Friday, April 29, 2011

Time for Demons and Swine

Recently, we observed Jesus highlight the urgency of His mission on Earth when He told a follower that he should not even bother burying his dead father, but should instead help spread the word about the Kingdom of God. Then, Jesus and His disciples took a boat across the Sea of Galilee. When a sudden storm whipped up and threatened to drown them all, Jesus marveled at why His disciples were so afraid to die, as if they had no faith in the afterlife. After Jesus calmed the storm, the crew made it safely to the other side.

Time for Demons and Swine
For many, the Bible is a book of answers. However, it seems that for those who seriously study the Bible, it raises more questions than it could ever hope to answer. Unfortunately, far too few are willing to pursue complete honesty; to will ask “is this all true?” and to have a conviction for finding the real answer, whatever it may be. Let us take a deeper look at some Scripture, and let the tough questions flow.

The three synoptic Gospels somewhat agree on what happens after Jesus calms the storm. In Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, and Luke 8:26-39, we find the tale of how Jesus exorcises a demons in the Gadarenes/Gerasenes region.

The story goes like this...

Matthew: Two strong, violent, demon-possessed men who live in tombs met up with Jesus. The demons beg Jesus to cast them into a herd of swine. Jesus casts them into the herd of swine. The whole herd runs into the lake and dies. The swine herders report this to the town. The townsfolk ask Jesus to leave.

Mark/Luke: One strong man, who lives in tombs and is possessed by a “Legion” of demons, met up with Jesus. The Legion begs Jesus to let them go into a herd swine. Jesus lets them go into the herd of swine. The whole herd runs into the lake and dies. The swine herders report this to the town. The townsfolk ask Jesus to leave. The now-demon-free man asked if he could follow Jesus, but Jesus told him instead to go home and spread the word about what happened.

How many men were demon possessed? Preachers typically sidestep the one-man-versus-two-men issue by only using Luke's and/or Mark's version. Also, did Jesus Himself relocate the demons or simply allow them to move into the swine? It is a minor difference, but still a difference. Let us set aside minor differences and plunge into the deeper questions here...

Why did the demons cause the man/men to approach Jesus if they were afraid of Him? Why did they not just flee? This is the only case where demons are removed and subsequently put into other beings, and the only case of demon-possessed animals; why? Why would the demons want to go into the swine? Why did the swine herd immediately kill itself after becoming possessed? Why would Jesus let the demons go into the swine, or any living thing for that matter? If they needed God's permission, why was the man/men possessed by demons initially? When you start examining the story in detail, it just does not make any sense.

Even more interesting is the first response of the demons to Jesus. Mark 5:7 has the Legion shout “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!” Luke 8:28 is essentially the same.

First, we see that Legion conveniently identifies Jesus as God's Son, just to clear up any confusion anyone may have. Despite Legion literally yelling out Jesus' identity in front of Jesus' disciples, Jesus later claims that Peter knew Jesus' identity only because God revealed it to him (Matthew 16:13-20). Either that is a lie, or God Himself was one of the demons wrapped up and identified together as Legion. Which is it?

Next, Legion begs for Jesus not to torture him/them. Why would they be afraid of Jesus torturing them? How would a God of love torture anyone? This is a confirmation the eternal punishment which awaits those who are not selected by God; the very punishment now doubted by a significant percentage of modern Christians.

An additional level of complication is added by the Matthew 8:29 version, which has the demons shout:
"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" NIV

Again, we find the demons identifying Jesus for everyone to hear, and that the demons are worried about Jesus torturing them, but that is not all. Matthew has the demons say that this torture would be “before the appointed time.” How is it that the demons know that this is sometime before the appointed time? Matthew 24:36 says that only God knows the day or the hour, and yet these demons seem to have divine insight.

These contradictions, moral issues, and gaps of logic can all easily be explained: This is a work of fiction. There may be some truth somewhere; a little nugget of veracity which spawned the myth. If so, good luck trying to define it with confidence.


  1. It has always been my understanding that Jesus's presence in the area was enough to frighten the demon into running up and begging for its life due to the fact that it thought Jesus was there specifically to find it. Hiding wasn't an option if this was the case, so it came right out and plead.

    Rather than being a fiction, I believe the gospels are simply an amalgamation of many oral stories passed down from eye witnesses. They've probably been tampered with and poorly translated, but the general gist remains.

    How do the demons know it is not the appointed time yet? Because they know Jesus must first be crucified (a prophecy from the Old Testament, in fact referenced by Christ on the cross when he says "O God, O God, why hast thou forsaken me?" which is the first line of Psalm 22, the Prayer of Pain, which pretty much obviously refers to the crucifixion).

    As for the Peter thing, Jesus was basically asking him "Who do you really think is the Messiah? John the Baptist, myself, or someone else?" Jesus very rarely touted his status as a son of God, so it would be reasonable if one of the disciples had some doubts. Even if he did hear a demon say it, those beings are fond of speaking falsehoods. So this was nothing more than a test of Peter's faith and perception. When the perception was found to be accurate, Jesus basically said "It was God who allowed you to see this accurately."

    I hope I've clarified some issues. Overall, the bible can be counted on, even if it has certain shortcomings.

  2. Hello Anonymous. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to thoughtfully reply.

    I think if you really take a close look at Psalm 22, comparing each verse against the situation and person of Jesus, while you will find many that appear to match, there are just as many that miss the mark. Plus, it was not given as a prophesy, but rather was allegedly written by David as a description of what he actually had experienced during his love/hate relationship with King Saul. Psalm 22 only appears to be prophetic "after the fact".

    Along those lines, I think if you would go back and double-check the other "prophesies" referenced in the Gospels, examining the context of the verses, you may come to a rather troubling conclusion. But, please, do not take my word for it. Examine the words yourself. Your mileage may vary. :-)

  3. Psalm 22 mentions how he would be pierced and have lots drawn for his garments, hundreds of years later Jesus is peireced on a cross and his lots torn for his clothing, Jesus even screams out the title of psalm 22, My God My God why have you forsaken me - to let people know that Psalm 22 is being fulfilled...

    How about those other prophecies?

    Galatians 1:8 If we or even an angel give onto you a gospel that we have not preached, let him be accursed!

    This applies to islam and the mormons and so many other falsely called Gospels.

    How about the science of the bible:

    Job 38: 31-32

    Canst thou loosen the belt or orion?

    Canst thou bind together the sweet influences of the pleiades?

    Did you realise that the stars the make up orions belt are drifiting furhter apart from each other?

    and the ones in pleiades consist of some 250 stars all travelling together in the same direction and not drifiting apart from each other

    considering the demons....

    you do realise that god exists in a higher dimension and so do they.... and they can use this higehr dimensional sight to revela a few hidden truths

    And that Peter may not have been amongst Jesus at the time of this exorcism, or God may have had revelaed to Peter before that Jesus was the son of God but Peter had not said anything and kept it to himself......

    just a few thoughts, God Bless

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Sorry, but I notice my link above to the Psalm 22 prophesy rebuttal was broken. Please see this address for refuting that prophesy:

    It's interesting that you so willingly call other religions "cursed". How do you define that curse? What exactly do you think makes Mormons cursed? Is it that they statistically have more enduring marriages than Christians? What exactly do you think makes Islam cursed? Is it that they are growing in proportion faster than Christianity?

    As for science, you do realize that God makes daytime and nighttime before making the sun, right? And in that same book of Job that you quote, it speaks of storehouses for the snow and hail (which don't exist) and that ostriches are bad parents to their chicks (which they aren't).

    As for higher dimensions, well, I guess we'll just have to see about that. ;-)