin, and we cannot say, that this man was of his right mind and that he dragged the daemons with him. The text in fact indicates that he was not in his right mind until after the exorcism. Yet to contrary the villagers appear out of theirs.

Drew said...

Centurion, you undercut your own arguement. The first sentence of Mark has two references to politics.

1. "Gospel," this word, before Christians started using it, was originally used to refer to a military victory. Rome was filled with "gospel" of a way different type.

2. "Son of God," before people started referring to Jesus as such, Caesar insisted on claiming this title for himself. Referring to anybody as the Son of God is a direct affront to Caesar.

Daryl said...

Drew!!! Buddy!!! I'm looking forward to reading your final response in your Debate with the Centurion.

Is it forth-coming?

By the way, how does you arguement (here) in any way lend itself to the idea that the demons were Romans etc...

S.J. Walker said...

Drew,

O.E. godspel "good news," from god "good" + spel "story, message," translation of L. bona adnuntiatio, itself a translation of Gk. euangelion "reward for bringing good news."

Nice try.

and as to your second point, I will say I am a man, but so does Bin Laden, so this must a political attack or allusion to him.

Nator said...

Good job Drew. Of course the writers of the new testament were talking to the people of the age. How would they know that 2000 years later we would be reading and interpreting?

Nator said...

By the way, I would have probably asked Jesus to leave if he had destroyed my lively hood. I know that makes me a heretic to some of you.

Drew said...

I guess I can make another statement--I thought it was all summed up pretty well, and I have been taken off the blog, but if I am put back on, I will make another post.

And I was responding to a point that centurion made, that Mark doesn't get political until chapter 15. Reading it in context, and the first sentence is political (and how funny is it that it is now given as evidence to show that Rome figures little into our understanding of the gospel!)

I don't think that the demons WERE Romans, but the fact that they were called a "Legion" and that they got sent into a group of pigs (who never should have been in Israel, but were there because of the Roman empire, a group referred to as a "troop"), and ran into the "sea"--sending the Romans back across the sea to where they came from (even though the body they ran into would be more likely called a lake) gives us a hint that there is a bit of symbolism concerning the Romans.

Daryl said...

Nator,

(Per your first comment)

How does ignoring the plain reading of the text and making it a political statement regarding the Roman occupation somehow become more legitimate than imagining (horrors) that "pigs" means "pigs" and "demons" means "demons" and "townsfolk" means "townsfolk"???

Your comment makes no sense. Please make it make sense for me.

As for your second comment, I doubt anyone would call you a heretic. In fact, I'd understand that reaction completely. That, however, wouldn't make it the right reaction.

Drew said...

s.j., look into how the word was used . Your definition doesn't really prove much.

And as for your claim to be a man, that is common. If you claimed to be the grand poo-bah, on the other hand, I would assume that you were making some reference to the Flintstones, as nobody else made that claim. Caesar made it clear that he, and only he, was the Son of God, the Lord, and the Savior,
and Jesus said, no, I am.

Nator, I don't think that they did know that we would be reading and interpreting. I hope I didn't imply otherwise!

Nator said...

I would not have said that it was a political statement per se, but I see Drew's point. My point is that we read into the scripture with our modernistic or post-modernistic mindset, without giving much thought to how these scriptures, letters or books, were written towards the view of those who would read them right away. Remember, Jesus was supposed to be the military Messiah and even his followers believed this originally.

Daryl said...

Wow Drew.

Does that mean that if I talk about a "mass" of people, I'm commenting on Catholicism?

Or better yet, if I say that your last comment completely struck out, am I making reference to the state of baseball in America?

More likely Mark (and I) was using an expression easily understood by the people of the time, to explain the high volume of demonic infestation in Mr. Gadarene.

As far as the "sea" comment...well this did happen on the seaside...so the sea is kind of...there...

Daryl said...

Nator,

Yes, his followers believed that but that was before the resurrection...Mark was written...after the resurrection...you'd think he'd've figured the non-militaristic thing out by then.

Nator said...

Oh, I believe they had figured it out by the time the military hadn't shown up. But remember, there was still an uprising during that time and Mark would have been well aware of this sentiment. Not saying that he was writing exactly to this group, but we have to be aware of the circumstances during the time.

Drew said...

No, it happened at a lakeside. Lakes and seas are different. It is quite possible that Mark chose the word "sea" instead of "lake" just to make a point. Early readers would have certainly noticed.

Again, Mark could have used all sorts of words to describe the many demons. Is it not a good question to ask why he chose "legion?" And since he was in a heavily fortified area, doesn't it stand to reason that it may have played into his thinking? If he was in a banana field, and he said "a bunch of demons," wouldn't we think he had bananas on his mind? Wouldn't we be smart to ask why he made such a bad pun?

Why do you think he chose the word legion? Would you like a list of non-military words that he could have chosen?

Daryl said...

Nator,

True enough, however that still doesn't make the story of the demoniac some kind of a parable about the Roman occupation.

By the time Jesus rose ascended, it was clear to the disciples that Rome was of no consequence to Jesus, or God.
The souls of the demoniac and his fellow villagers, on the other hand...

Drew said...


By the time Jesus rose ascended, it was clear to the disciples that Rome was of no consequence to Jesus, or God.

Really? I thought the great commission said something about all nations.

Jesus must have meant "all the other nations."

Daryl said...

Drew...

You're grasping at straws here.

The Sea of Galilee was/is called a sea, regardless of our technical salt-water vs fresh water distinctions.

The area being heavily fortified only makes the word "legion" less significant, not more, for the same reason you'd say bunch if it happened in a banana field, we use easily accessible descriptors and legion would be easily understood. No need to get all uptight about which word etc.
That would constitute reading into the text something that is doesn't require. Which is a tactic often used by those who'd like to insist that the gospel is something other than what is has been historically understood to mean.

You're really reaching...Scripture is not so complicated as all that.

Nator said...

Of course Jesus didn't care about Rome! But that doesn't mean Mark's audience didn't care. Again I am not saying this is a parable about occupation, just that those reading it could read a lot into it. See?

Daryl said...

Drew said

-Really? I thought the great commission said something about all nations.

Jesus must have meant "all the other nations."-

Case in point, you deliberately twist what I said to make it mean what you'd like it to mean. Pretty much like what you did with this whole post and the Scripture it came out of.

Gummby said...

Drewski: so why did the Legion of Doom, er, demons, er, Romans, refer to Jesus as "Son of the Most High God?" What kind of torment are they referring to in verse 7? And why do the townsfolk who symbolically represent, um, townsfolk, I guess, send away their long-awaited Messiah?

Nator said...

Not to defend Drew, he is completly capable of that himself, but... I just can't resist. Mark was writing a book that others would read. We have classes on books to discern what is really being said between the lines. Could it be we are making it too simple? No? Really?

Drew said...

Djp made it clear already why they didn't embrace the new messiah. It's scary, but they preferred not to follow the one that freed them. They loved darkness.

The demons called him the son of God because it was true. They recognized true authority when they saw it.

I believe that the torment that they feared is the torment that any soldier would fear when taken by his captors, but I cannot say conclusively. I also don't see why the question is significant.

The text does not definitively say "this is about the Romans," (and really, it's not--it's about Jesus, and how he deals with Romans), but there is enough in the plain and clear reading of the text to raise a few questions. Certainly sea, and legion, and pigs all get referred to in different times and places in different ways, but the story, taken as a whole, seems to have some details that seem far from co-incidental. If we are going to take scripture seriously, we should take the words chosen seriously, and legion is word worth checking out.

Daryl said...

"just that those reading it could read a lot into it. See?"

Sorry Nator, I don't see.

The thing is, some people reading/hearing this for the first time, would have known the people involved. That right there would eliminate any mucking around looking for hidden meanings. I mean, they saw the guy, they heard what Jesus said, they saw the pigs jump off the cliff, why would they even consider an underlying meaning?

The thing is, all those hidden things we come up with weren't code, or mysterious, they were right there for those folks, like baseball and Wall Street and Cheerios are for us. That in itself uncomplicates all this silliness of looking for hidden stuff.
We look for it because all these connections and terms are novel to us, but they weren't to the folks back then, so they wouldn't look for it.

It's not like Mark wrote some thing like "The eagles have left the coop. The bacon is stuffed. Beware the floating footballs." He just said "The demons went into the pigs and the pigs jumped into the sea and drowned and the pig-herders toof off" something everyone could see (except for the demons) with their own eyes.
Why try and tell them that what they saw was some political thingy when what they saw (and heard) was what Mark wrote down, with no commentary?

Daryl said...

Drew,

I think you're confusing apocalyptic literature with historical narrative.
Mark is telling us what happened, because the gospel is rooted in real historical events.

No need to go all -DaVinci Code- on this.

Daryl said...

By the way Drew. As far as checking out "legion", no need, the text explains it. "Legion, for we are many" it say.

That was simple. Big number to demonstrate big number.

God must've anticipated the crazy theory thing and put that in to head it off...

Gummby said...

Drew said: I believe that the torment that they feared is the torment that any soldier would fear when taken by his captors, but I cannot say conclusively. I also don't see why the question is significant.

It's significant because you can't have it both ways, dude. Either they were demons or they were Romans. One is "the plain and clear reading of the text," and the other is a symbolic (and if I might say so rather fanciful) interpretation of the text.

Nator said...

If the people Mark was writing to had seen this, then he wouldn't have had to write it. He was writing to those who weren't there. And you don't have to use cliches in order to have a double meaning in your writing. All you have to have are readers who know what you are talking about.

donsands said...

"It is also a beautiful picture of God's election."

Surely. Good thoughts.

centuri0n said...

| Centurion, you undercut your
| own arguement. The first
| sentence of Mark has two
| references to politics.

I am pretty sure not, but let's see your suggestions.

| 1. "Gospel," this word,
| before Christians started
| using it, was originally
| used to refer to a military
| victory. Rome was filled
| with "gospel" of a way
| different type.

Yeah, no. It is true that the word there is "??????????", and that word has an ancient meaning of good news of military victory, by the time of the NT the word has a common meaning of "good news" in general. Futher, by the time of the composition of Mark, the word in Christian circles clearly did not mean "political victory" as the Christians were not seeking what the zealot Jews were seeking: they in fact were preaching the "good news" of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, not the "good news" the Caesar is not the ruler of the empire.

Moreover, when we read the next bit of Mark, he says this:

[QUOTE]
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

"Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
[/QUOTE]

It seems to me that is Mark was declaring the political superiority or victory of Jesus as the "Gospel", Mark work would have not been then underscoring that John's work in fulfilling the Prophets was to declare forgiveness of sins for repentance, which has no political significance in the Roman context.

| 2. "Son of God," before
| people started referring to
| Jesus as such, Caesar
| insisted on claiming this
| title for himself. Referring
| to anybody as the Son of God
| is a direct affront to
| Caesar.

Um, no. Julius Caesar was designated "Iulius Divinus" by the second triumvirate after his assassination, and declared "Divi Filius" by the Senate in 42 BC – he never bore the title in his lifetime. Augustus was also declared a god by the Senate, though during his lifetime he was called "divi filius" because of his association with Julius as an adopted son – a title which spoke more to his heritage and right to rule than it did, at that time, to being worshipped. (see Werner Eck's Age of Augustus, ISBN 0-631-22957-4). Stories of Augustus' alleged deity were not really invented until about 100 AD.

This stuff you read about the Gospels being political planks are intentionally framed to undercut the actual Gospel message and the true deity of Christ – they are made to say that the claims of Jesus' followers are merely counterclaims against Caesar and the cult of the Emperor.

The final nail in this sort of reasoning is Jesus own disavowal of the title "King of the Jews" in the Gospel of Mark: Pilate is very concerned that Jesus says that he is the "King of the Jews", but Jesus refuses to say it.

Be careful what kind of scholarship you let guide your reading of the Bible. I suggest that not all scholarship is equal, and all of it has an agenda – whether you recognize it or not.

centuri0n said...

Wow. that word in all question-marks "???????????" is supposed to be εὐαγγελίου

Nator said...

I agree. All scholarship has an agenda.

Strong Tower said...

(and really, it's not--it's about Jesus, and how he deals with Romans),

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Thinkest thou that Jesus makeath Romans angels? When pigs fly?

Bwaaaahaaaahaaahaahhhaaahaahhha!

centuri0n said...

Before I go on, Drew, tell me:

How much do you know about the history of Rome between 100 BC and AD 100? If you never studied it yourself (and how many people have, really), what would be the 2 or 3 academic sources that you'd recommend on the subject to get a clear picture of the cultural context so that we can read Mark and see how it fits into the grid?

I'd accept 2 or 3 articles if you don't have any books on the subject. Before you ask, my sources are the original Latin texts I had to translate in college, ranging from Suetonius' Lives of the 12 Caesars back to Julius Caesar's own the Gallic Wars. I have also done some light reading on the subject over the years for apologetic reasons, particularly about the claim that the story of Christ's virgin birth comes after the invention of the stories of Augustus' virgin birth -- which is wrong by half a century.

Play on.

Gummby said...

P.S. What Drew (and allegorical interpretation) does here reminds me of something I had read from John MacArthur about the right interpretation of Scripture. Here's an excerpt. You can read the whole sermon here.

Now I believe in the Rapture of the church. It's not in John 11. There are things in John 11 that ought to be preached. But once you tell me what it says is not what it means, then you can tell me it means anything. Because if I can't get the meaning out of the normal use of the language, how in the world can I get the meaning?

I listened to a series of eight tapes, a study...a study of the book of Nehemiah. And I remember this so vividly because we were in a dialogue in some counseling when Jerry Mitchell was on our pastoral staff years ago, and Jerry came to me and said, "I had a very strange counseling session this morning, John, maybe you can help me with it. I counseled with a young couple, they're going to get married. They decided to get married. And I started to ask them why they want to get married and the only good answer they had was that it was a sermon their pastor preached." It was the same pastor that had put this series out that I had been listening to.

And I said, "Well what did he preach on?"

He said, "He preached on the walls of Jericho."

I said, "What do you mean he preached on the walls of Jericho? What does that have to do with them getting married?"

He said, "Well, it went like this. You claim something and then march around it seven times and it will fall to you. So it was applied that if you see a girl that you really believe is God's choice, just find some way to march around her seven times and the walls of her heart will fall down." And it was on the basis of that sermon that they had determined to get married. And Jerry said, "What do you think our counsel ought to be because we had an interesting discussion."

I went from that to the series on Nehemiah in which Nehemiah was the Holy Spirit. The king's pool which is in the city, you know, when they were building the wall, he mentions the king's pool, was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the building of the wall, the mortar between the bricks was tongues. And the whole point of Nehemiah is that God wants to send the Holy Spirit to baptize you with the Spirit and build the fallen walls of your human personality through speaking in tongues.

Now, you see, if you're going to do that with the Bible you can't get that from the text. It's pure fantasy. But it goes on all the time and I've often said...sometimes I say to our pastors, "You don't need the Bible for that, if you're going to do that you can use anything...you can use anything." You can preach Little Bo Peep, you could...you could start off by saying...Little Bo Peep, oh she was only little but God can use the little ones. And her name was...her name was Bo Peep...what a name of insignificance, what a name of ridicule, but God uses those who have been ridiculed. Little Bo Peep, she lost her sheep, all over this world sheep are lost. Doesn't know where to find them. The only part I couldn't figure out was what you do with wagging their tails behind them.

It's a very dangerous thing to allegorize or spiritualize Scripture.

S.J. Walker said...

Nator,

You seem to be assuming that any agenda is wrong. There is one agenda that is is permissable, nay, required for reading the Bible and understanding it the way you and Drew don't. That agenda is:
"He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory." 1st Timothy 3:16b

Nator said...

Once again all scholarship has an agenda, even, oh boy, here we go, John MacArthur. He has the right interpretation of the scripture. I read it here on this blog. Go ahead and fire away. I am a big boy and I can take it. Maybe.

Nator said...

An agenda isn't required to read the Bible. If it is, then the Bible isn't doing its job.

S.J. Walker said...

nnneeeeeeeeyyyoowwwww!!!

(That's the sound of a point flying over a person's head)

I am speaking of the Sovereign "agenda" of God the Father.

Here it is a little plainer for you, Paul's letter to the Church in Ephesus.

"Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come."

Gummby said...

Nator: did you actually read what I posted, or did you shut down when you saw who wrote it? It wasn't a "this is what John MacArthur says, so it must be right" kind of thing. I wish I'd said it. But since I didn't, I was giving credit. (And I want to be careful here, because he is Phil Johnson's pastor).

The point MacArthur makes is valid to this discussion. His "agenda" is to get people to read the text the way it ought to be read. Once you move away from the plain meaning of the text, you can make it say anything you want. For instance, I could say that Jesus was an alien, because he said "my kingdom is not of this world." Or I could look at the context, and understand what he's actually saying to Pilate there in John 18.

The point is that when the literal meaning of this text is the most reasonable meaning, you need not search for any other. If you insist on reading in between the lines instead of looking at what's right in front of you, you foist your own meaning on the text, and miss the true meaning. Pure and simple.

NoLongerBlind said...

SJ:

"nnneeeeeeeeyyyoowwwww!!!

(That's the sound of a point flying over a person's head)"

Thanks for the great laugh!

Very funny, you are!

centuri0n said...

OK folks: don't make me close the comment thread.

Take it down a notch or else wait 'til your father gets home. I swear.

Nator said...

The point keeps flying above peoples heads, because an agenda isn't "needed" to read the Bible, even if you want to include God's "agenda". It should be able to stand on it's own, without agenda.

Gummby, I really didn't even look to see who posted that, even if you don't believe it, it is true. Sounds familiar doesn't it? As you so rightly pointed out, context is so important to the Bible. So much is taken out of context, by everyone, that you can make any scripture, just about, mean whatever you want. The thing that started this off was a comment, not mine, that the demons into the swine had another meaning to the readers. I said that in the context of the time, it could have had that meaning as well as a healing story. Again, reading the story in the context of a Roman occupation. Other posters aside, that was the point. And I still believe that everyone has an agenda. For some it is inerrency and holding to that doctrine. For some it is a post-modern reading and for others it is a very fundamentalist view. Any way you look at it, you have to ignore some of the scripture in order to validate your agenda no matter what it is. Sorry, but that is the way it is. Ultimate truth again.

witness said...

The whole problem of Mark using the word legion to describe the demons in the man is mute. Mark didn't use it, that is how the demons described themselves and Mark gave testimony to it. Maybe the demons were Roman demons.

Nator said...

Sorry, didn't mean to cause a rucus. My refrigerator is broken and I have to move it out. So I will take my leave and bring the level down a notch. Have a great night!

NoLongerBlind said...

nator:

Not meaning to be irreverent, but,
I'm curious as to what you think God, who Sovereignly governs His creation through Providence, might be trying to tell you through the broken refrigerator.....

Any thoughts?

Nator said...

The same thing he is trying to tell you the next time your car has troubles! Not trying to be irreverent though.

S.J. Walker said...

Cent,

Sorry. Didn't mean to stir the pot like I did. I wasn't sure if you were meaning me at least in part, but I do know that as the saying goes, "if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs and one yelps. It's probably the one that got hit."

So, point taken if needed. God Bless.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

What's wrong with grammatico-historical exegesis?

Or is there anything wrong with trying to interpret Scripture by how the Author intended His Word to be read?

Allegory should be read as allegory. But this passage by Mark isn't intended to be allegorical. He intended it to be a historical fact-narrative.

That being the case, why not interpret it as historical fact-narrative?

DJP said...

Just got home, scanned thread, only have time for these brief questions:

How would Mark have written differently if he was simply writing what happened because it happened that way?

If the demon-spokesman himself — working his woes in Rome-ruled, Gentile (hence the pigs) territory — had said his name was "Legion," what was Mark supposed to write?

Why does everything, or anything, have to mean something other than what it says?

DJP said...

...and if it didn't mean something other than what it says, how would it have been written differently?

Preson said...

Centurion:
I actually have, in my office, a picture of an inscription on an ancient slab that marks Caesars courts. It, literally translated, says "divine Caesar, Son of God, Lord of Lords..." it has more, but most is cut off after that, I need a bigger lense I guess.
So when you stated back there that he never called himself that, sorry, it's just not true. Historical documents and inscriptions tell us that he referred to his conquests as "good news", and was called "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" as well as the "Prince of Peace" who offered "salvation".
The message of Jesus was quite political indeed. Not to say that he wasn't divinity, or the true Son of God, or that the salvation He offered was like the oppressive "power over", or "peace or else" gospel that Caesar was offering in any way, but I see no reason not to be as truthful as possible. We all know the true salvation Jesus offers us, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't politically charged in His day.
I think the political message of that day translates perfectly into todays society, and that Jesus would tell us that no nation of this earth can offer solutions to sin (not even voting to keep people from sinning), but only Jesus offers freedom, and the only solution to it. It is basically what He was saying then.
You're all arguing for the same thing, you do realize that...

Stefan said...

If Jesus and/or his followers were merely anti-Roman agitators, why would he and/or the writers of the Gospels go to the wholly extraneous trouble of proposing a radically new way of understanding Judaism? It would be (a) wasted effort that would (b) estrange possible supporters among first-century mainstream Judean society.

If they were merely anti-Roman agitators, why is there so little in the Gospels that actually concerns relations with Rome?—unless one starts reading that presupposition into the entire text?

centuri0n said...

Preson:

I have 15 minutes to answer your comment. Let's see how I do.

| I actually have, in my office, a picture
| of an inscription on an ancient slab
| that marks Caesars courts. It, literally
| translated, says "divine Caesar, Son of
| God, Lord of Lords..." it has more,
| but most is cut off after that, I need a
| bigger lens I guess.

You don't need a bigger lens. You need to know what "divi fili" means – which is not "son of God Almighty" but "son of divine Julius". And you need to find out what the date on that stone is – because subsequent to Augustus, the Caesars were a little anxious to be named gods and some of them nabbed the title prior to their death.

You can find the inscription "divi fili" in a million places in the ancient world. What you can't do is demonstrate that Augustus used it to mean he was a god himself: it me that he had a right, by virtue of his sonship to Julius who was declared a god, to rule Rome.

| So when you stated back there that he
| never called himself that, sorry, it's
| just not true.

Re-read what I wrote, and comment on that. He never meant what you mean, even though he used the same phrase.

| Historical documents
| and inscriptions tell us that he referred
| to his conquests as "good news", and
| was called "King of Kings, and Lord
| of Lords" as well as the "Prince of
| Peace" who offered "salvation".

Two good questions for you to answer:

[1] what language where those titles in?
[2] can you supply the words used in that original language, and not one English translation of those words?

| The message of Jesus was quite
| political indeed. Not to say that he
| wasn't divinity, or the true Son of
| God, or that the salvation He offered
| was like the oppressive "power over",
| or "peace or else" gospel that Caesar
| was offering in any way, but I see no
| reason not to be as truthful as
| possible.

Then you might attempt to approach "truth" and not "liberal scholarship" on this question. For example, you say Caesar was called "King of Kings" – well, if you want to translate "Pontifex maximus" that way, I suppose no one can stop you. Let's simply not force some hermeneutical grid into place because your Latin is rusty.

| We all know the true
| salvation Jesus offers us, but that
| doesn't mean that it wasn't politically
| charged in His day.

I think you miss a serious problem here: that reading isn’t extant in the first 3 centuries of Christian exegesis, to say the least. That reading is a 20th century skeptical reading of the Gospels.

If I am wrong about that, please point me at a church father in the first 3 centuries who reads Mark as a jeremiad against Rome.

| I think the political message of that
| day translates perfectly into todays
| society, and that Jesus would tell us
| that no nation of this earth can offer
| solutions to sin (not even voting to
| keep people from sinning), but only
| Jesus offers freedom, and the only
| solution to it. It is basically what He
| was saying then.
|
| You're all arguing for the same thing,
| you do realize that...

Wow. Not hardly. And my 15 minutes is up. :-(

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

"Son of God" has its antecedent in Psalm 2, and "Prince of Peace" comes from Isaiah 9:6—both written well before Rome was anything more than an inconsequential Italian city state.

As for the titles "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords," even if they were used for Caesar, the Scriptural use of regal and martial metaphors for God the Father and for Jesus Christ is not unprecedented. And if Caesar was king of kings and lord of lords over only one part of the known world (not most of Africa, nor most of Asia, nor even all of Europe), how much more truly is Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords if He has been granted dominion over all creation?

Drew said...

There have been some good points made, and I am going to (for once) think before I reply.

Obviously there is a dispute between preson and cent in terms of what the actual history is. I think Preson is right, but I will honor Cent's request to get some articles/books (when I have time).

I am not trying to allegorize scripture here, in I am not denying the historicity of it. But sometimes WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED (which I am not denying) also shows a deeper meeting. To find deeper meaning is not to deny the history.

I also have no problem with Jesus being about the forgiveness of sins. I don't see this as contrary to an anti-empire message at all.
Thanks for good questions, and things to think about.

centuri0n said...

"when you have time"?

So your opinion in this matter is based on what? One photo of a rock which preson has in his possession which he cannot date historically?

Don't bother, dude, unless it's for your own edification.

Drew said...

My opinion is also based on 3 years at an evangelical seminary, but I don't have the sources memorized.

Believe it or not, commenting here is not my priority.

And if I followed this exchange correctly, I gave you all kinds of credit for engaging kindly, and then got offered quite the snarky reply.

Nator said...

well, we should accept your knowledge because you give us some names of books? Just wondering.

Nator said...

I am with Drew, my opinion is based not only on my experience, but also on a Masters of Religion from an Evangelical University.

Stefan said...

Drew wrote:

"But sometimes WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED...also shows a deeper [meaning]."

Superficial reading of Mark 5:1-20: Jesus cast some demons out of a guy.

Deeper meaning: Jesus Christ has mastery over all creation.

No need to read a 20th-century, post-colonialist, Gandhi-inspired subtext into it.

Not to say that there weren't anti-colonialists back then, but we have no reason to believe that Jesus was either a Zealot or a Pharisee (the two anti-Roman parties). Not only that, but when asked, Jesus exhorted his audience to pay their taxes ("render unto Caesar..."). If some guy in New England in the 1770s were encouraging folks to render unto the King what is the King's, he'd more likely be thrown into Boston Harbour along with the tea, than celebrated as a Founding Father.

Strong Tower said...

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Let me spin this one more time, it was so funny the first time, it just has to be told again.

If Legion refers to Roman Soldiers allegorically, or parabolically, and they by extension are equated with demons, it could be that Jesus is saying that his disciples do not understand that he is an undercover Roman, and at the right time when he asks Caesar, he would send his army to destroy the Jews. Or, it could really be twisted into meaning that the father that Christ is talking about is the devil, and Jesus could ask him for demons to take out the crowd.

Neither is or was the the case. But, it could be, if allegorized or made a parable. But then, it could be a commercial for this by such standards also.

One point being that the mere use of the term legion doesn't refer at all to a Roman Legion, but as it is, it is a Latin noun form derived from a root, legere merely meaning, a chosen many, or a select multitude. As a matter of parallel it could mean as numerous as a Roman Legion, at any rate, it is the numerical value, and not a type that is the focus.

The other point being, that legion is used in both places in Scripture to indicate the same thing, a multitude, in only one case is it a proper name, but even in that case, clearly only applies to the unique group indicated. Both cases are fact statements, and not allegoric or parabolic in form.

Simply put, because a word has affiliation with manifold known meanings, the proper meaning is defined and controlled by context. It is not necessary to assign the meaning of a Roman Legion to this word. The name, being proper, is a proper name given by the demon and need not extend any further, like Peter being a little rock, did not make him a gem nor a skinflint like Judas was.

Beyond that, there is nothing else in the context that would give it any other meaning than many. There is instead, a definer given that clearly gives it the meaning many, as was already mentioned.

So when pigs fly, the demons who are called Legion are a Roman Legion; when the angelic host of Heaven by the same rule are demons and Roman soldiers are their Earth bound type.

Stefan said...

That's it! Jesus was an undercover Roman agent. Pontius Pilate had to let Him be executed because His cover had been blown.

Of all the myriad God-denying theories on the life of Jesus advanced over the last 100 years—Essene; mushroom-induced hallucination; Osiris-Isis; Mithraic myth figure; revolutionary; pacifist; Indian guru—I've never heard this one before!

Good job, Strong Tower! (I know it was tongue in cheek.)

Stefan said...

...magician; illegitimate son of a Roman soldier; spirit brother of Lucifer...

...the list goes on...

...anything to avoid confessing that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

ezekiel said...

Wow. I have learned a lot tonight. I can't really understand the WORD unless I have 2 plus years of advanced evangelical education, or have someone that has splain it to me.

When you guys get through lengthening your robes and have the seating all worked out let me know. Till then, I think I will listen to the teacher.

John 14 :25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Sure am glad us old farm boys have you college boys to interpret for us... I always thought legion meant many...and pigs were pigs...

Drew said...

I gave "credentials," only because when I reacted to what was plainly there, I was told that my opinion was hastily formed.

Stefan, you got it right when you wrote:


Superficial reading of Mark 5:1-20: Jesus cast some demons out of a guy.

Deeper meaning: Jesus Christ has mastery over all creation.


Absolutely, including the Roman empire. Jesus' mastery would be exciting to the immediate audience, and to Mark's. At the same time, this would have been horribly frightening, for as oppressive as the empire was, it brought order, culture, and peace.

You are also right when you say:

No need to read a 20th-century, post-colonialist, Gandhi-inspired subtext into it.
Instead, Ghandi learned from what was there, as did others who fought against colonialism. They didn't read a subtext in, they discovered a theme that colonialists had ignored.

You do err when you say this (sort of)

we have no reason to believe that Jesus was either a Zealot or a Pharisee (the two anti-Roman parties).

I say "sort of" because there were things that Jesus did the made the case (zeal for the law, his clearing of the temple.) He had affinities with these groups, but embodied a different solution.

As for Caesar and taxes, well, I really can't believe that you brought that one out. One only needs to complete the sentence that you left with a (. . .) to see that , while Caesar can have money, people belong to God.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Liberal Mainline Protestants => Higher Criticism Hermeneutic => Hemorraghing Members.

Conservative Protestants => Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic => Growing in Membership.

Caveat: Numerical Growth is not the most accurate yardstick for fidelity to Christ and the Gospel, but it can't be totally ignored either.

Theophilus said...

It's funny this passage is the one being examined, as it's one I blogged about recently. (Under "They called Him Legion," posted Dec 26 if you care enough to go looking for it.)

Disclaimer: I have no formal credentials. I have only my walk with God, His Spirit, and the Bible to inform my opinions. That said, I can't imagine the reasons for the focus on Rome in such a straightforward passage.

The passage shows the interaction between a historical person, and Incarnate God. Real demons, real redemption. Etc.

The wider context is to glorify Jesus as the Christ (which is revealed a little further on in Luke).

If there is to be a personal-application lesson from this account, would it not make more sense to see the demoniac as a type for any sinner in need of redemption, and His authority displayed in Redemption, rather than a message spoken against Rome?

centuri0n said...

Drew:

The reading "particularly over the Roman Empire" is simply one man's view (which many take for granted) and not precipitated by the text. If the word "Legion" implies "Roman Empire", why doesn't the word "pig" imply "bacon" so that we can also interpret this passage to mean "Jesus hates bacon"?

You may find these responses snarky or somehow indicative of ill-will toward you. I don't have a problem with you feeling that way: what I have a problem with is hermeneutical hocus-pocus which doesn't have anything to do with the text.

You know, the real irony here is that nobody actually contests the composition of Mark as having the people in Italy (or, more broadly, Roman citizens) as its intended readers. The question, however, is if Mark had a political intention for his work.

Let's keep in mind that the original criticism/comment which inspired my tangential responses here was tyler's comment, and he has affirmed that this episode in Mark is about "to 'exorcise' the demons of Roman Imperialism from Israel-in-exile and drive the Gentiles into the sea in good Maccabean zeal".

That reading is far-fetched at best, and the iterations you and others are going through to try to prop up the broader "Jesus is God even over Caesar" reading of this episode isn't getting any better.

centuri0n said...

And to finish up where my 15 minutes ran out with preson, the question is not, "do we agree that Jesus is Lord of all?" The question is, "what can and does the text say, and what are the implications?"

There are plenty of other places where, if there is a political message from Jesus, he is much more dangerous to Caesar than here where he is casting out demons from men and into pigs, and the owners of the pigs are more concerned about the pigs than the man who was a demoniac. If one of you wants to blog on one of those passages, I say go for it: enlighten us.

But to manipulate this story into a political fable is abusing Scripture and our own faith. Think about the MacArthur quote someone else put into the meta here: how is the "pigs = roman empire" reading any -less- absurd than the "jericho = a woman you'd like to marry" reading of Joshua? How is it any more indicated?

it's not -- and -that- is my point: just because the manipulation is somehow from an academic source rather than some ridiculous and seedy pulpit doesn't make it less manipulative. It is just as bad if not worse -- because rather than merely teaching one congregation, the academic source is allegedly teaching teachers and affecting the body of Christ more broadly.

dac said...

106 comments, and no one is commenting on the fact that Dan is a closet DISCO FAN?


Loving 24 - ok
The crush on Ann Coulter - understandable

But Disco?

All I have to say is wow wow wow.

stratagem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stratagem said...

See, I was right: The moral of every story (according to emerg***s and other lib theologians) is that we shouldn't judge anything, and everyone is going to heaven. It just is, that's all.

I sure would've rather learned that I was wrong about that, though!

Drew said...


Let's keep in mind that the original criticism/comment which inspired my tangential responses here was tyler's comment, and he has affirmed that this episode in Mark is about "to 'exorcise' the demons of Roman Imperialism from Israel-in-exile and drive the Gentiles into the sea in good Maccabean zeal".


Good reminder. I don't like Tyler's assessment of this text either. Jesus was not a new Maccabi--he was doing something different.

But I really do think that to claim that Jesus was a-political is also a false reading of the Gospels, and yes, even this section. Dance around it all that you want, "Legion" is a pretty significant word, especially given all of the other little details surrounding its use.

It's not a matter of reading into the text, its considering context. Rome promised (falsely) to deliver a peace that could only be found in the Kingdom of God. Proclaiming the Kingdom implicitly called Caesar a liar, and the movement of the kingdom was not good for Rome--one (and only one) of the reasons that Jesus was executed and Christians persecuted shortly thereafter.

Some say that people read an anti-empire theme into the Gospel to justify resistance to the American empire. I believe it is the opposite. People ignore Christ's message that the violent power of empire is empty (which isn't his ONLY message, and maybe isn't even his PRIMARY message, but it is one that is there quite clearly) because they do not want America's current exercise of violent empire called into question.

Is it because we necessarily like empire? Of course not, but we depend on it (so we think) for safety and for our jobs. And if Jesus' message wrecks that, many of us would ask him to leave.

Djp is right. This is very scary. It's scary because it is true.

Drew said...

how is the "pigs = roman empire" reading any -less- absurd than the "jericho = a woman you'd like to marry" reading of Joshua? How is it any more indicated?



already answered this one.

Pigs are bad (the story doesn't tell us this, the OT does).

Romans bring pigs with them (and on a deeper level, religious compromise).

Losing the Romans means losing the pigs.

stratagem said...

Is it because we necessarily like empire? Of course not, but we depend on it (so we think) for safety and for our jobs.

No, we depend rather on the system that God established (the system of government) to maintain order in a fallen world. If you want to call that by the loaded term "empire" that is your judgement, not a universal judgement. I'll call it "government."

And if Jesus' message wrecks that, many of us would ask him to leave.

But it doesn't. Read Romans about the legitimacy of government.

Nevergall said...

There appears to be some John Crossan and his Jesus Seminar influence [or resemblance] on this comment thread.

Nevergall said...

While Crossan and NT Wright disagree on many levels, they do share a common view [along with Richard Horsley and others] about Jesus and the Roman Empire. Based on some of the comments here [and others in the past] some seem to favor NT Wright's theological view and may be the source[s] they are relying on to agrue their Mark 5 points of view.

centuri0n said...

I'm closing this thread before I say something I regret.

Gummby said...

I was winding up for a rant about the fallacy of readers supplying meaning to a text that are irrespective of authorial intent, but then we had storms and tornadoes, and I thought I'd focus more on staying safe.

Unless and until someone advocating the political interpretation offers any counterpoint to Cent's argument that Mark's message is not political (other than merely saying it's political), seems like there's not much point in going on.

I will offer this, though. I have a pastor friend who used to say, "You can't get that interpretation from just reading the Bible; you have to go to school to get that."

P.S. for Drew:
demons = bad
pigs = bad
send demons into pigs and drive both away = good
reject person who does this = huh?!

DJP said...

So I flex my mighty admin muscles to open up Frank's lock, if only for a moment.

Frank's observations were very astute and sharp; my admiration for him keeps going up and up.

At the same time, I'll indulge myself by repeating my own questions, because they got swept past, or something. IMHO, they get to the heart of the controversy that popped up here. So here they are again:

How would Mark have written differently if he was simply writing what happened because it happened that way?

If the demon-spokesman himself — working his woes in Rome-ruled, Gentile (hence the pigs) territory — had said his name was "Legion," what was Mark supposed to write?

Why does everything, or anything, have to mean something other than what it says?

...and if it didn't mean something other than what it says, how would it have been written differently?