February 13, 2018

"Anyone who thinks that the value of 2,000 hogs transcends that of a human soul made in the image of God himself... is so obtuse that likely no argument would be effective in unscrambling the discombobulation within his skull."

The use of the plural pronoun "they" — by the non-gender-binary performance artist Emma Sulkowicz — reminds me (writing in the comments to this post of mine) of the Biblical story of the man who said "My name is Legion... for we are many." Jesus, we're told — in a passage I quote in full — speaks with demons who request and are given permission to relocate into some nearby pigs — 2,000 of them — and the pigs suddenly run into the lake where they drown.

I ask some questions, get few answers, restate questions and get accused of mockery and called stupid by one of the regular commenters. So I look for and find a serious effort at answering some of my questions, which ends with the kiss-off I've used as the post title.

I'm stunned by the horribleness of that statement. For one thing, animal cruelty does matter, and driving 2,000 hogs into a suicidal frenzy is not explained by saying that human beings are more important than animals. For another thing, if you think human beings are so precious, why do you rush to conclude that they are not worth talking to? Human beings are made in the image of God... with scrambled skull contents.

Ugh! What an image. Scrambled brains. Everyone knows you're supposed to fry brains.

197 comments:

Earnest Prole said...

If God can be three then surely 2,000 pigs can be one.

John Lynch said...

Jesus cured a schizophrenic, which is miracle enough. Perhaps it was embellished later.

Or, if we are going the literal route, the pigs were created as part of the miracle, a la loaves and fishes.

Or this was a pig farm for the Greco-Roman and non-observant Jewish population, which at the time was a majority.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe God, like Emma Sulkowicz demands the pronouns "they" and "them."

Jeff Roth said...

Religion - the third rail of blogging.

Lewis Wetzel said...

People have immortal souls.
Pigs may have souls, but they are not immortal.
Animal's lives, in the abstract, aren't even important to other animals because animals do not reason abstractly.
Pigs are unclean animals. In the scene where Shylock is introduced in The Merchant of Venice, he mocks Christians for consuming beasts that their Lord saw as fit receptacles for unclean spirits.

John Lynch said...

Or it's a free country and you don't have to believe it :)

Ann Althouse said...

"Jesus cured a schizophrenic, which is miracle enough. Perhaps it was embellished later."

I don't remember ever hearing a sermon on the pig story, but if I did, it was in Episcopal church, and I'll bet the explanation went something like that.

tam said...

Pigs were unclean, according to Jewish law. So the owners of the pigs were already dealing with contraband. So destroying the herd had a double benefit. The individual was healed and, at the same time, a temptation to sin was removed.

Roughcoat said...

His ways are not our ways.

MadisonMan said...

Is Bad Lieutenant (pronounced the British way, of course) really a Regular Commenter?

(I'm not paying close attention)

I don't recall the Pig Story in church. Pig Man in Seinfeld -- that I do recall, but it was just 1, not Legions.

John Lynch said...

My guess from looking at the text is that the poor guy was so messed up that it must have been more than one demon. So, to make that clear, one pig wasn't enough to remove the evil spirit. Jesus was so powerful that he could remove 2000 demons. I think that's the point of the story.

Doesn't matter how messed up you are, Jesus saves.

I'm just some guy, though.

Ann Althouse said...

"Pigs were unclean, according to Jewish law. So the owners of the pigs were already dealing with contraband. So destroying the herd had a double benefit. The individual was healed and, at the same time, a temptation to sin was removed."

Triple benefit, because the men with an economic interest in the pigs went and complained about it to the authorities, thus spreading and corroborating the news that Jesus was working miracles. Jesus didn't directly kill the pigs. He only spoke to the man. If you blame Jesus for killing 2,000 pigs, you are attributing a big miracle to him. And notice, these guys were mad at Jesus, so they were in no mood to praise him, which makes their story of the miracle more believable... UNLESS... there were no pigs and the complainers were on Jesus's side and spreading FAKE NEWS.

So convenient for the story to put the pigs — the evidence — at the bottom of the lake.

mockturtle said...

"My name is Legion, for we are many".

John Lynch said...

There's also the account that the authorities had Jesus killed because he was raising the dead.

Roughcoat said...

One way of understanding this: the souls of the pigs were welcomed by God, and replaced by demonic presences. It was only the bodies of those pigs, now inhabited by demons, that drowned. The pigs themselves, in their souls, lived on with God.

Yes, I do believe that pigs -- all animals -- have souls. I'm a cafeteria Catholic in that regard. All Catholics are cafeteria Catholics to some degree. Because we ultimately cannot know His ways, which are not our Ways.

The Book of Job is always good for gaining or regaining perspective. It restores the sense of awe and mystery.

Bob Boyd said...

Brains and eggs are scrambled. I had 'em once.
I was drunk at the time.

mockturtle said...

Killing pigs? Were they being raised for pets, or what?

Roughcoat said...

Now, can we discuss the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin?

Ann Althouse said...

"My guess from looking at the text is that the poor guy was so messed up that it must have been more than one demon. So, to make that clear, one pig wasn't enough to remove the evil spirit. Jesus was so powerful that he could remove 2000 demons. I think that's the point of the story."

Why wasn't Jesus so powerful that he could cure the man without killing 2,000 pigs?

2,000 mad pigs rushing down a steep incline and drowning themselves in a lake is better theater.

The people in the area hated pigs, so killing the pigs was good (even though they seem to have been somebody's property).

The point wasn't just that Jesus could cure the man, but that demons viewed him as an authority figure (because they asked him for permission).

The demons brought up the idea of relocating into the pigs. All Jesus did was tell them they could.

Ann Althouse said...

"Pigs were unclean, according to Jewish law."

Did Jewish law authorize the destruction of another person's property when it's not something that Jewish law permits followers of Judaism to own?

mockturtle said...

The Book of Job is always good for gaining or regaining perspective. It restores the sense of awe and mystery.

My favorite book in the Bible. Whether literal or a parable there is so much to be learned about God there. And, as the first three 'friends' of Job represent, the many ways in which God is misunderstood. And it is so beautifully written.

Mike Sylwester said...

The ancient Greeks celebrated an annual festival called Thesmophoria in mid-October. This festival commemorated a mythical story in which the God Pluto abducted the Goddess Persephone (aka Kore) down into the underworld. During this abduction, a swineherd named Eubouleus happened to be herding some swine nearby, and those swine fell down into the same crevice that Pluton used as his route to take Persephone down into the underworld.

In the Thesmophoria festival, a group of women would take a dead pig down into a crevice. They would place the dead pig at the crevice bottom and then pick up the rotten carcass of the previous year’s pig and take that rotten carcass back up to the earth’s surface. There, the women would tear up the carcass and mix it with grain and burn the mixture in a fertility ritual.

I think that the gospel story about Jesus making a herd of swine jump off a cliff is related to the Greeks’ Thesmophoria festival, which is based on a Greek myth about a herd of swine going along with an abducted woman down into the Underworld. The festival’s idea is that dying beings (humans and their possessing demons) go down into the Underworld but that later these beings are resurrected and reborn as fertile beings.

Triangle Man said...

I don't remember anything about the interpretation of the story except that the presence of pigs was taken to mean that Jesus was ministering to Gentiles and possession by demons was how mental illness was understood.

Birkel said...

Emma Sulkowicz has XXY chromosones?

What else could non-binary mean?

Ann Althouse said...

Another interpretation is that Jesus and the demons were negotiating. The demons made a proposal, the terms according to which they would leave the man. They'd leave if they could go into the pigs. Jesus didn't make a counter offer that they just need to leave. He just accepted the demons' offer, after which we learn the terrible truth that there were 2,000 demons in the man. What a shocking horror!

But did Jesus not already know the number of the demons?

Mike Sylwester said...

Continuing by comment at 9:25 AM

The Greek myth is altered by the Jesus story in an interesting manner.

The Greek’s myth is based on the idea that human beings are possessed by demons and that when a human being dies, his interior demons descend with his body down into the Underworld. Since Persephone was a deity, she was not possessed internally by demons, but rather she was surrounded externally by demons that circled her inside the animals around her. Since she was a deity, she was immortal and could not die, but she could be and was abducted by a more powerful deity, Pluto, who took her down into the Underworld as an extraordinary act. As Persephone was abducted down into the Underworld, she was followed automatically by her external demons in the nearby swine. Thus the swine themselves were transported down into the Underworld.

In the Jesus story, the demons are inside a human demoniac, who does not die in the story. Rather, Jesus casts the demons from inside the demoniac into the nearby swine and then sends the swine down into the Underworld without a dying human being.

Matthew (8:28) indicates that the original story was about two (not one) demoniacs. One demoniac was a man, and the other demoniac’s gender is not specified. Matthew is vague about whether Jesus cast the demons out of both demoniacs or out of only the one male demoniac. Because of the parallel stories in the other Synoptic gospels, I think that the original story was that there was one male and one female demoniac, and Jesus cast the demons out of only the one male demoniac, leaving the female demoniac possessed by demons.

I think this second demoniac was Mary Magdalene. (The Matthew story takes place in Gadarenes, which is phonetically similar to “Gadalenes”, whence “Magdalene”.) So, Mary Magdalene was a woman who had become deranged and permanently possessed by demons because of her repeated participation in the gory Thesmophoria festival. She had carried dead pigs down and up the crevice so many times that her organs of fertility suffered a chronic bleeding.

The story about Jesus and the herd of swine is followed closely by the story of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. This latter story includes a woman with chronic menstrual bleeding who has been following Jesus and who touches his cloak, thus miraculously stopping the bleeding. This is Mary Magdalene, who has followed Jesus from the first story into the second story.

Freeman Hunt said...

The explanations that pdug linked in that thread are pretty interesting.

Symbolic of turning the usual mob destroys individual on its head. One of the explanations posits that the demons did not know that the pigs would run off of the cliff and that the destruction of the pigs destroyed what was assumed by the people there to be a closed system.

Our church had a sermon on this story once, but it was years ago, and I can't remember what was said.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I don't know if Jewish law protected property, if the property was pigs.

mockturtle said...

Did Jewish law authorize the destruction of another person's property when it's not something that Jewish law permits followers of Judaism to own?

Jesus also picked corn from a grain field on the Sabbath, healed on the Sabbath and forgave sins, all against Jewish law. Jesus was showing them that He was Lord of the Sabbath and the fulfillment of laws and prophecies.

Birkel said...

For no man shall know the mind of God.

Still, Althouse persists.

Freeman Hunt said...

It also strikes me as one of those stories that probably speaks more plainly to another culture. Our church has a lot of missionaries, and it's interesting to hear what stories resonate with people in the places where they go. For example, one guy went to a place where the people were especially into the telescoped genealogies. To them, these were extremely important and convincing. In our culture those are usually considered boring, skim time parts.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't know if Jewish law protected property, if the property was pigs."

Quick test (don't look up the answer): Is "Thou shalt not steal" one of the 10 Commandments?

Bob Boyd said...

Jesus was a king and the king's word is law?

Roughcoat said...

You're worried about pigs? Try reconciling the Canaanite genocide, the death of Egypt's first-born, the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod, the destruction of Job's family. Etc., etc.

Ain't easy, being Judeo-Christian.

Sydney said...

For some reason, I have always thought of that episode as happening among people who weren't Jewish. I may have read that or been taught that at some point. My take away from it was that Jesus made a mistake there. He forgot that non-Jews eat pigs. My opinion may scandalize some, but losing 2,000 pigs would be a big deal if they were your primary food source.

FIDO said...

Frankly, I found your obsession with the pig story incredibly off point in the Sulkowicz story.

There were SO many directions you could have gone in: the nature of truth. How Columbia is in a cleft stick, legally and socially. Is Sulkowicz a liar. Is the guy a liar. Is the mattress a metaphor for the comfortable middle class existence offered to all American women but Feminists now make it into a horrible burden?

Instead, you are talking about the Bible and Pigs in a literary jump instead of (or perhaps to avoid) talking about thorny issues regarding Feminism. You have a strong strain of 'believe the victim' particularly if the guy is doing sexual acts you find distasteful.

So if you got few answers, if you got snarky answers, I can only speak for myself, but your obsession with Demon Pigs was boring and irrelevant. Not once, that I recall, did you talk about Sulkowicz except in the lede. You can obsess about it all you want. I can still not give a fig about your obsession.

And now, you are doubling down BLAMING THE READERS that their panties remain untwisted about a herd of pigs from 2000 years ago? Really?

Since that is obviously insane, you are attempting to make it about current animal rights. Well!

Thank you for putting up this blog and the latitude you allow the people to speak, but I am STILL not interested in those fucking pigs, I still wonder why YOU brought it up in regard to Sulkowicz.

I am nore interested in why your mind...diverted...from a clear discussion of Feminism to theological parsing and screaming about Jesus hating pigs.

Gahrie said...

We're talking about animal cruelty in a culture that sacrificed animals in their religious rituals? When the dominant culture watched animal combat for entertainment?

And frankly I agree with the idea that no animal life, or amount of animal lives, is equal to a single human life.

Rusty said...

If the pigs had agency perhaps they didn't want to possessed by deamons.
It is also rather futile to ascribe 21st century morals to a 1st century problem.
They're fucking pigs.
They're dead pigs.
Now we make bacon.

traditionalguy said...

Exorcisms are messy. Ask Melania about the post Obama White House she demanded to have cleansed of the spirits claiming it as home since the days of Hillary's seances and the Kenyan's African voodoo idols. I hope those demons found pigs to enter into so they went less violently.

The professor made several good points. How come a legion of demons recognized Jesus had authority over them. That actually started happening to Jesus from day one in Mark. And that authority is what drew the astonished crowds.

bagoh20 said...

I give this miracle a 9.5. High difficulty, perfect rotation and form, but I dinged him for the substantial splash on entry.

I bet this guy ends up with quite a career. He's gonna be famous someday.

Ann Althouse said...

"We're talking about animal cruelty in a culture that sacrificed animals in their religious rituals?"

Was Jesus "in a culture" or demonstrating values that are universal and brought for all of mankind, there and then, or for all, for all time?

Mike Sylwester said...

I am a reading a book titled The Rise of the Greek Epic, first published in 1907, written by Gilbert Murray, Professor of Greek at Oxford University.

Reading this book last night, I read Murray's interesting explanation of the relationship between the people and cattle in ancient Greek tribes. Those people believed that they themselves and also their cattle shared a sacred blood kinship.

The ancient Greeks loved their tribal cattle as pets who provided them milk. The only cattle that those people ate were wild cattle or else cattle stolen from other tribes.

The rare exceptions were dire situations when a tribal cow was sacrificed in order to please the tribe's god. On such an occasion, grain would be placed onto the altar in order to lure the cow to the altar, as if the cow herself were volunteering for the sacrifice for the good of her tribe.

After the sacrifice and feast, there was a ritual to pass the blame for the murder (the killing of the cow was called by the Greek word for "murder") of the beloved cow.

* The person who provided the water to sharpen the knife was blamed first.

* The water-bringer blamed the person who sharpened the knife.

* The knife-sharpener blamed the person who gave the knife to the slaughterer.

* The slaughter blamed the knife.

* Then the tribe collectively threw the knife into the ocean.

Bob Boyd said...

"I still wonder why YOU brought it up in regard to Sulkowicz."

Because Sulkowicz contains a multitude and men are pigs. All we need now is a miracle.

Fernandistein said...

demons who request and are given permission to relocate into some nearby pigs

That really happened.

John Lynch said...
Or it's a free country and you don't have to believe it :)


"I bet one legend that keeps recurring throughout history, in every
culture, is the story of Popeye." -- J.H.

Zoroaster was born of a virgin and “immaculate conception by a ray of divine reason.” He was baptized in a river. In his youth he astounded wise men with his wisdom. He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. He began his ministry at age 30. Zoroaster baptized with water, fire and “holy wind.” He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man. He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse. He had a sacred cup or grail. He was slain. His religion had a eucharist. He was the “Word made flesh.” Zoroaster’s followers expected a “second coming” in the virgin-born Saoshynt or Savior, who is to come in 2341 AD and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age.

Ken B said...

Even Inga is worth more than 2000 pigs.

mockturtle said...

Those pigs would have been slaughtered anyway unless they were being raised as pets.

FIDO said...


Ken B said...
Even Inga is worth more than 2000 pigs.

**

Farmer Jones got out of his car and while heading for his friend's door, noticed a pig with a wooden leg. His curiosity roused, he asked, "Fred, how'd that pig get him a wooden leg?"

"Well, Michael, that's a mighty special pig! A while back a wild boar attacked me while I was walking in the woods. That pig there came a runnin', went after that boar and chased him away. Saved my life!"

"And the boar tore up his leg?"

"No he was fine after that. But a bit later we had that fire. Started in the shed up against the barn. Well, that ole pig started squealin' like he was stuck, woke us up, and 'fore we got out here, the darn thing had herded the other animals out of the barn and saved 'em all!"

"So that's when he hurt his leg, huh, Fred?"

"No, Michael. He was a might winded, though. When my tractor hit a rock and rolled down the hill into the pond I was knocked clean out. When I came to, that pig had dove into the pond and dragged me out 'fore I drownded. Sure did save my life."

"And that was when he hurt his leg?"

"Oh no, he was fine. Cleaned him up, too."

"OK, Fred. So just tell me. How did he get the wooden leg?"

"Well", the farmer tells him, "A pig like that, you don't want to eat all at once!"

**

Moral of the story: It depends very much on the pig.

JAORE said...

"non-gender-binary performance artist"

Another booth conspicuously absent from career day at my high school.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"I don't know if Jewish law protected property, if the property was pigs."
Quick test (don't look up the answer): Is "Thou shalt not steal" one of the 10 Commandments?
2/13/18, 9:34 AM

Yes.
But are you saying God can't break a law he made? That God can sin?

Otto said...

Ann your hatred of Christianity is very obvious. Your quick rebuttals with lawyer like deconstruction of the Bible shows this hatred. Was there something in your "Episcopalian" upbringing that caused this animosity.

Birkel said...

Holy shit, Althouse. Perhaps it was for all people, for all time, and he was perfectly cool with killing animals.

Imagine you, pre-supposing your modern sensibilities are the ones that more likely reflect eternal truth.

Do you read your own words?

traditionalguy said...

In my 9 years here, The Professor has never shown a hatred of Christianity. She has only revealed a very deep knowledge of scripture, a sincere appreciation for the man Jesus, and a mind free from Religious myths.

J. Farmer said...

The simplest explanation is that the Bible, and all other religious texts, are entirely the product of the human mind with no outside supernatural authorship. One does not have to "hate" Christianity or religion in general to accept that conclusion anymore than one has to "hate" Hinduism to believe that the Vedas and the Upanishads are purely historical texts.

Mike Sylwester said...

The Trojan War was followed by several centuries of mass migration and chaos. Troy had controlled trade between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. The fall of Troy roughly coincided with the falls of several other major trading control-points, thus disrupting and impoverishing most of the Mediterranean economy.

Because many Greeks were sea-faring, many groups of Greek men in dire situations were able to flee from their tribal areas on ships. Doing so, however, they left behind their families and tribal cattle.

In Homer's epic Ulysses there are many scenes in which Ulysses and his fellow wanderers feast on slaughtered cattle, but those cattle always belonged to foreign tribes. At home they never would have feasted on their own tribe's beloved cattle in such a manner.

----

Another interesting aspect of the mass migrations involved the attitude toward ghosts. While the tribe had lived in its homeland, the local ghosts were overwhelmingly the ghosts of the tribe's own ancestors. These ancestor ghosts served as oracles and provided wisdom.

After the tribe was forced to abandon its homeland and resettle in a new location, the new local ghosts were the ghosts of foreigners who, in many cases, had been the tribe's enemies in past wars. So, now the ghosts were hostile, wicked, terrifying beings.

Kristian Holvoet said...

I'm stunned by the horribleness of that statement. For one thing, animal cruelty does matter, and driving 2,000 hogs into a suicidal frenzy is not explained by saying that human beings are more important than animals.

Why? Animal sacrifice was still practiced at the temple. It wasn't until the Crucifixion that the ritual of sacrifice was complete, and we no longer needed to use animal blood to cover sin (at least for Christians).

Ann Althouse said...

"Frankly, I found your obsession with..."

Stop right there and ask yourself, Am I reading a blog?

Quaestor said...

Was Jesus "in a culture" or demonstrating values that are universal and brought for all of mankind, there and then, or for all, for all time?

Could be both. Jesus was apparently an observant Jew, at least as far as the rules of ritual purity are concerned. None of his critics accused him of eating pork or shellfish or anything otherwise forbidden. However, within a few years of his death, his followers argued the question of universals versus particulars, sometimes quite bitterly. They finally settled on both — kosher was still binding on Jews but optional for non-Jews.

Ann Althouse said...

"I still wonder why YOU brought it up in regard to Sulkowicz."

I brought it up in the comments a propos of the footnote about Sulkowicz demand that we use a plural third person pronoun when talking about them.

James Smith said...

The 2000 figure is obviously not a literal number. That many pigs in that small an area would be uncontrollable. It was meant to just mean a large number of pigs. If you remember, the man was described as violent, given to loud wailing and lamentation and self mutilation. Possession caused great pain. When the pigs became they would have also been in the same pain, and being animals their reaction was to run away. It may not have even been pigs. Pigs make a good choice since this story was originally intended for Jewish audiences and pigs are unclean anyway, the death of the pigs might be seen as a side benefit. Jesus heals this man and does a little house cleaning to boot.

The reported number of pigs also shows Jesus was outside of the areas subject to Jewish law. No way any pig herd that size is going to be inside a Jewish area. This was clearly to show Jesus attempt to reach out to Gentiles. He showed them the power of the son of the Jehovah. Its not clear if they asked him to leave because they were angry or if they were afraid. They were clearly afraid of the demons possessing this man and had tried to deal with it and failed totally. A stranger lands on their shores, engages in a talk with the demons and casually casts them out and into a nearby herd of pigs. Killing - or causing the death - of any livestock would also have been a serious attack on the local economy. People's worth and social position was often defined by the type of livestock they owned and the size of the herds.

Jesus being asked - or forced - to leave may also be symbolic of the Gentiles not being ready to accept Jesus' message, but suggests to followers that the attempts to reach out to Gentiles should be continued in the future.

Or.....maybe Jesus just decided to mess with these Gentiles. "hey Pete, come here and hold my beer."

Yeah, I know, I'm going to hell.

hombre said...

Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It's difficult, isn't it, to divine the ways of the Lord with one foot, or more, in the secular world. Bottom line: He is omnipotent. He is God and we aren't.

Mike Sylwester said...

The ancient Hebrews were nomads who herded and sold cattle. The Hebrews wandered among more urban people, who raised hogs.

In that regard the cattle-selling Hebrews were in economic competition with the hog-selling urban dwellers (e.g. Egyptians and Canaanites).

That's why the ancient Hebrews began bad-mouthing the consumption of pork.

Ann Althouse said...

"Or it's a free country and you don't have to believe it."

Option 1: Believe it. Don't question. You can't know the ways of God. Be reverent and know it is true.

Option 2: Decide or assume it's not true and move on. Do something else with your time.

Option 3: Take note of a story that has been important in human culture, think about why it was written (including the possibility that its true or partly true), and reflect upon why it has been seen to fit with the larger story of Jesus, whether it is downplayed or ignored compared to other stories of Jesus, and what meaning it has had for people over time.

Some people don't want to perceive Option 3. If you think it's wrong to do Option 3, and you try to push me back, you can expect me to be be Option 3ing whatever you say to me.

William said...

There's most probably a back story to the Biblical one. Mike Sylvester presents an interesting and scholarly explanation. He may be right but after two thousand years who really knows. We can't understand the events and meaning of our own immediate past much less the context of Biblival events.,......,I enjoy watching the Game of Thrones. It doesn't recount our history but is rather a meditation on our history. In GOT, you will find the Golden Horde, Iphigenia, Little Eva on the ice floes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre not as they happened but as how, on an emotional level, we understand they happened......The story about the pigs no longer has any real intellectual or emotional currency in our culture. That's why it's so confusing. We understand Joan of Arc, Guy Fawkes, Ipheginia, and Job but there are other figures from the past whose stories are inexplicable and their numbers are legion.

David53 said...

"And notice, these guys were mad at Jesus, so they were in no mood to praise him, which makes their story of the miracle more believable..."

You assume they were mad, maybe they were afraid.

Ann Althouse said...

"The 2000 figure is obviously not a literal number. That many pigs in that small an area would be uncontrollable. It was meant to just mean a large number of pigs."

This makes Mark sound like Donald Trump.

Quaestor said...

It wasn't until the Crucifixion that the ritual of sacrifice was complete, and we no longer needed to use animal blood to cover sin...

Vicarious atonement in general and animal sacrifice in particular, creeps me out, always has. My questions got me in dutch several times in Sunday school, and I never got a satisfactory explanation why an arrangement no honest court who countenance (kill the innocent so the guilty can skate) should satisfy a supposedly just god.

sparrow said...

Here's my take. First Jesus did not cause the pigs to die: it was the demons that drove them to death. Christ was actually showing pity to the demons by allowing them to take corporeal form (they asked) “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”

FIDO said...


Stop right there and ask yourself, Am I reading a blog?

Oh, that was quite clear and I alluded to it. However, you need to ask yourself if the readership is required to care about every single side issue you wish to tackle. For the most part, we do! But even Althouse nods on occasion and this was certainly one time if the rabble...I mean readership didn't care.


I brought it up in the comments a propos of the footnote about Sulkowicz demand that we use a plural third person pronoun when talking about them.

Well, that cleared THAT up without me needing to re-read five multiple paragraph walls of analysis about what was a mere footnote of the weirdness that is Sulkowicz.

Now, the question is: did your readership think that that minor point required 5 posts of multiple paragraph length about that issue (which got lost in the ledes quickly). As you yourself pointed out, the answer has so far been a big 'no'.

But it's your blog and I appreciate probably 50% of your material (not a music person) and the 50% I like, I REALLY like, so this is, despite your demon pig obsession, a 'go to' place for me every day.

sparrow said...

Second there is a hierarchy of goods where in people come before animals and apparently spirits, even demonic ones, before animals as well.

Quaestor said...

who=would

Safari strikes when you least expect it.

Gahrie said...

I brought it up in the comments a propos of the footnote about Sulkowicz demand that we use a plural third person pronoun when talking about them

Enabling her madness is ultimately a form of cruelty.

walter said...

James Smith said...The 2000 figure is obviously not a literal number. That many pigs in that small an area would be uncontrollable. It was meant to just mean a large number of pigs.
--The number of pigs was yuuuuge! That I can tell you.

Bob Boyd said...

2000 pigs? If you thought Tom Golisano's lawn was a mess...

sparrow said...

Also I don't think Ann hates Christianity: that's' not in evidence. Asking sincere questions about it should be met with Christian charity not abuse: you are bringing disrepute on the name of Christ when you act ugly in His name.

Gahrie said...

Also I don't think Ann hates Christianity: that's' not in evidence

I agree. In fact I believe that Ann wants to be a good Christian, but is troubled because she disagrees with much of Christianity.

James Smith said...

Ann and Walter,
Since Mark was pretty much reporting what happened - or maybe happened - wouldn't this make him more like CNN than Trump? He could have just described the herd size as bigly.

James K said...

It was meant to just mean a large number of pigs.

The Bible should be taken seriously but not literally.

Sebastian said...

"Maybe God, like Emma Sulkowicz demands the pronouns "they" and "them.""

He could, considering that He is omnipotent Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But they is one, and one is them. Which, as a non-Christian, I always took to be the philosophical beauty of Christianity.

God could also demand a few other things, and did. Check with Mike Pence.

Otto said...

Btw I am old enough to know that a middle class "Episcopalian" in the 50s who had Playboy magazine on his coffee table at home was not normal behavior. Maybe as an Episcopalian you should read Terry Fullam's writings.

walter said...

Brian Williams was there. The sound still haunts him.

Raphael Ordoñez said...

As a Catholic, I've always found this story mysterious and unsettling. Going together with the passage about the cast-out spirit wandering "dry places" (Matthew 12:43-45) and various other New Testament accounts, it seems to describe a spiritual world full of parasitic "lowlife" devils too pathetic to be really evil that doesn't much resemble the picture of good angels vs. bad demons you get in catechism class.

I see the objection to the pigs dying. But it wasn't Jesus who killed the pigs. It was the demons. What about their agency? Why did they do that? Was it certain (from Jesus' point of view, under the limitations of his assumed humanity) that they would? Weren't they throwing away what they had pleaded for? It seems irrational. What, exactly, was their motive in entering the pigs? Fear of the dry places? Revenge? What does it mean for an animal (that is, a creature incapable of sin) to be possessed by a demon? What does it mean for a man to be possessed by two thousand demons? Did they all have a little piece of him or was it more of a commonwealth? Why would Jesus choose to show mercy to demons?

Taking the story in its most literal sense, there seems to be a strange, hidden world with its own laws and contracts behind it. I don't feel that I have enough information to defend Jesus' actions. For the sake of argument, though, let's suppose that Jesus, as God in the flesh, knew what would happen, knew that those pigs would die. Is it really "theft" or "animal cruelty" when God allows livestock to die?

That's a pat answer. But it strikes me that this story is a bit like the Transfiguration, that is, a terrifying unveiling of the godhead in Jesus. He commands the devils, and they obey; the pigs die before his eyes, much as animals of every sort, and humans as well, die horribly every day, without our supposedly good God doing anything to stop it. The people are terrified, and beg him to leave their region (Mark 5:17), much as the three apostles were terrified on Tabor (Mark 9:6), or the Jews were terrified at the foot of Horeb (Hebrews 12:18-21). I mentioned Jesus' humanity a moment ago, but in this story he appears frighteningly inhuman or superhuman, as though, because he's across the sea in a region remote from his area of ministry, he's allowed his "mortal disguise" to slip aside, and is making use of his "rights" as God Incarnate.

John Lynch said...

Option 3 is the point of the blog, right?

hombre said...

Blogger Otto said...
'Ann your hatred of Christianity is very obvious. Your quick rebuttals with lawyer like deconstruction of the Bible shows this hatred. Was there something in your "Episcopalian" upbringing that caused this animosity.'

This is just wrong, Otto. For someone who spent her adult life in the secular progressive world of academia Althouse does a decent job of treating Christianity and the Christians who post here with respect. Questioning aspects of the Bible has nothing to do with "hatred of Christianity," particularly when the questioner has personal reasons to do so.

Having said that, I also think that secular intellectualism does not yield a deep understanding of the Bible and its message.

James Smith said...

Ann is always going to have difficulty understanding religion. She has lived a career in a field that demands evidence for every assertion. Solid proof of what you say. The basis for religion is faith. Belief without that solid proof. I don't see Ann's line here as being anti religion. It's much more like the professor being once again professorial. She has been presented with a case and she is trying to analyze it.

Unknown said...

The 2000 figure is obviously not a literal number.

walter said...

Pigs take an apple, essentially garbage, and turn it into bacon - Jim Gaffigan.

Quaestor said...

Would someone please remind me of the topic? In all this hubbub about demons, I've quite forgotten. Is it the relative value of pigs and persons, or is the topic porcine suicide, its causes and prevention? It seems to me that we should first settle the question of whether demons exist before we debate suicide versus some other proximate cause of the mass drowning of two thousand porkers.

On the matter of mass drownings, the Gospel of Mark, being one of the synoptic accounts which relies on an anonymous source conventionally styled Quelle, contains about as many omissions as positive information about Jesus nd his deeds, leaving the critical reader high and dry, as it were, grounded on a shoal of unanswerable questions. For example, nobody seems to have demanded payment for the lost swine. Why? And why weren't the local people upset that their lake (not too many of those in Roman Palestine) was now polluted with hundreds if not thousands of rotting carcasses?

FIDO said...

I have no issue with Ms. Althouse asking questions of religion. I don't ascribe malice to her questions. I find blaming the readers about not caring about animal cruelty a bit of a stretch, considering that I am sure she has eaten her share of (non demon possessed hopefully) bacon.

johns said...

I’m sceptical. I don’t recall other stories where Jesus destroys other people’s property

mockturtle said...

As an atheist/agnostic for nearly half my life [the first half] I can confirm that belief is a spiritual discernment. Without a spiritual dimension, there is no faith. But there IS [she boldly asserts] a spiritual dimension in the universe.

Ann Althouse said...

"But it's your blog and I appreciate probably 50% of your material (not a music person) and the 50% I like, I REALLY like, so this is, despite your demon pig obsession, a 'go to' place for me every day."

Batting .500.

mockturtle said...

I’m sceptical. I don’t recall other stories where Jesus destroys other people’s property

How about overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple?

hombre said...

Althouse: "Option 3: Take note of a story that has been important in human culture, think about why it was written (including the possibility that its true or partly true)...."

Option 3 is a perfectly acceptable, if personal, exercise that has nothing to do with salvation unless carried too far.

Bay Area Guy said...

I'm sorry, I can't get into a debate on interpretations of the Bible -- I'm still stuck in gear on "non-gender-binary performance artist Emma Sulkowicz."

Her stupidity is draining the Jesus out of me.

Unknown said...

Let's be clear here: point 1 is that having a physical body is better than not having one. That's the entire promise of the Resurrection, is it not--that we will have a physical body forever and not just be spirits or ghosts?

The demons, devils, etc do not have physical bodies. Thus, they seek to possess ours . This man had allowed a Legion of demons to possess him. Jesus cast them out.... but took pity on the Demons, who He allowed to possess even a set of pigs... their bodies being better than nothing.

Of course, the pigs were smarter than the humans and upon being possessed, fled the only way they knew and over the cliff they went. Plus I imagine that possessing a pig is sufficiently different than a human that perhaps the demons couldn't control their bodies and the pigs nervous systems just turned on to "run".

Seeing as the Demons had to ask permission from Jesus to possess the pigs, it would appear that generally speaking animal possession is not allowed. Which is good news, frankly.

--Vance

Ann Althouse said...

"Btw I am old enough to know that a middle class "Episcopalian" in the 50s who had Playboy magazine on his coffee table at home was not normal behavior. Maybe as an Episcopalian you should read Terry Fullam's writings."

In the 50s, we were Presbyterian. We switched to Episcopalian when we moved to a new development where a new Episcopal Church was being built just a few blocks away and the vicar somehow became friends with my father. They'd sit around in our living room drinking together. My mother frequently told the anecdote that one time between the 2 of them on one night, they drank an entire bottle of Drambuie.

I think the Presbyterian church in Wilmington was chosen by my father's parents because of the location and quality and perhaps because it was more mainstream than where they came from, which was Lititz, Pennsylvania — and that means the Moravian Church.

I'm sorry I don't know more about the Moravian Church, but you can see that I was brought up to be on a modern trajectory. There was no shame around sex in my family and nothing creepy about it either. There was no heavy religion. We were taken to church. That's all. It wasn't an important subject to my parents. My mother came from a Methodist background, complete with Methodist preachers in the family, and was subjected to some heavy-handed Methodism from grandparents, which she did not like at all.

Think said...

The comment you quoted assumes that argument. What proof is there that humans were made in the image of God and not the hogs? Because a book says so? You shouldn't believe everything you read. Then to have the arrogance to call someone's brain scrambled for not coming to the same unsupported assumption you did, well, that speaks volumes of the person making the quote.

Think said...

"People have immortal souls.
Pigs may have souls, but they are not immortal. "

What evidence do you have to support either of these statements? Because a really old book said it was so?

Think said...

Quick test (don't look up the answer): Is "Thou shalt not steal" one of the 10 Commandments?

No, unless you count the commandments created by Hollywood and shown on TV every easter. But, not even the different myths of the 10 commandments contained in "God's book" can agree on what those commandments actually are.

Mike said...

Taking the story in its most literal sense, there seems to be a strange, hidden world with its own laws and contracts behind it.

Yes. It is referenced elsewhere in the Bible, an ongoing spiritual battle all around us. And there are rules. All spirits are subjugated to the Holy Spirit. What if there were people still walking the earth doing as the disciples did, waging spiritual battle in our corporeal world? Well, that’s the premise of a novel I’m writing that elucidates and illustrates this ongoing life and death struggle. In the exposition subjects such as UFOs, miracles, Divine intervention and other subjects are touched in and explained from the protagonist’s point of view. His name is Jonah Follows.

Quaestor said...

The Moravians, excellent baked goods and kickass firearms, as for their theology... meh.

walter said...

"..between the 2 of them on one night, they drank an entire bottle of Drambuie."
--
Holy ___!
Speaking in tongues by that point.

Quaestor said...

Jonah Follows.

Follows what? The usual jetsom then Jonah?

Quaestor said...

"..between the 2 of them on one night, they drank an entire bottle of Drambuie."

It's a miracle they weren't both violently sick on the carpet and seat cushions.

Mike said...

I’m sceptical. I don’t recall other stories where Jesus destroys other people’s property

Well he did rampage through the temple overturning tables, he stole the water at a wedding and changed it into wine and he tore the veil in the Holy of Holies.

[Gotta love autocorrect which gave me “Holy of Hokies” the fidget time thru.]

Birkel said...

I am stuck on Althouse's assertion that Sulkowicz has XXY chromosones.

I do not believe that is true.

FIDO said...

Okay, let's do this.

I'm stunned by the horribleness of that statement. For one thing, animal cruelty does matter, and driving 2,000 hogs into a suicidal frenzy is not explained by saying that human beings are more important than animals. For another thing, if you think human beings are so precious, why do you rush to conclude that they are not worth talking to?

This is what I call a 'vaporous cop out' (and yes, both sides do it. Or perhaps it would be better called a 'how dare you, sir!' sort of statement.

So for me, it is a null set.

We kill thousands of animals a day for our use...just as animals used to kill thousands of humans for THEIR use. I 'own the sin' if it is one of slaughtering animals and I doubt it is painless, though I am happy with 'as little pain as possible'.

(This reminds me of something Orson Scott Card posted. It was about a slaughterhouse who had a 'pig pile up' in one of their chutes as the pigs refused to go through it, causing a loss of production. It took an autistic girl going through the chute [what kind of job is that?] who determined that it was the reflective puddle in the chute which discombobulated the pigs from wanting to proceed (no doubt somehow related to Legion) I forget the point he was making...something about differing perspectives, but it has pigs, religion, animal cruelty, dead animals and water...so therefore has much more to do with the actual lede then say...talking bout KJV interpretations of pigs instead of Sulkowicz, so I win!)

AHEM!

I will go back to the main point: Humans constantly and regularly decide what is and is not more valuable to them. Animals, for ENORMOUS numbers of humans (including Hindus) are far lesser beings than humans, otherwise why would coming back as a mosquito be seen as a downgrade?

And we do it with human beings. Feminists care far more about their 5 cents on the dollar that is their 'wage gap' than they do about Afghan girls being educated, or Iraqi girls being thrown into rape rooms, otherwise, they would have stood FOR those wars helping the plight of women and not being against it.

But their hatred of Republicans far outweighed their desire to SUBSTANTIALLY better the lives of their fellow women.

I care about Americans more than I care about illegal aliens.

Now, I think murder is murder. That there is an ineffable image of God inside everyone, even Big Red the Toronto Feminist, but that does not mean I must inflict her personality on me by actually letting her scream at me, nor waste my time actually talking to that Image of God's Brick Wall, that is her mind.

I have stuff to do! (Which obviously includes blogging)

walter said...

Just announced! Trampled by Turtles
With Dead Horses
SUN, MAY 6, 7:30 PM | Capitol Theater

sparrow said...

Christ is God and existence is His property: you and I only lease it.

Mike said...

Ack. “First time thru”

Birkel said...

Assume divinity in directing demons into pigs.
Then, assume that the divine has stolen the thing.

Althouse lost the thread of divinity when she applied God's rules for men to God, Ximself.

Otto said...

Drinking back in the 50s ( again I am almost old enough to be to your father's age ) was not creepy even amongst middle class Christians, but a middle class Christian family, who went to church ,having a Playboy magazine in full display on their coffee table was considered "creepy". Not talking about merit here , but just 50s culture.

traditionalguy said...

It certainly is a highly bloggable scripture. It brings out the atheists who call demons mental illness. It brings out the Christian apologists that feel a need to defend Christianity. It starkly presents Jesus's claim to have God's authority over demons and diseases that drew his crowds to hear him teach as one who has authority, not as the scribes. Next question: Could he be the Messiah? The demons accused him of it.

Interestingly, The Professor picked the Gospel of Mark. That is the one that follows Jesus around about as a real man and tells us what he did. If you read Mark in J. B. Phillips translation, in one sitting, you will meet the man Jesus. He is one of a kind. He puts together the authority of God with the will to do good to suffering individuals and tell them the truth. That made him one of a kind.



dbp said...

I don't think one can fairly say that Jesus stole those pigs. He allowed the demons to possess the pigs. Literally, the demons stole the pigs. Does "Thou Shalt not steal" mean that one must take active measures to prevent theft?

I am not an expert on Jewish law, but my understanding of the prohibition on pork is that it is harmful and unclean. Wouldn't destroying pigs meant for Human consumption be more akin to plugging up wells which are known to contain harmful levels of arsenic?

Earnest Prole said...

The Professor picked the Gospel of Mark.

The book that endorses snake-handling.

FIDO said...

And watching Fox News muted, I see these 4 women with there incredibly short skirts. (CNN can't throw stones. They have Robin Meade, the last reason to spend any time on CNN).

I have to wonder how comfortable these ladies are being on television wearing such outfits. It does not seem like something they would likely select themselves.

That being said, I appreciate their professionalism and sacrifice.

(Hmm. Sacrifice, redeeming features, piggish thoughts...still more relevant to the lede than the Sulkowicz/Legion deviation)

Earnest Prole said...

I am stuck on Althouse's assertion that Sulkowicz has XXY chromosones. I do not believe that is true.

You can check for yourself at the link I dropped over on the other thread. She looks pretty XX to me.

Earnest Prole said...

Bad Lieutenant is going to shit when he finally wakes up this evening and reads this thread.

Roughcoat said...

"heavy-handed Methodism"

Hah hah hah!

Oh, wait. You're not joking.

This is the denomination that asks for a noodle casserole and a green jello salad to gain admission to Heaven. You hand your covered dish to St. Peter and you're in.

I know because I was confirmed in both the Methodist and the Catholic Church. I'm not going to explain that.

walter said...

Taking Pascal's wager to the next level..

Mike Sylwester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

Ann Althouse at 9:20 AM
The people in the area hated pigs, so killing the pigs was good

This story takes place in Gadarenes, which is off the Galilee Sea's east shore. In this area, the population was mostly non-Jewish and so commonly ate pork.

Mary Magdalene was from Gadarenes -- the consonant combination GDL is a variant of GDR.

In the original story, two people were possessed with demons.

* One was a man, and Jesus cast out his demons.

* The other was a woman, Mary Magdalena, and Jesus did not cast out her demons at that time.

That is why Mary Magdalena followed Jesus around -- so that He eventually would cast out her demons too. In the following story, Jesus heals a woman, Jairus's daughter, who suffers from chronic menstruation. I think that woman was Mary Magdalene.

Since she was from Gadarenes, she probably was not Jewish.

Birkel said...

Earnest Prole:
Take it up with Althouse. She is the one claiming Sulkowicz is non-binary. There are some XXY people so that would make sense of Althouse's assertion.

Otherwise, Althouse is just going along with the latest stupid fashion of pretending people with body dismorphia are other than mentally ill. All those anorexic folks are correct, one presumes, if Althouse is to be taken literally and seriously.

hombre said...

Blogger Think said...
"Quick test (don't look up the answer): Is "Thou shalt not steal" one of the 10 Commandments?"

Quick answer: Yes, but only for people who remember 8 on their way from 1 to 10.

Paddy O said...

"I'm stunned by the horribleness of that statement."

Me too. But, that's what comes in using online resources. The fact the writer quotes from a Bob Jones published commentary puts them on the farther end of even the conservative Christian spectrum. That kind of rhetoric isn't uncommon. It's also like quoting from "random guy with opinions on the law" in order to get an academic law question answered. So, it was a serious post, but not exactly what would work in a class on Biblical exegesis. Though, besides that last part, the writer gets as what I thought initially. The key bit being that they were unclean animals, thus on one hand, it was cruel (though not more cruel than their eventual end as food), on the other hand, it was a statement to the Jewish people, as it might be seen as cleansing the land from uncleanness. Thus, a exorcism that also emphasizes the Law.

One other key bit, though, is that sin is never seen as simply an isolated human experience in the Bible. It has an effect, and in Genesis, that effect is clearly stated to extend to the natural world. Demons lead toward death, that is their destination, so it was a very potent illustration of the effect of sin on the created world, and the trajectory of those who dally with demons. Jesus, of course, was there because, as John 3:16 puts it, God so loved the world (gk the cosmos). The world groans and suffers without the enacted redemptive work of Christ, but there is hope for the world because of the cross and resurrection.

At least that's what Christian doctrine has to say.

My earliest critical Bible question was where Cain got his wife.

The Bible leaves out a lot of details, because our questions in our era aren't necessarily the point of the stories.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"The 2000 figure is obviously not a literal number. That many pigs in that small an area would be uncontrollable. It was meant to just mean a large number of pigs."

This makes Mark sound like Donald Trump.

2/13/18, 10:23 AM


This also sounds like a Trumpian tactic:

Triple benefit, because the men with an economic interest in the pigs went and complained about it to the authorities, thus spreading and corroborating the news that Jesus was working miracles. Jesus didn't directly kill the pigs. He only spoke to the man. If you blame Jesus for killing 2,000 pigs, you are attributing a big miracle to him. And notice, these guys were mad at Jesus, so they were in no mood to praise him, which makes their story of the miracle more believable... UNLESS... there were no pigs and the complainers were on Jesus's side and spreading FAKE NEWS.



Blogger Earnest Prole said...
Bad Lieutenant is going to shit when he finally wakes up this evening and reads this thread.

I think the shitting has been accomplished in my absence. Althouse, when I told you to go read a book, I didn't mean you should then come back here and write a book report. Woman, can you not contemplate mysteries in SILENCE?

Oh now - there's the one unforgivable sin. You can rape a woman and she will forgive you faster than if you tell her to shut up. If it had been Roberta Frost she would have written:

Something there is that doesn't love a moment's peace and quiet

Roughcoat said...

mockturtle @9:23 AM:

Totally agree about he Book of Job. IMO one of the most profound works of literature anywhere, anytime, any language. Contains the deepest and most meaningful spiritual truths. Stylistically magnificent, powerful. So much so it almost makes me weep to read it. Expecially the KJV or RKVJ versions.

E.g., re the horse: "He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth forth to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha!; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting."

I mean, wow. Just. Wow.

Bad Lieutenant said...

dbp said...
I don't think one can fairly say that Jesus stole those pigs. He allowed the demons to possess the pigs. Literally, the demons stole the pigs. Does "Thou Shalt not steal" mean that one must take active measures to prevent theft?

I am not an expert on Jewish law, but my understanding of the prohibition on pork is that it is harmful and unclean. Wouldn't destroying pigs meant for Human consumption be more akin to plugging up wells which are known to contain harmful levels of arsenic?

2/13/18, 11:22 AM

On the narrow question of Jewish law: a Jew can own pigs, raise pigs, sell pigs or otherwise profit from the pigs. He merely may not eat pigs.

Roughcoat said...

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

"Where wast thou when I commanded in the voice of My Beloved Son 2000 pigs to drown themselves in the lake, that demons might be cast out"

Okay, I might have made up that last one.

walter said...

"a Jew can own pigs, raise pigs, sell pigs or otherwise profit from the pigs. He merely may not eat pigs."
Enabler!

n.n said...

Not scrambled, limited, due to a noisy communication channel, and inability or avoidance of authentication. Anyway, this is a matter of faith (one of four logical domains), which implies that you will not realize it alone.

walter said...

You'd think there would be a way to remove demons without implanting into potential bacon.

walter said...

Or sacrifice some rats..

Unknown said...

Mike Sylwester : minor correction here. Jesus was on his way to Jarius's house to deal with his daughter when the story with the woman with an issue of blood happened. It seriously confused the disciples, because of the "who touched me?" bit in a crowd.

That must have been an exhausting day for Jesus. He inadvertently cured the woman with an issue of blood (it took 'virtue" out of Him to do so) and then He raised a child from the dead.

But then, He went about doing good.

--Vance

Bad Lieutenant said...

From https://orangeraisin.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/discerning-elimination/

In Rex Stout’s The League of Frightened Men, the reclusive criminological genius Nero Wolfe answers a criticism from his assistant that he has neglected to follow certain promising leads in their current case:

“In the labyrinth of any problem that confronts us, we must select the most promising paths; if we attempt to follow all at once we shall arrive nowhere. In any art – and I am an artist or nothing – one of the deepest secrets of excellence is a discerning elimination. Of course that is a truism.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes. Take the art of writing. I am, let us say, describing the actions of my hero rushing to greet his beloved, who has just entered the forest. He sprang up from the log on which he had been sitting, with his left foot forward; as he did so, one leg of his trousers fell properly into place but the other remained hitched up at the knee. He began running towards her, first his right foot, then his left, then his right again, then left, right, left, right, left, right…As you see, some of that can surely be left out – indeed must be, if he is to accomplish his welcoming embrace in the same chapter. So the artist must leave out vastly more than he puts in, and one of his chief cares is to leave out nothing vital to his work.”

Wolfe is obviously correct, at least insofar as his observation applies to the art of writing. (How it applies to the art of detection, I couldn’t say.) But I would extend it by adding that the amount of detail the artist elects to put in or leave out is a question of style.


Everything isn't being spoon-fed to you. If nothing else, the Bible would be a foot thick, or a fathom, or as thick as the tax code, and nobody would read it.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Continued:

Wolfe is obviously correct, at least insofar as his observation applies to the art of writing. (How it applies to the art of detection, I couldn’t say.) But I would extend it by adding that the amount of detail the artist elects to put in or leave out is a question of style.

I’m not sure if the theorists of literature have devised a name for this element of a writer’s style, so let’s call it granularity. The fine-grained writer will include more details of his characters’ actions, of their inner thoughts, of their surroundings, while the coarse-grained writer will include fewer. The parodic extreme of the fine-grained technique would be Wolfe’s narration of the hero’s tortured progress toward his lover in the forest: “First his right foot, then his left, then his right again…”

(…Which, as shown by that excerpt from The Maltese Falcon, is not that much of a parody.)

Its polar opposite, the quintessence of coarse-grainedness, would be a bare plot outline: “She meets him in the forest. They make love. Afterward…”

This isn’t to say that the fine-grained style is more precise, let alone better. A fine-grained but clumsy writer will include every detail of a character’s action but the one that matters; a talented coarse-grained writer will include that detail and no others, and the reader will be perfectly satisfied.

Unknown said...

Walter, that's true. This is the only time that I know of that Jesus or anyone else allowed the demons to go possess something else; usually the demons were removed without fanfare.

So why did Jesus make an exception here? I suspect that there needed to be a public display of proof that the devils were gone. This poor guy who was possessed was apparently notorious--he broke every chain meant to hold him down, he was clearly intelligible (not raving all the time) because he could speak coherently.

After his cure, the man wanted to come and follow Jesus, but the Lord forbade, asking him to testify of the Lord in his local community. In other words, the Lord turned him into a missionary. To do that effectively, everyone needed to know he had been cured--without doubt.

Why couldn't anyone just say that this man, known to be possessed of the devil, was lying about Jesus? That the demons were trying to trick anyone? Because everyone knew that the demons were gone--they had been driven into the pigs, and that was abundantly clear. The man had been possessed of the demons, and the demons had most emphatically been driven out--and everyone knew where they went. Into the pigs.

The pigs suicide showed 1)they actually had been possessed by the demons, since pigs don't suicide normally and 2) the demons were still not allowed to possess something for long. They weren't rewarded with a body of even a pig for long. Yet this man could now testify as to the power of the Lord, who could command even a legion of demons and they had to obey. And who could question it, since it was very public and very much witnessed?

And even more: the story has impact in today's world where we attribute demon possession to mental illness and such. Last I checked, schizophrenia is not contagious nor transferable. If this story happened as described, it cannot be chalked up to a mental disorder--it had to be demon possession. For mental illnesses do not just jump from a person to a herd of swine. I sometimes wonder if that is the real reason we have this story--to ensure that it truly is a miraculous event and cannot be just chalked up to Jesus "curing" some poor mental patient.

--Vance

James K said...

I am not an expert on Jewish law, but my understanding of the prohibition on pork is that it is harmful and unclean.

Harmful and unclean only in the spiritual sense, and only to Jews. So no grounds for breaking the law to keep non-Jews from eating pork.

Ann Althouse said...

“But are you saying God can't break a law he made? That God can sin?”

I think Jesus presented himself as following the law, sometimes with arguments that were questioned. He did not claim to be allowed to break rules that were binding on others. Maybe you can think of something I’m forgetting.

We presume he never did anything wrong, but that just challenges you to explain why. I understand rejecting the challenge on the who-can-know-the-mind-of-God conversational off ramp, but I’m interested in hearing from those who don’t opt out.

walter said...

Do rats "suicide normally"?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

1. How did Althouse learn Legion and the pigs if not from a sermon or Sunday school lesson?
2. FDR killed a lot more than 2000 hogs, something on the order of 6 million.
3. In what sense did Jesus steal the pigs? (I do love it when Althouse trolls her own blog).

Ann Althouse said...

I note that the pigs were enlisted into a demon-fighting army and they died in a short, successful battle. In this interpretation, the pigs are ennobled, elevated from the lowly existence of pigdom.

It’s not only that the man was cured: 2,000 demons were destroyed in seconds, thanks to pigs.

And that’s why we eat bacon.

Just so.

William said...

Hogs aren't herded. They live in styles and are slopped. There is nothing ennobling or picturesque about slopping hogs, but it's a living. My heart goes out to those Biblical pig sloppers who were so suddenly and irrevocably denied their livelihood........ Also, I'm sure that if Jesus lived in our more enlightened times, he would have thought of a better way of disposing of the pigs than by drowning. Perhaps donation to a food bank for lepers. Lepers have a hard time getting food. It's particularly sad to see the little leper children try to feed themselves after their fingers have fallen off. They are a group of people who would truly enjoy a pulled pork sandwich. Such a waste.

sparrow said...

"I note that the pigs were enlisted into a demon-fighting army and they died in a short, successful battle. In this interpretation, the pigs are ennobled, elevated from the lowly existence of pigdom.

It’s not only that the man was cured: 2,000 demons were destroyed in seconds, thanks to pigs.

And that’s why we eat bacon.

Just so."

Funny the vision of Peter is the reason for eating bacon "Do not call unclean what I have made clean"
As for the destruction/use of the property to effect charity: Christ allowed it certainly. The prohibitions on animal cruelty where part of what Christ called the "your tradition" which He frequently ignored, many times. He was not a respecter of traditional rules and you're right that's not easy to explain away either without reference to divinity. He didn't ritually wash his hands or observe the Sabbath strictly. It's in keeping with scripture generally that Jesus broke minor rules. He was refocusing his people on what mattered most, loving God. Here He shows great authority and power, the pigs are a side effect, that I'll grant is puzzling but not out of place.

sparrow said...

It's best to own the point clearly: Jesus broke the traditional rules and this is another example. The typical explanation is that those are the rules o men: the burdens men have laid on each other, and not the law of God who made man aster of the beasts. Interesting I would not have noticed this story as an example. There are others: the talking of the colt for Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is another example. "The Lord hath need of it"

66 said...

"I think Jesus presented himself as following the law, sometimes with arguments that were questioned. He did not claim to be allowed to break rules that were binding on others. Maybe you can think of something I’m forgetting."

Examples of Jesus's law breaking that come quickly to mind: he touched (and healed) a leper, who was by law unclean (Luke 5:12); he permitted his disciples to pluck grain on the sabbath (Matthew 12:1); he performed healings on the sabbath (Luke 13:10).

CR said...

I’ve heard that the name Legion links the demons to the Roman soldiers who occupied Palestine. The fate of the demons and pigs was symbolic of exorcising the land of the Roman legions.

walter said...

Next time you pop the cap off the Drambuie, consider Pigs caught in in the middle

Rusty said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"I note that the pigs were enlisted into a demon-fighting army and they died in a short, successful battle. In this interpretation, the pigs are ennobled, elevated from the lowly existence of pigdom.

It’s not only that the man was cured: 2,000 demons were destroyed in seconds, thanks to pigs.

And that’s why we eat bacon.

Just so."

Verily.
Tis better to slay a thousand pigs than to let a deamon roam free.
Amen



Pass the bacon, please.

sparrow said...

Jesus pushed the people very hard to recognize that He was not merely a teacher. He acted with power and authority and is only justified if He is the Christ. Flaunting minor traditional rules are part of that demonstration of who He is and how he tests others. They must see beyond the details to the great works of power in order to recognize Him.

Mike said...

All the law breaking examples 66 lists above are a good illustration of how Jesus demonstrated obeying God and rejecting the Pharissees’ “Traditions” which took on the weight of law in that culture. Some were so onorous that they required clever work-arounds. Some continue into modern Hewish enclaves where strings throughout Manhattan keep “observant Jews” at “home” on the Sabbath. But touching a string is not really “being at home” and so Jesus paid little respect to the hypocritical Pharisees. I endorse the use of hypocrit here as it is fully in context. Jesus was good at the juxtapositioning of his actions like “feeding the flock” that violated one of the “laws” the Sanhedrin made up with God’s exhortation to care for one another.

Unknown said...

Jesus was God in the flesh. He was the Author of the law of Moses. Did He do anything wrong? No, He was the perfect human who never committed sin.

The Law of Moses was a strict taskmasker, but it was always subordinate to the higher law. And sometimes technical violations of the Law in service of a higher law were necessary. Jesus explained once that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day; even if the Law technically would have forbidden it. When the Law got in the way of following the Gospel, then the Law could be ignored and it not count as sin. "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."

Most of Jesus' violations revolved around the Law of the Sabbath Day. As He pointed out, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. And the point of the Sabbath day was to give mankind a day to focus on the Lord and His works and to do His will, rather than the other six days of scratching out a living. Thus, doing good is lawful on the Sabbath, even if it's not technically "restful."

The Law of Moses focused on the "Thou Shalt Not's", but the Law of the Gospel that Jesus reintroduced focused on the "Thou shalts." The Law of Moses focused on stopping people from sinning, while the Gospel focuses on what to do instead. For someone who is a faithful follower of Christ and His gospel, the Law of Moses is superflous (as a moral code, that is. The saving ordinances clearly mattered a great deal until after Jesus's resurrection). Someone going about doing good shouldn't be held to strict obedience to the details of a law concerned with not doing bad things. Walking 10,000 feet on the Sabbath is a bad thing if you are pursuing your own goals... but if it is helping to carry a load for the widow next door? Why should the Lord of all count it against you? Thus it is not a sin nor a violation of the law, or shouldn't be.

Finally, some laws simply didn't apply to Jesus. He was crucified because He claimed to be God, a mortal sin of blasphemy under the Law of Moses. Were the leaders of the Jews correct in crucifying him over this? Well, if He was a mere man, then yes, they were right. But He was more than a mere man, He was correct in His claim to be God... so it wasn't blasphemy. He talked to the dead, also a sin.... for someone else, not for Him. And so forth.

He was indeed the perfect man, and thus could qualify to offer up a vicarious sacrifice, voluntarily, for the rest of us.
--Vance

Kristian Holvoet said...

The Bible should be taken seriously but not literally.

There are idioms that suffer in translation. 'Forgive 70x7 times' doesn't mean up to 490, but after 491 you are free to stay offended.


Earnest Prole said...

Jesus was God in the flesh.

I've always been a little hazy on how Jesus, God in the flesh, would be capable of uttering the words “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” By definition, God is an all-knowing being, and Jesus had the added advantage of asking the question of himself.

Unknown said...

Ah Earnest, That is a great question. Ask a 1000 Christians, get likely 1100 different answers. The answer I give is that there are in fact three divine beings--God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Jesus was God the Son, and He was in fact in flesh... and thus he prayed to His Father, God the Father. Simple.

The problem is of course that God is one.... so I define it as one in purpose, action, and thought. But not literally the exact same being.

If you ask other Christians, they'll refer to the Nicene Creed and basically admit they don't know and it's impossible to know and figure out. One of the mysteries. But the Bible itself strongly suggests that there are three distinct individuals that make up God. Witness the stoning of Stephan, who saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. He wasn't standing on His own hand, in my opinion.

--Vance

hombre said...

Althouse: "I understand rejecting the challenge on the who-can-know-the-mind-of-God conversational off ramp, but I'm interested in hearing from those who don't opt out."

"Who can know the mind of God" isn't an "off ramp." It is a cautionary admonition for the arrogant.

Char Char Binks said...

Were the pigs cured? If not, what a waste of bacon!

Earnest Prole said...

The problem is of course that God is one.... so I define it as one in purpose, action, and thought. But not literally the exact same being.

I understand the three-in-one doctrine. What I don't understand is how Christ, all-knowing by virtue of being God, mistakenly thought God the Father had forsaken him.

mockturtle said...

"Who can know the mind of God" isn't an "off ramp." It is a cautionary admonition for the arrogant.

You and I know that, hombre, and as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;"

walter said...

I suppose it can be construed as an off ramp similar to appeal to authority.
"Don't you know who I am?"

Paddy O said...

Earnest, I'll throw a couple thoughts into the 1100 answer pile.

One, is that he's quoting Psalm 22. Which he likely is (or at least the Gospel writer has him doing that). Quoting initial words of a passage can be understood as implying the whole.

Second [if that first one didn't solve all the difficulties], it was the experience of relational separation that was part of the experience of suffering/judgment. We can see this as the isolation from the Father's intimate presence, and/or we can see this as reflecting Jesus entering into the experience of death. The Father won't die, the Spirit won't die, but Jesus experiences what death is in full, thus feeling the forsakenness of death.

In entering into death, the story doesn't end, but Jesus brings the presence of God into the experience, thus life again (resurrection) and the firstborn from the dead. Jesus goes where God, by definition, cannot go, and being God, brings God's presence even to those places God can't be, and thus that is the hope for the world, as God can go and will go in all places for the purpose of redemption.

That moment is also a key reason why Christianity needs a doctrine like the Trinity, rather than can suffice with modalism (God is one person with three "hats" or "faces")

Paddy O said...

In other words, for that second answer, Jesus wasn't mistaken, for him to experience death he had to actually experience forsakenness, and all that meant, but that wasn't the end of the tale, so the answer to the momentary question was later answered with "I haven't."

Jesus was obedient, even unto death, and so God exalted him to the highest place.

buwaya said...

The pigs were property.

God does not respect property.

Its called "an act of God" in the insurance biz, for a reason.

Unknown said...

Paddy O gives good answers. I'll expand a bit. There are two kinds of death: physical death and spiritual death. Adam and the F all caused both deaths. Physical death: our spirit separates from our body. Everyone dies, it's part of this world. No matter how good or bad we are, we all are going to die. Jesus came to fix that problem--we all are going to be resurrected, because Jesus died but could come back to life.

The second is spiritual death... or separation from God. We are not living with God; we are unable to fully access His power and grace. Why? Because we all sin... and no unclean thing can dwell with God. Jesus came to offer us a path back. As such, He suffered for our sins in our place. He takes our punishment for us; and if we follow Him then that sacrifice becomes effective for us. Thus, Jesus saves us all, if we but choose to follow Him.

But He had to suffer all for us, including loneliness, desolation, and the crushing weight of the complete absence of God in His life, just as some of us here on earth suffer. He had to experience what being isolated and abandoned by God felt like so He could succor us in our own moments.
Also, as our Redeemer, Jesus had to do the work Himself. To Him fell the need to trod the winepress alone, and He had to conquer Death and Hell by Himself, voluntarily. Thus at some point, God the Father had to let His Son work it out by Himself. And work it out He did, and thus became the Author and Finisher of the faith, and our Redeemer. He knows what it is like to be sorrowful, to be pained, lonely and lost, because He experienced it worse than we can possibly imagine. He can succor us, heal us, because He knows what we are going through--no one better. As Isaiah stated, by His stripes we are healed, for Jesus knows how to cure all ills if we but let Him.

That's a partial answer, but I hope it helps.

--Vance

Howard said...

Jesus, Earnest Prole, why so dense? The particle-wave duality of Jesus being both G_d and M_n at the same time is the whole hook necessary to justify eating cracker and wine. Duality (not trinity) what make his time on cross real sacrificial because he think human and suffered human. OUCH! It the whole purpose behind Marty's most excellent "Last Temptation of Christ".

Earnest Prole said...

It the whole purpose behind Marty's most excellent "Last Temptation of Christ".

I didn't see Marty in that one, but I loved him in Back to the Future. I should have realized that if you can master the space-time continuum, you can also master particle-wave duality.

pdug said...

Ann, did you read Rene Girard on the Demoniac? He's the scapegoat for the society.

FIDO said...

I think Jesus presented himself as following the law, sometimes with arguments that were questioned. He did not claim to be allowed to break rules that were binding on others. Maybe you can think of something I’m forgetting.

One of the more controversial of His teachings at the time was when is Followers violated some Sabbath law and He was called on it.


The doctrine he laid out was 'The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath.'

Which is suggestive but not incontrovertible.

Think said...

All this debate about mythical figures. Trying to make sense of the nonsensical. It sure is fun to watch, when you know the easiest answer to all of it is the simplest. None of it is based in fact, so it doesn't need to make sense. It is like watching people debate a plot hole in The Last Jedi, but with the starting presumption that it is non-fiction.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Happy now, Althouse, with your serious answers to what you will pretend were serious questions?

Mark said...

Too bad I missed this. And too bad that right off the bat, people say things that indicate that they hadn't bothered to read explanations that were given before. Including those who say things like, "I think the failure to take on the pig story is mostly evidence that people want to believe the Bible and seeing a loose thread hanging, choose not to pull."

In fact, a few people in the prior discussion did see the thread and ventured to be curious about it and pondered its meaning.

It's enough to wonder if trying to have a real discussion here is pointless.

The Godfather said...

The part of this story that I've always thought was most interesting was not what happened to the demons or the pigs, but that the demons ("Legion") called Jesus: "son of the High God" (or "son of the Most High God"). Even the followers of Jesus didn't think of Jesus as the divine son of God; they thought he was a great but human prophet (for example, in the transfiguration story Peter equates Jesus with Moses and Elijah). It wasn't until after the Resurrection that Jesus' followers began to come to grips with the fact (or "claim", if you prefer) that he was more than that (Jesus said to Thomas touch my wounds and "Just believe", and Thomas called him, "My Lord and my God!"). The "Legion" story seems to imply that long before this there was a supernatural telegraph about who Jesus was that demons and angels could read, but the disciples couldn't. Yet.

traditionalguy said...

The theology force is strong in the comments today. That messy exorcism stuff always challenges religious men no end . But remember Jesus announced his anointing for his Prophesied ministry after his cousin John's baptism to be the start right then and there of His being the reigning Messiah and
Son of God, with all authority the given to Him in scriptures written in Prophets and in King David's Psalms.

So whether he kept the Law of Moses correctly or not is a joke. Get over it. And go cast out some demons the correct polite way. The guy who was set free and lived a normal life with out his demons was thankful and never looked for rules Jesus broke.

Mark said...

Pigs were unclean, according to Jewish law. So the owners of the pigs were already dealing with contraband.

They weren't in Jewish territory, but Gentile territory.

Why wasn't Jesus so powerful that he could cure the man without killing 2,000 pigs?

Jim Baird explained within seven minutes of your comment this morning that it was NOT Jesus who caused the swine to be killed, but the demons that entered into them.

The people in the area hated pigs, so killing the pigs was good

See above. This was not Judea, but a Gentile Greco-Roman area, the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee, where they had both swine and swine-herders, as the next passage says.

As I noted last night when YoungHegelian brought it up, this is an interesting passage and a bit of mystery about the significance of the swine, exactly how and why they happened to be there. Something to ponder -- and devote more than 30 seconds of thought to it.

One explanation about the demise of the swine is that, unlike humans, the demons were unable to control the swine, who being beasts, freaked out and stampeded into the sea.

Now, of course, this was not the first exorcism that Jesus performed. In Mark 1:21-28 he freed a man from a spirit or spirits who likewise used the plural “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” And upon Jesus' command, they immediately came out of the man. So, no, Jesus did not "negotiate" with the demons to go into the swine.



Paddy O said...

"the easiest answer to all of it is the simplest."

But that's not the answer you gave. Because you still have to explain a lot of human still. Why did the followers of Jesus become radicalized and (to the person) die for the sake of saying what they were believing? And they kept growing and growing all along.

Earnest Prole said...

Happy now, Althouse, with your serious answers to what you will pretend were serious questions?

Lewis Wetzel said...

McClaren's commentary is insightful:
Another difficulty has been raised as to Christ’s right to destroy property. It was very questionable property, if the owners were Jews. Jesus owns all things, and has the right and the power to use them as He will; and if the purposes served by the destruction of animal life or property are beneficent and lofty, it leaves no blot on His goodness. He used His miraculous power twice for destruction-once on a fig-tree, once on a herd of swine. In both cases, the good sought was worth the loss. Whether was it better that the herd should live and fatten, or that a man should be delivered, and that he and they who saw should be assured of his deliverance and of Christ’s power? ‘Is not a man much better than a sheep,’ and much more than a pig? They are born to be killed, and nobody cries out cruelty. Why should not Christ have sanctioned this slaughter, if it helped to steady the poor man’s nerves, or to establish the reality of possession and of his deliverance? Notice that the drowning of the herd does not appear to have entered into the calculations of the unclean spirits. They desired houses to live in after their expulsion, and for them to plunge the swine into the lake would have defeated their purpose. The stampede was an unexpected effect of the commingling of the demonic with the animal nature, and outwitted the demons. ‘The devil is an ass.’
https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/mark-5.html

Rabel said...

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you"

- J.C.

Earnest Prole said...

Another difficulty has been raised as to Christ’s right to destroy property. It was very questionable property, if the owners were Jews.

It's always sobering to see the old, buck-naked anti-Semitism, strutting proudly about without the slightest thought of shrouding itself.

Howard said...

Pryor on Jews vs Jesus

Lewis Wetzel said...


"It's always sobering to see the old, buck-naked anti-Semitism, strutting proudly about without the slightest thought of shrouding itself."
Your ignorance has resulted in your speech being incomprehensible, Earnest Prole.

Mark said...

Another question --

What is the significance of the water that the swine ran into? Water recalls the Flood, where sin was washed away, and the Red Sea, where enemies of God were washed away. Water is a symbol of death. Water is also a symbol of life. Particularly new life in the water of baptism.

So where does that get us?

Scriptural exegesis is much better when you reflect seriously on it rather than descending into snark.

Henry said...

Althouse said... Just so.

touché

Henry said...

In the Norwegian version, it's 2,000 lemmings.

Anonymous said...

"Earnest Prole said...

"I've always been a little hazy on how Jesus, God in the flesh, would be capable of uttering the words 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'"

What, don't you ever talk to yourself?

Anonymous said...

"Bad Lieutenant said...

"A Jew can own pigs, raise pigs, sell pigs or otherwise profit from the pigs. He merely may not eat pigs."

Nope. Jews are forbidden to raise pigs:

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/976496/jewish/May-a-Jew-Raise-Swine.htm

It would be interesting to look into whether this prohibition was clear in Jesus' time; however, the Talmud claims it goes back to 67 BC.

Unknown said...

http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2018/02/13

Anonymous said...

I went and checked the commentaries I have access to on this passage. Most do not focus on the detail of the 2000 pigs, but the passage offers some clues.

- The demon says they are legion, or many. For 2000 pigs to be possessed and driven mad implies at least 2000 demons having possessed the man in question if one is being literal about it. But even symbolically it signifies a lot of demons.

- Curing a demoniac is notable, but curing one of a host of demons that large and ferocious enough to drive 2000 pigs to their death indicates the degree of power Jesus has over the demons and would have signified it to the people of that city.

- The use of pigs makes a point mainly with respect to the demons. It is true they are considered unclean in both Jewish and many Eastern religions, but the point is not so much the death of unclean animals as it is the point that the demons would rather inhabit one of the lowest of creatures than be banished to Hell.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I always found that Gospel story unsettling too. I enjoyed reading the many thoughtful and knowledgeable responses in this thread very much.

Earnest Prole, what is anti-Semitic about that statement? Pigs would indeed have been "very questionable property" for Jews to own.

Another unsettling story from Mark: when Jesus cures a blind man, the man tells him he sees people and they look like "trees walking." In one of his books, Oliver Sacks brought up that story because of his experience with a patient who had been blind for most of his life and mysteriously gained the sense of sight. You'd think a blind man would be thrilled to have vision but Sacks' patient grew more and more disoriented, because he did not know what he was looking at. He had to close his eyes and touch something to know what it was - a brick wall, a puppy, a car, a sofa. Sighted people have a store of visual references built up from infancy, which he did not have, so his orderly sightless existence suddenly became chaotic and confusing and frightening. Sacks said he actually seemed to will himself to be blind again.

That story did indeed make me think of Jesus curing the blind. Christians have assumed for 2000 that the blind were delighted to be cured. Mark's story hints at something a bit more ambiguous.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Why does the possessed man refer to himself as both singular and plural? He doesn't say "Our name is legion . . ."

Mark said...

"I've always been a little hazy on how Jesus, God in the flesh, would be capable of uttering the words 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'"

Jesus -- having taken humanity's suffering upon himself in a real way, not as some divine cheat, because while fully God is also fully human -- is praying Psalm 22. In this way, he identifies with those who have lost hope, entering into their despair himself.

Mark said...

To put it in context -

The sea into which the possessed swine ran had been calmed by Jesus when a violent storm arose while He and the Apostles were crossing.

Then after this episode, Jesus cures a woman with a hemorrhage -- blood being the Jewish sign of life itself -- and he also raises from the dead the daughter of Jairus, just as He had restored the possessed man to new life.

Mark said...

Christians have assumed for 2000 that the blind were delighted to be cured. Mark's story hints at something a bit more ambiguous.

Imagine being Lazarus after being raised from the dead. A lot of his neighbors would have reacted like he was something out of the Twilight Zone or the movie Highlander. Coming back from four days dead just doesn't happen.

Or does it?

Unknown said...

Christians have assumed for 2000 that the blind were delighted to be cured.

Think said...

"But that's not the answer you gave. Because you still have to explain a lot of human still. Why did the followers of Jesus become radicalized and (to the person) die for the sake of saying what they were believing? And they kept growing and growing all along."

So if people become radicalized or die for their beliefs, their beliefs must be real? Or if a religion grows it must have the truth? How do you not see the paradox in that, being that hundreds of religions fit all three criteria, yet all cannot co-exist as being true. Take muslims and Christians, for the easits example.

Anonymous said...

The professor said: For one thing, animal cruelty does matter, and driving 2,000 hogs into a suicidal frenzy is not explained by saying that human beings are more important than animals


Here's your first problem: If merely killing animals in order to improve a human life counts as "animal cruelty" to you, then the vast majority of non-vegetarians are simply going to ignore anything you have to say on the concept of "animal cruelty."

Did Jesus torture them? Put them in a cage to fight with dogs, and be ripped to shreds? No, he simply caused them to run into a lake and be drowned. i'm pretty sure most hogs suffer worse at the slaughterhouse.

And I'm pretty sure I've eaten over 2000 pigs worth of bacon, and no, I don't feel any guilt over it.

In short: you got a dismissive response because that is what was warranted. Taking the "unclean spirits" out of a human, and giving him a functional life, if easily worth the death of any number of animals, to anyone who's not a vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

"So convenient for the story to put the pigs — the evidence — at the bottom of the lake."

1: Um, dead bodies float to the top
2: The town elders would have known whether or not the complainers were lying (small town, everyone knows what everyone is doing). They kicked Jesus out for the actions, so apparently they believed the complainers

"Now, can we discuss the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin?"

Sure: the question is "do angels have substance, or are they pure spirit?
If "pure spirit", then any number can dance on the dead of a pin. If they have substance, then too many angels dancing would lead to them bumping into each other, and some getting forced off