Did Jesus cast out demons ?

RublevRublev Shipmate
At the start of Jesus' ministry He is tempted by satan. He then has an active ministry of preaching, healing and casting out demons as signs of the kingdom.

Jesus said, 'If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you' (Matthew 12: 28).

Did Jesus cast out demons as in the story of Legion in Matthew8:28-34 ?

If demons do not exist, then what was Jesus doing?
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Comments

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    If demons don't exist, then Jesus was using the language of the day to say that he was healing certain kinds of ailments.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    By casting them into pigs?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 25
    If they existed, there is no trace of them or any other manifestation of the supernatural now. The dispensation has changed. Or...

    If they didn't exist then, then Gadara is a part of the brilliant C1st Jewish-Greco-Roman humanist myth.

    Or something ineffable in between.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There is a whole Gospel of Martin waiting to be revealed, isn't there?

    How canonical will it be?

    And is Jesus going to feature in it?
  • MamacitaMamacita Shipmate
    @Rublev, do you want to discuss the text of the Gadarene/Gerasene demoniac stories, or is that verse intended as a launching point for a broader discussion? The answer determines whether this is Kerygmania thread or a Purgatory thread.

    Mamacita, Kerygmanua Host, where they stick to the text
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    This may go the same way as the thread on angels, so it's fine to move it to Purg.
  • admin mode/

    @Rublev see my previous advice on the thread I just moved.

    I got here fresh from moving the other thread, and I got there fresh out of a hard afternoon in jail. We have better things to do than curate your threads. Please listen to H&A warnings or face the consequences.

    /admin mode
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Sorry to trouble you Eutychus.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Sorry for my part.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    There is a whole Gospel of Martin waiting to be revealed, isn't there?

    How canonical will it be?

    And is Jesus going to feature in it?

    No Jesus, no gospel. Without Him there is no hope at all. No hope of transcendence. Without demons and angels is there Jesus? If so, how?
  • MamacitaMamacita Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Rublev wrote: »
    This may go the same way as the thread on angels, so it's fine to move it to Purg.

    I didn't ask for a prognostication on which way the thread might go. I asked what your intent was in starting it. A bit more discernment on your part before hitting Post.

    [Edited to add:] Sorry, I missed the transfer and Eutychus' post.
  • Are we sure it was demons? I mean, could it have been a really good citrus harvest and a problem with cursive script......

    I'll shut the door on the way out.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    @Mamacita

    My apologies for locating this thread in the wrong place.

    @Martin54

    This is what I am wondering too. If you exclude demons from the gospels then logically you also exclude the Temptations, angels and the Annunciation story. So where do you draw the line?

    What exactly can be defined as a cultural contextualisation in the gospels? Certainly the attitudes towards women and slaves. Are beliefs in demons and angels as well?

    On the other hand Jesus specifically identifies His authority over demons as being one of the signs of the kingdom and as proof of His divine identity. And the Book of Acts describes the spiritual opposition to the advance of the gospel onto the pagan world.

    So can it simply be disregarded because it is something that no longer resonates with modern western society? Other contemporary cultures still have a belief in a spirit world.
  • It is sometimes thought that the term 'casting out demons' is a reference to epilepsy.

    As one who has had a number of epileptic seizures (grand mal and partial-complex), it certainly feels as though one is being 'taken over' by something from outside (or, more correctly, inside - that is to say, inside one's brain).

    In 1stC Palestine, they probably would not have known how the brain's electrical circuits can go haywire......
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Every Anglican diocese has its own registered Diocesan Exorcist. So this is still a recognised ministry in the church.

    The gospels record numerous stories of Jesus performing exorcisms: There is the story of the man in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1: 25-27; Luke 4:51-56). There is the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt 15: 21-28; Mark 7: 24-50). And there is the boy whom the disciples could not cure (Matt 17: 14-21; Mark 9: 14-29; Luke 9: 37-42).

    Acts features the strange story of the slave girl at Philippi who could foretell the future (Acts 16:18). And the still stranger story of the seven sons of Sceva who attempted exorcisms in the name of Jesus but without the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19: 11-20).

    The story of the Gadarene demoniac Legion is the most famous account (Matt 8: 28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8: 26-39). This is an exorcism that takes place outside Jewish territory where pigs were being kept. Legion was a social outcast living among the tombs so it is not surprising that he attracts the attention of Jesus. We are told that the demons recognise and name Jesus. And curiously He agrees to their request to send them into the pigs which promptly drown themselves, causing a great sensation. Jesus does not seem to mind being the centre of attention in a Gentile country.

    The aftermath is that the people beg Jesus to leave. But the former demoniac is described as 'sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.' Mary of Bethany also sat at the feet of Jesus and was commended by Him for 'choosing the better part.' Sitting at the feet of Jesus as a disciple is always shown as the right place to be in the gospels.
  • Who says all the accounts in the Gospels are of exorcisms? Some could well be Our Lord curing epilepsy....

    I'm not denying the existence of 'demons' - the Church does indeed take this sort of thing seriously, although IIRC the term 'Ministry of Deliverance' is used nowadays in the CofE (not sure what term the Romans use).
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I don't have a definitive answer but since it is there in the gospels I'd like to understand what it is doing there. Clearly to the gospel writers and their contemporary readers this was a sign of Jesus' divine identity. It is the very first act of Jesus ministry in Mark's gospel and all the people are amazed and comment upon His authority (Mark 1: 21-29).

    Interestingly, when the 70 disciples report back on their mission they do not emphasise their proclamation of the good news. Instead they declare: 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.' And Jesus replies: 'I saw satan fall like lightening from the sky' (Luke 10: 17-19). So He is focusing upon their spiritual authority in announcing the kingdom.
  • Pertaining to the stories of demonic exorcism possibly being only accounts of epileptic healing I would suggest looking at the story of the demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17: 14-20. This passage, at least in my NRSV, would seem to attribute epilepsy to demonic possession.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I would agree that the boy would fit that description. But the story of Legion and the herd of pigs is a completely different kettle of fish. And so is the fortune telling slave girl. These accounts are there in the NT as testimonies to the superior spiritual authority of Jesus and Paul. But they are not easy for us to discuss today. Many sermons are preached on the miracles of Jesus - but not so many about his power over demons. But to Jesus' contemporaries they were equally valid signs of His identity. So maybe we are the ones who have a cultural bias about it?
  • Rublev wrote: »
    I would agree that the boy would fit that description. But the story of Legion and the herd of pigs is a completely different kettle of fish. And so is the fortune telling slave girl. These accounts are there in the NT as testimonies to the superior spiritual authority of Jesus and Paul. But they are not easy for us to discuss today. Many sermons are preached on the miracles of Jesus - but not so many about his power over demons. But to Jesus' contemporaries they were equally valid signs of His identity. So maybe we are the ones who have a cultural bias about it?

    Now that is a question with much weight behind it. Implications? If a true statement, then why? Likely it is a multifold answer. Off the top of my head I might attribute such bias to the current human egoism, the idea that we; through science & reasoning, can know all; without the aid of God.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Lemon possession?! With a long 'E' it sounds like Yiddish for hooker. But being in possession of a yellow Mediterranean fruit. Hmmmmmm. Goes with djinn and tonic? Yes!

    Come back Mr. Smith! You left your coat.

    @Rublev. The Temptation is easily figurative. Some of the demoniacs are easily neurological-psychiatric. Some aren't. And your point about Jesus' credentials is well made. Jesus was an exorcist's exorcist.

    If that's within the line, reality is complex (dispensational) upon complex (dualist to the point of demiurgical) upon complex...

    I mean really!
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    If they existed, there is no trace of them or any other manifestation of the supernatural now. The dispensation has changed. Or...

    If they didn't exist then, then Gadara is a part of the brilliant C1st Jewish-Greco-Roman humanist myth.

    Or something ineffable in between.

    Or... there IS manifestation of them now, we just don't recognize it-- perhaps because we're too literal in what we think a "demon" looks like.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    What, they can look like something with a perfectly natural explanation, that doesn't stand out anomalously in any regard, that demonstrates no occult, four dimensional knowledge, but they're still at work?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    To take it a bit further this is exactly what St Paul is talking about when he said: 'Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Eph 6: 12). And why Jesus prayed before every key decision of His ministry. If you start to proclaim the gospel in public then you also need the protection and discernment of prayer.

    'Deliver us from evil.'
    Quite so.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    I would agree that the boy would fit that description. But the story of Legion and the herd of pigs is a completely different kettle of fish. And so is the fortune telling slave girl. These accounts are there in the NT as testimonies to the superior spiritual authority of Jesus and Paul. But they are not easy for us to discuss today. Many sermons are preached on the miracles of Jesus - but not so many about his power over demons. But to Jesus' contemporaries they were equally valid signs of His identity. So maybe we are the ones who have a cultural bias about it?

    Now that is a question with much weight behind it. Implications? If a true statement, then why? Likely it is a multifold answer. Off the top of my head I might attribute such bias to the current human egoism, the idea that we; through science & reasoning, can know all; without the aid of God.

    It's got nothing to do with egotism. It's got everything to do with being rational and empirical. The simplest answer that agrees with all facts since is a humanist conspiracy.
  • In the world of 1st-century Palestine demons appear to have been common, and Jesus was not the only one casting them out according to the witness of the scriptures. IIRC Josephus mentions this as a practice of the Jews.

    We live in a different world.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I am not sure that we do. Clarissa Dickson Wright (of The Two Fat Ladies fame) wrote that when she was undergoing therapy for her alcohol addiction she was warned of the dangers of developing secondary addictions in their place. She said she then finally understood what Jesus had meant when He said: 'When an evil spirit has gone out of a person it wanders looking for a resting place, but not finding any it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits worse than itself and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first' (Luke 11: 24-26).

    The basis of AA treatment is to surrender yourself to a higher power. Why is that?

    Perhaps our modern world is more demonic.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    In the emergent, synergistic sense of our group evils, the opportunity costs and dark sides of our group goods, probably: Invoking the sacred is a net good for human groups and individuals. Just.
  • In answer to the question in the OP, yes, He did. The Gospels tell us so.

    These days, though, such 'demons' might be known by other names, like epilepsy. Doesn't make them any less invasive or destructive......

    Just saying.
  • In answer to the question in the OP, yes, He did. The Gospels tell us so.

    These days, though, such 'demons' might be known by other names, like epilepsy. Doesn't make them any less invasive or destructive......

    Just saying.

    I see physical healing used as a metaphor for spiritual healing. I don't think we can generalise from a superficial similarity to epilepsy to the demons as described in the Bible.
  • It might be worth noting that in the New Testament it's clear that certain "ordinary" ailments (like being bent over, what we would probably ascribe to osteoporosis and fractures in the spine) are said to be the work of evil spirits. Not in every case--just in the cases identified in the story. That one's from Luke 13:11, by the way, and does not seem to have anything to do with possession per se. Which suggests that a) demons can do crap to make you miserable without necessarily possessing you, and b) demons can apparently influence the onset of certain conditions which are normally purely physical/medical.

    This is what I keep in mind when I hear someone saying "Oh, they just didn't recognize epilepsy for what it was." The Scriptural position is more nuanced than that. There are cases of illness that are wholly natural, and cases of illness that have a demon behind them pushing the buttons (so to speak), and the disease process may be identical. So the question isn't "is this epilepsy or possession?" It's more likely to be "Is this epilepsy pure and simple, or epilepsy brought on by a demon, which must also be dealt with?" In some cases Jesus does a simple healing, and I infer that no demon was present. In other cases it's more complicated.

    As for the existence of demons, it seems to me foolish in the extreme to think that if purely spiritual beings other than God actually exist, that they must all be well-disposed to us. We have enemies in the natural world; why not the supernatural?
  • Clearly put, Lamb Chopped.

    Re: your last para.
    I may have enemies in the supernatural world, but unlike the people of Jesus' culture I do not encounter them in the same way. The closest I get is e.g. politicians acting devilishly with asylum seekers.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    C S Lewis put it this way:

    'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.'

    (The Screwtape Letters).
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    So again, despite there being completely natural explanations for everything we actually experience in this dispensation, there is a full supernatural ecology on steroids where all of the dead move on (or DO they?!) but now fully camouflaged predators still hang around the portal matching natural evils that wouldn't happen if they weren't there but unlike in the previous dispensation two thousand years ago give no supernatural sign - telepathy, telekinesis - that they are there. That's evolution for you.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I have wondered whether the guy described as having a legion of demons inside him could have had some sort of mental illness - it sounds more like that than epilepsy, especially as he seems to have been self-harming. We say people with certain mental illnesses are tormented by these illnesses, and we say people hear voices - that is today's language. I can see how in the past people could have used language of demons and spirits.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Lemon possession?! With a long 'E' it sounds like Yiddish for hooker. But being in possession of a yellow Mediterranean fruit. Hmmmmmm. Goes with djinn and tonic? Yes!

    Come back Mr. Smith! You left your coat.

    :lol:

  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    C S Lewis put it this way:

    'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.'

    (The Screwtape Letters).

    I don’t agree his first point at all. All evil is human, there is no supernatural evil. We all get on perfectly well disbelieving in their existence. We also find many ways to do harm without any supernatural help at all.

    His second point - yes. An excessive and unhealthy interest in anything is a mistake - and fear of ‘demons’ certainly would come under that category.

  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Anyone who thinks that evil is not a normal part of human beings has never watched the kinds of things that two-year-olds do to each other.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 26
    @Lamb Chopped that starts with a category error. Which is an infinite understatement. God is meta-transcendent, trans-infinite, pre-eternal. If there's a God, there is a sublime, heaven. Transcendent, infinite, eternal. There doesn't have to be anything else. No angels, no demons, no hell. That's way down the list of philosophical and other entity proliferation, axis upon dimension of complexity. The only need we have for demons is because of Jesus. To make the Jesus story work. Which makes all stories above that dysfunctional.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    In answer to the question in the OP, yes, He did. The Gospels tell us so.

    These days, though, such 'demons' might be known by other names, like epilepsy. Doesn't make them any less invasive or destructive......

    Just saying.

    I see physical healing used as a metaphor for spiritual healing. I don't think we can generalise from a superficial similarity to epilepsy to the demons as described in the Bible.

    Absolutely. The Gadarene is not a paranoid schizophrene.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 26
    Rublev wrote: »
    I would agree that the boy would fit that description. But the story of Legion and the herd of pigs is a completely different kettle of fish. And so is the fortune telling slave girl. These accounts are there in the NT as testimonies to the superior spiritual authority of Jesus and Paul. But they are not easy for us to discuss today. Many sermons are preached on the miracles of Jesus - but not so many about his power over demons. But to Jesus' contemporaries they were equally valid signs of His identity. So maybe we are the ones who have a cultural bias about it?

    Now that is a question with much weight behind it. Implications? If a true statement, then why? Likely it is a multifold answer. Off the top of my head I might attribute such bias to the current human egoism, the idea that we; through science & reasoning, can know all; without the aid of God.

    So it's all our fault that we cannot see the demonic that is all around us? Because we're rational, scientific, analytical, forensic we can't see dark miracles?

    Can you?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    In the world of 1st-century Palestine demons appear to have been common, and Jesus was not the only one casting them out according to the witness of the scriptures. IIRC Josephus mentions this as a practice of the Jews.

    We live in a different world.

    So did Rome and Greece and Britain and Gaul and Egypt and Persia and India.

    Funny that.
  • I quite like Nigel Wright's idea - shared by Dr Andrew Walker - that the 'demonic' is a kind of spiritual anti-matter, it's effectively the antithesis of all that God is - love, compassion etc. That doesn't make it any the less real.

    I'm not quite sure how it 'works' but like cliffdweller, I don't think we have to go around thinking in terms of medieval depictions of imps with horns and spikey tails and so on. Nor am I sure that people like Dante took those things as literally as we might imagine they did.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    What, they can look like something with a perfectly natural explanation, that doesn't stand out anomalously in any regard, that demonstrates no occult, four dimensional knowledge, but they're still at work?

    somewhat. I would agree with Walter Wink that the demonic is part of the brokenness of this world-- part of the "powers that be"-- iow, the way things are. Wink identifies it with the "myth of redemptive violence" and oppressive systems that are so commonplace that yes, we think of them as naturalistic. We are used to them, we see oppression and violence and vengence-seeking every day. But they are not "natural" in the sense that they are not the way things are meant to be or the way things will be in the coming Kingdom. They are demonic.
  • It might be worth noting that in the New Testament it's clear that certain "ordinary" ailments (like being bent over, what we would probably ascribe to osteoporosis and fractures in the spine) are said to be the work of evil spirits. Not in every case--just in the cases identified in the story. That one's from Luke 13:11, by the way, and does not seem to have anything to do with possession per se. Which suggests that a) demons can do crap to make you miserable without necessarily possessing you, and b) demons can apparently influence the onset of certain conditions which are normally purely physical/medical.

    This is what I keep in mind when I hear someone saying "Oh, they just didn't recognize epilepsy for what it was." The Scriptural position is more nuanced than that. There are cases of illness that are wholly natural, and cases of illness that have a demon behind them pushing the buttons (so to speak), and the disease process may be identical. So the question isn't "is this epilepsy or possession?" It's more likely to be "Is this epilepsy pure and simple, or epilepsy brought on by a demon, which must also be dealt with?" In some cases Jesus does a simple healing, and I infer that no demon was present. In other cases it's more complicated.

    As for the existence of demons, it seems to me foolish in the extreme to think that if purely spiritual beings other than God actually exist, that they must all be well-disposed to us. We have enemies in the natural world; why not the supernatural?

    well said, as always.

  • Clearly put, Lamb Chopped.

    Re: your last para.
    I may have enemies in the supernatural world, but unlike the people of Jesus' culture I do not encounter them in the same way. The closest I get is e.g. politicians acting devilishly with asylum seekers.

    Amen. And it points us to an important element of our political divide-- that there are significant spiritual elements at play that need to be dealt with beyond just the political/economic systems. Again, Walter Wink has much to say here about systems of oppression and cycles of violence that would be helpful.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    Rublev wrote: »
    C S Lewis put it this way:

    'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.'

    (The Screwtape Letters).

    I don’t agree his first point at all. All evil is human, there is no supernatural evil.

    My granddaughter was diagnosed in vitro with an array of very devastating cardiac defects (single ventricle, among others) which now mean a lifetime of invasive open-heart surgeries and possibly a much shortened life. My SIL struggled with how such a horrible fate could be "God's will". It certainly wasn't any human action. It just happened-- as it does in about 1 in every 1000 births.

    It's not a human action. And I for one cannot believe it is God's will to inflict suffering on an innocent child. Rather, it is demonic. It is the "natural evil" the exists in this broken world, part of the things that Jesus came to begin to set right. According to John the evangelist, the healings in the NT are signs of that-- signs of the coming Kingdom-- which is both now but also very much "not yet". Hence: babies born with horrible birth defects.

  • So it's all our fault that we cannot see the demonic that is all around us? Because we're rational, scientific, analytical, forensic we can't see dark miracles?

    Can you?

    There way more to reality than merely the "rational, scientific, analytical, forensic". Huge parts of the brain are wired for emotional.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Dominantly so. And calling the entirely natural 'demonic' cliffdweller is stretching even the poetic to way beyond breaking in such appalling cases. It's just not appropriate. Humanity is demonic. Just as it is angelic. It would be great to be able to blame something, someone else. There is nothing to blame. Not even ourselves. Only God.
  • That's an option of course. It's a rather horrible option, since it makes God into a monster. But it's an option logically.
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