Sunday, June 12, 2016

Unbinding the Unbindable Bound Man

Unbinding the Unbindable Bound Man

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Luke 8:25-39, the gospel reading the 5th Sunday after Pentecost in to the Revised Common Lectionary. When I say “rough,” please take me literally. This is a long text and Luke’s Greek is very sophisticated (it seems to me) relative to Mark’s Greek, with which I am more familiar. So, please chime in with your corrections, suggestions, and ideas as we journey through this story together.

In the process of bringing a critical reading apparatus to the text, my hope is not to lose sight of this man, tormented by oppressive spirits, a real problem and bane to the community, who tried to protect itself or him by binding him in chains, but even that didn’t work. My assumption is that everyone is at wit’s end with this situation. And yet, the surrounding community ultimately is driven by their fears to reject Jesus’ presence among them. The sociological and psychological possibilities of this story are endless and heartbreaking.

As some of my comments will suggest, the next step in my own work will be to identify words that might suggest the dynamics of power at play in this story.

26Καὶ κατέπλευσαν εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἀντιπέρα τῆς 
Γαλιλαίας.
And they sailed into the region of the Gerasenes, which is over-against Galilee.
κατέπλευσαν: AAI 3p, καταπλέω, 1) to sail down from the deep sea to the land 
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

 27 ἐξελθόντι δὲ αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ὑπήντησεν ἀνήρ τις ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἔχων 
δαιμόνια: καὶ χρόνῳ ἱκανῷ οὐκ ἐνεδύσατο ἱμάτιον, καὶ ἐν οἰκίᾳ οὐκ ἔμενεν 
ἀλλ' ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν.
Yet to him having come out onto the land a man who was out of the city having demons approached; and for a long time he was not wearing a garment, and was not staying in a house but in the tombs.
ἐξελθόντι: AAPart dsm, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ὑπήντησεν: AAI 3s, ὑπαντάω, 1) to go to meet, to meet  2) in military reference  2a) of a hostile meeting
ἔχων: PAPart nsm, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold 
ἐνεδύσατο: AMI 3s, ἐνδύω, 1) to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self
ἔμενεν: IAI 3s, μένω, 1) to remain, abide 
1. It’s a small thing, but the awkwardness of my translation preserves the fact that the pronoun “him” and the participle connected to it (having come out) are in the dative case, where “a man” is in the nominative case. In order for the translator to keep the subject (“a man,” nominative case) and the relative pronoun (“him,” dative case) intact, the verb order needs to be moved around a little bit. The NIV keeps the verb order but says “he was met by a man,” making the pronoun (he, “dative”) into the subject, the active participle (“having come out”) into a passive verb (“was met”), and the subject (“a man,” nominative) into the object of the preposition “by.”
2. The note that the man what “out of the city” is similar to last week’s reading of the woman, who was a “sinner” and “in the city.” In v. 34 below, the herders will go “in the city” and tell about what Jesus had done. Luke is keeping the lines of communication between the city and the events at the shore or in the Pharisee’s house open.

 28 ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀνακράξας προσέπεσεν αὐτῷ καὶ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ εἶπεν, 
Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ υἱὲ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου; δέομαί σου, μή με βασανίσῃς.
Yet having seen Jesus having cried out he fell before him and said in a loud voice, “What to me and to you, Jesus son of the God most high? I beg you, that you may not torture me.”
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἀνακράξας: AAPart nsm, ἀνακράζω, 1) to raise a cry from the depth of the throat, to cry out
προσέπεσεν: AAI 3s, προσπίπτω,1) to fall forwards, fall down, prostrate one's self before,  in homage or supplication: at one's feet  2) to rush upon, beat against  2a) of winds beating upon a house
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
δέομαί: PMI 1s, δέομαι, 1) to want, lack  2) to desire, long for  3) to ask, beg  3a) the thing asked for  3b) to pray, make supplications  
βασανίσῃς: AASubj 2s, βασανίζω, 1) to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous  stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the color  of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal  2) to question by applying torture  3) to torture  4) to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind), to torment 
1. The root of ἀνακράζω , “cry out” (κράζω krazō’) is something of an onomatopoeia in Greek, like the croak of a raven. I suppose it would be like the English word “squawk.” I wonder if it is somehow related to κηρύσσω, “to preach.” It wouldn’t be the last time someone likened preaching to squawking.
2. The use of δέομαι, to beg, is one of many words in this story that seem to denote who is in deference to whom, whether as suppliant and benefactor or in stark opposition.
3. Reading along, one can ask, “Who is speaking?” The man? The demons? The language about the speaker is singular, but “demons” in v.27 is plural. When we get to v.29, however, Luke will speak of a singular “unclean spirit.”  

29 παρήγγειλεν γὰρ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ ἐξελθεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. 
πολλοῖς γὰρ χρόνοις συνηρπάκει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐδεσμεύετο ἁλύσεσιν καὶ πέδαις 
φυλασσόμενος, καὶ διαρρήσσων τὰ δεσμὰ ἠλαύνετο ὑπὸ τοῦ δαιμονίου εἰς 
τὰς ἐρήμους.
For he ordered to the unclean spirit to come out from the man. For many times it had seized him, and he was bound in chains and foot shackles being held under guard, and breaking apart the bonds he was driven by the demon into the deserts.
παρήγγειλεν: AAI 3s, παραγγέλλω, 1) to transmit a message along from one to another, to declare, announce  2) to command, order, charge
ἐξελθεῖν: AAInf ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
συνηρπάκει: PluperfectAI 3s, συναρπάζω, 1) to seize by force 
ἐδεσμεύετο: IPI 3s, δεσμεύω, 1) to put in chains  2) to bind up, bind together 
φυλασσόμενος: PPPart nsm, φυλάσσω, 1) to guard   1a) to watch, keep watch  
διαρρήσσων: PAPart nsm, to break???
ἠλαύνετο: IPI 3s, ἐλαύνω, 1) to drive  1a) of the wind driving ships or clouds 
1. One would think that when Jesus ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man, it would warrant having its own moment in the narrative. Instead, Luke gives the spirit’s words in v.28, and then says that it was a response to Jesus’ order in v.29. That’s curious story-telling.
2. This description is starting to sound like a Marvel comic book. And yet, none of the power that this demonized man exhibits seems to be causing harm to the community itself. By binding and guarding him, they seem to be attempting to protect the man himself.
3. The word “demon” here is singular, unlike in v.27.

 30 ἐπηρώτησεν δὲ αὐτὸν  Ἰησοῦς, Τί σοι ὄνομά ἐστιν;  δὲ εἶπεν, Λεγιών, ὅτι 
εἰσῆλθεν δαιμόνια πολλὰ εἰς αὐτόν.
Then Jesus interrogated him, “What is your name?” Then he said, “Legion,” because many demons entered into him.
ἐπηρώτησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπερωτάω, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate  2) to address one with a request or demand  2a) to ask of or demand of one 
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εἰσῆλθεν: AAI 3s, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter
1. The verb ἐπερωτάω can often signal a confrontation, which is why I use ‘interrogated’ here. See the contrast with ἐρωτάω in the comments of v.37 and the chart below of their uses in Luke.
2. As in many stories of persons who have a demon, the pronouns are hard to keep separate. In the phrase “He said” the ‘he’ is Legion. In the phrase “into him” the ‘him’ is the man, not Legion. It is not a linguistic problem, it is the problem of identity with anyone who has a demon. Who am I? Who am I apart from or in cohesion with this demon? Can ‘I’ be separated from ‘it’? I find stories of persons with demons to be powerfully insightful into the real dilemmas facing anyone with controlling habits, diseases, afflictions, or conditions. We become identified with the disease and the behaviors, whether via pity or anger. What worse condition is there than to ask, “Who am I” and not to be able to answer?
3. We also get a sense of why Luke’s language about the demon/s is so flexible. If a demon’s name is Legion, “for we are many,” is it a singular, a plural, or a collective single plurality of demons? I think “yes” is the answer.

 31καὶ παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν ἵνα μὴ ἐπιτάξῃ αὐτοῖς εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον ἀπελθεῖν.
And they were calling him in order that he might not order them to go away into the abyss.
παρεκάλουν: IAI 3p, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon 
ἐπιτάξῃ: AASubj 3s, ἐπιτάσσω, 1) to enjoin upon, order, command, charge 
ἀπελθεῖν: AAInf, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart
1. Now it is not the single voice, but the plural voice of Legion, calling out to Jesus. This would be an utterly mind-blowing scene face-to-face.
2. The word “abyss” is transliterated here. A/bussos is ‘without bottom.’ It does not necessarily mean infinite depth, because sometimes it is used of the ‘ocean.’ It seems more like “good luck trying to measure the depth.” It appears only here in the gospels, once in Paul’s letters (Rm.10:7) and seven times in Revelation.   

 32 ην δὲ ἐκεῖ ἀγέλη χοίρων ἱκανῶν βοσκομένη ἐν τῷ ὄρει: καὶ παρεκάλεσαν αὐτὸν ἵνα ἐπιτρέψῃ αὐτοῖς εἰς ἐκείνους εἰσελθεῖν: καὶ ἐπέτρεψεν αὐτοῖς. 
Then there was a herd of many pigs there feeding on the mountainside; and they called him in order that he might allow them to go into them; and he allowed them.
ην: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
βοσκομένη: PPPart nsf, βόσκω, 1) to feed  
παρεκάλεσαν: AAI 3p, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon 
ἐπιτρέψῃ: AASubj 3s, ἐπιτρέπω, 1) to turn to, transfer, commit, instruct  2) to permit, allow, give leave 
εἰσελθεῖν: AAInf εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter
ἐπέτρεψεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτρέπω, 1) to turn to, transfer, commit, instruct  2) to permit, allow, give leave
1. In the Abbott and Costello reading of this story, Abbott reads, “Herd of pigs” and Costello quickly replies, “Sure, I’ve heard of pigs. Who hasn’t?”
2. The verb παρεκάλεσαν (literally ‘to call alongside’) is translated as “begged” in some translations, but I don’t want to confuse it with the other verbs in vv. 30 (interrogated) and 37 (begged).

 33 ἐξελθόντα δὲ τὰ δαιμόνια ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰσῆλθον εἰς τοὺς χοίρους, καὶ ὥρμησεν  ἀγέλη κατὰ τοῦ κρημνοῦ εἰς τὴν λίμνην καὶ ἀπεπνίγη.
Then having gone out from the man the demons went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep into the lake and was drowned.
ἐξελθόντα: AAPart npn, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of
εἰσῆλθον: AAI 3p, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter
ὥρμησεν: AAI 3s, ὁρμάω, 1) to set in rapid motion, stir up, incite, urge on  2) to start forward impetuously, to rush
ἀπεπνίγη: API 3s, ἀποπνίγω, 1) to choke  1a) to suffocate with water, drown
1. The assumption here seems to be that you can’t just send demons off on their way. They must have a place, whether it be in the life of a ruined man, the abyss, or even in a herd of swine. And it seems that there must be torment involved, they are either tormenting or being tormented. That is a powerful symbol of evil, that it can’t simply vanish, but must be and must be somewhere. I think there is a lot of 1st century thinking and wisdom that may come by exploring the assumption that evil exists and will continue to exist, so the question is ‘where?’ rather than ‘whether?’
2. Is Jesus showing mercy to demons? And if the host pigs merely killed themselves, was that a demonstration that the demons are, literally, hell-bent on destruction?
3. And, speculating beyond this text, if demons must go somewhere, where do they go when their hosts are dead? Do they die with them? Is that why the community was so hard-pressed with this man, that they were in pitched battle against these demons who were intent on destroying him?  

 34  ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ βόσκοντες τὸ γεγονὸς ἔφυγον καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν 
καὶ εἰς τοὺς ἀγρούς.  
Then the ones who were feeding having seen fled and reported what had happened in the city and in the fields.
ἰδόντες: AAPart npm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
βόσκοντες: PAPart npm, βόσκω, 1) to feed 
γεγονὸς: PerfAPart asn, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ἔφυγον: AAI 3p, φεύγω, 1) to flee away, seek safety by flight
ἀπήγγειλαν: AAI 3p, ἀπαγγέλλω, 1) to bring tidings (from a person or a thing), bring word, report  2) to proclaim, to make known openly, declare
1. Evangelists! No? Tattletales?

 35 ἐξῆλθον δὲ ἰδεῖν τὸ γεγονὸς καὶ ἦλθον πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ εὗρον καθήμενον τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀφ' οὗ τὰ δαιμόνια ἐξῆλθεν ἱματισμένον καὶ σωφρονοῦντα παρὰ τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν.
Then they came out to see what had happened and went to Jesus, and came upon the man out of whom the demons had exited having been clothed and right-minded seated at the feet of Jesus and they were afeared.
ἐξῆλθον: AAI 3p, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of
ἰδεῖν: AAInf, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
γεγονὸς: PerfAPart asn, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ἦλθον: AAI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons 
εὗρον: AAI 3p, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with
καθήμενον: PMPart asm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of
ἱματισμένον: PerfPPart asm, ἱματίζω, 1) to clothe
σωφρονοῦντα: PAPart asm, σωφρονέω, 1) to be of sound mind  1a) to be in one's right mind
ἐφοβήθησαν: API 3p, to strike with fear, scare, frighten. Middle or passive as here, to be put in fear, take fright
1. I have not heard anyone use the word ‘afeared’ since the passing of my grandfather, but it is my way of expressing the passive voice in this fright. They were put to fright; the fear was evoked, not their selected reaction. In case we miss this motive, Luke reiterates it in v.37.
2. I love Luke’s description of the man. What a blessing after such torment to simply be clothed, right-minded, and sitting - at Jesus’ feet! 

36 ἀπήγγειλαν δὲ αὐτοῖς οἱ ἰδόντες πῶς ἐσώθη  δαιμονισθείς.
Then the ones who saw reported to them how the one having been demonized was rescued.
ἀπήγγειλαν: AAI 3p, ἀπαγγέλλω, 1) to bring tidings (from a person or a thing), bring word, report 
ἰδόντες: AAPart npm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἐσώθη: API 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
δαιμονισθείς: APPart nsm, δαιμονίζομαι, 1) to be under the power of a demon. 
1. One wonders what the initial report was, to bring people out to see what had happened, if this secondary report is about the man who had been demonized. Had they forgotten about him and only initially reported about the loss of the herd? I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that Luke’s stories seem to refocus the attention to the victim and not to the hoopla surrounding the victim or the victim’s rescue.
2. I shy away from ‘save’ language for σῴζω, preferring ‘rescued’ here, because ‘saved’ has taken on such religious connotation of an eternal heaven/hell nature and it is a far more meaningful, rich, and lovely word than that.

 37καὶ ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῆς περιχώρου τῶν Γερασηνῶν 
ἀπελθεῖν ἀπ' αὐτῶν, ὅτι φόβῳ μεγάλῳ συνείχοντο: αὐτὸς δὲ ἐμβὰς εἰς 
πλοῖον ὑπέστρεψεν.
And all the people of the surrounding region of the Gerasenes begged him to go from them, because they were held together in great fear; Then having boarded onto a boat he went back.
ἠρώτησεν: AAI 3s, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
ἀπελθεῖν: AAInf ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart 
συνείχοντο: IPI 3p, συνέχω, 1) to hold together  1a) any whole, lest it fall to pieces or something fall away from it  2) to hold together with constraint, to compress
ἐμβὰς: AAPart nsm, ἐμβάλλω, 1) to throw in, cast into 
ὑπέστρεψεν: AAI 3s, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back  1a) to turn about  2) to return
1. Unlike ἐπερωτάω in v. 30 above, ἐρωτάω is a kind of questioning that often takes the form of a request. See the charts below comparing ἐπερωτάω and ἐρωτάω.
2. I read thick tension here. The whole surrounding region is begging Jesus to go and they are bound together by fear.
3. Is it irony that those who had once chained the demonized man are now bound, literally ‘held together’ by fear (συνέχω = συν together + έχω to hold)? The ESV says, “seized with great fear,” but it is a different verb than the word “seized” used in v.29.

38 ἐδεῖτο δὲ αὐτοῦ  ἀνὴρ ἀφ' οὗ ἐξεληλύθει τὰ δαιμόνια εἶναι σὺν αὐτῷ: 
ἀπέλυσεν δὲ αὐτὸν λέγων,
Then the man out of whom the demons had gone to him was begging (bound?) to be with him; but he freed him saying,
ἐδεῖτο: IMI 3s, δέομαι, 1) to want, lack  2) to desire, long for  3) to ask, beg  3a) the thing asked for  3b) to pray, make supplications  
ἐξεληλύθει: PluperfectAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of 
εἶναι: PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀπέλυσεν: AAI 3s, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer) 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. greekbible.com has δέω (to bind tie, fasten) as the root of ἐδεῖτο, while greattreasures.org has δέομαι (to beg). To be honest, δέω has a lot more interesting possibility, but every major translation that I’ve seen goes with δέομαι. I’m guessing there is an etymological connection between δέω and δέομαι, but my resources for word studies is in my office and I’m working from home at the moment. (This calls for someone to do a word study! Get back to me, would you?)
2. If it were δέω, it would imply that the rescued man was bound again (either by choice or custom) this time to Jesus who had rescued him. And that would work better with Jesus ‘freeing’ him to go home.
3. However, the word δέομαι has appeared before in this story, through the mouth of the man, but with the voice of Legion (v.28). That too is an interesting juxtaposition.
4. Depending on how one translates δέομαι, the word ἀπέλυσεν  can take on differing shades of either being “freed” or being “sent away.” If the man is bound to be with Jesus as his rescuer, then Jesus could be releasing him from that bond. If the man is begging to be with Jesus, then Jesus could be sending him. Either way, the man becomes quite the evangelist.

 39 Ὑπόστρεφε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου, καὶ διηγοῦ ὅσα σοι ἐποίησεν  θεός. καὶ 
ἀπῆλθεν καθ' ὅλην τὴν πόλιν κηρύσσων ὅσα ἐποίησεν αὐτῷ  Ἰησοῦς. 
Go into your home, and describe that which God did for you.” And he went away to the whole city proclaiming that which Jesus did for him.  
Ὑπόστρεφε: PAImpv 2s, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back  1a) to turn about  2) to return
διηγοῦ: PMImpv 2s, διηγέομαι, 1) to lead or carry a narration through to the end  2) set forth, recount, relate in full, describe 
ἐποίησεν: AAI 3s, ποιέω, 1) to make  
ἀπῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart
κηρύσσων: PAPart nsm, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald 
ἐποίησεν: AAI 3s, ποιέω, 1) to make 
1. Like many who had been rescued or healed in the Synoptics, one wonders if this man’s response was obedience or disobedience. Certainly the parallel between Jesus’s words “that which God did for you” and the man’s actions “that which Jesus did for him” is suggestive of a contrast. But, does that contrast point to disobedience or obedience? Is it different, for Luke, or one-in-the-same to speak of God’s doings and Jesus’ doings? (Incidentally, Mk. 5:19-20 contrasts “the Lord” and “Jesus,” which may be more ambiguous. Matthew leaves it out.)

Here are Luke’s uses of the verb ἐπερωτάω (from v.30), followed by his use of ἐρωτάω (from v.37). I can’t tell if they are essentially interchangeable or if they suggest certain dynamics of power in who is asking whom.
ἐπερωτάω
...hearing them, and asking them questions.
And the people asked him, saying, What...
...the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying...
...Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing...
And his disciples asked him, saying, What...
And Jesus asked him, saying, What...
...with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom...
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees...
...a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good...
...was come near, he asked him,
And they asked him, saying, Master...
...any resurrection: and they asked him,
...they durst not ask him any question...
And they asked him, saying, Master...
...the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy...
...heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man...
Then he questioned with him in...

ἐρωτάω
...great fever; and they besought him for her...
...was Simon's, and prayed him that he...
...of the Jews, beseeching him that he...
...of the Pharisees desired him that he...
...Gadarenes round about besought him to depart...
...and they feared to ask him of that...
...a certain Pharisee besought him to dine...
...and see it: I pray thee have me...
...to prove them: I pray thee have me...
...sendeth ambassadors, and desireth conditions of peace...
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father...
...if any man ask you, Why do...
...unto them, I will also ask you one thing...
And if I also ask you, ye will...
And Pilate asked him, saying, Art...


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  1. The next step in my process would be to follow through with some of the word studies that the exegesis began.
    With that, I would also look for intertextual echoes in this story. Is the rush off the cliff and into the lake an echo of Pharaoh's army getting drowned?

    I'm also interested in the socio-political context. Is the name "legion" strictly a numerical reference, or is it indicative that this army of demons represents Roman oppression? Likewise, the pig industry would be onerous to Jews. Is this hog lot also an indicator of Roman influence? One of my text study friends cited a commentor who said they were for Roman sacrifices, but he couldn't locate the reference because the wi-fi was down. If this is coded language about the Roman Empire, would that strengthen the case of an echo of Pharaoh's army being drowned? What does that say about the people of the Gerasenes, who are afeared and who ask Jesus to leave?

    Finally, is there a Girardian perspective here that merits attention? The demonized man might be a scapegoat figure, but certainly by the end of this story Jesus is the scapegoat, blamed for disrupting the pig industry and sent away as a way of keeping the peace. That seems classically Girardian.

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  2. Paul Neuchterlein's collations at http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/year-c/proper_7c/ just blew me away. Classic Girardian indeed

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  3. I am not a Greek (or any other kind of ) scholar, but I am intrigued by pigs being the recipients of the demons, given their taboo status in Jewish society. Is there something to be inferred by this? have not seen any commentary regarding the pigs' status.

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    1. Hi Kaherington, you ask a great question for someone who claims not to be a scholar.
      I've seen some commentaries interpret the pigs to show that there were many Gentiles in the region, but population studies seem to question that assumption.
      If pigs were a popular market for Roman soldiers, then it may be a symbol of Rome's presence and domination - which might also explain why the people asked Jesus to leave afterward.
      I think any story that has a collective demon under the name of "Legion" wants us to be attentive to the influence of the Roman Empire.
      Warren Carter, for example, in Matthew and Empire, draws attention to a Roman Legion that was stationed north of Syria, which had a wild pig as its symbol. Carter also has a provocative essay on Mark's account of this story - provocative even in its title - "Cross-Gendered Romans and Mark’s Jesus: Legion Enters the Pigs." The arguments in the latter essay seem a little forced to me, but he goes back to the symbolism of the pigs and the name Legion.
      I want to think this mad herd of pigs might have been a very apt way of describing the people's experience of the Roman military. The idea that they rush to their deaths might have been a popular wish as well.

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  4. I wondered too about the death of the pigs, the spirits are surely not killed by drowning, so are they loosed yet again?

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    1. I don't know enough about 1st century demonology to respond to that, Paul. Maybe they can die. Maybe they just go from one place to the other.

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  5. I really identified with your description of the person with demons not being able to separate his own identity from the demons. I have MS, and before it was controlled by medication, I remember telling someone that I felt like "a disease walking around." I can certainly understand how the person with demons would feel that way. Thanks, as always, for your insightful posts.

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    1. Thanks, Caryn. I find myself really empathizing with these demonized persons, filled with some kinds of power, but subject to other kinds of power - really a heart-breaking story sometimes and all to familiar.

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