The King of Stories -- Enemy Forces

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Enemy Forces

Now on that day (the Follower says, followed by the Disciple and the Scholar), when the evening had come, He said to them, "Let us go across the lake, to the other side."

So He and His disciples stepped into boats, and leaving the crowds His disciples brought Him along, as He was; for as they sailed He fell asleep.

Now it happens, a tornado (a 'whirl of wind') descends on the lake!--and the sea is shaking and billows dash into the boat, so that it already fills to the brim!--and they are in danger of foundering!

But He is asleep on the cushion in the aft of the ship!

And they are rousing Him saying to Him: "Rabbi! Do you not care that we are about to die!?! Save us, Master!!"

Now He, being roused, rebukes the wind and the surging water, saying: "Be muzzled!! Be still!"

And they cease.

And it became calm.

Now He said to them, "Why are you so afraid, little believers? Where is your faith??"

And they were afraid--with a great fear.

And they said to each other: "What kind of thing is this!? Who is this man, who even commands enjoining the wind and water, and consequently they obey him?!?" [See first comment below for a footnote here.]

And they sailed down into the country of the Gerasenes, which is across from Galilee; coming out onto the land near Gergesa. [See second comment below for a footnote here.]


Now--there were two demented men living among the tombs near the city, so ferocious that no one was strong enough to be using that road for travel through the area.

One of them, a man of that city, was exceptionally fierce; many times he had been bound with fetters and chains, but he would crush the fetters and pull apart the chains and be driven by the demon into the wilderness where he wore no clothes for a considerable time, constantly crying and gashing himself with stones night and day among the hills and tombs.

Now when Jesus stepped out of the boat, He was met immediately by one demented man who cried, "What shall You be doing with us, Son of God!? Have You come to torment us before the time!?!"

And when the exceptionally fierce demoniac saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and threw himself on the ground prostrate before him, shouting: "What will you be doing with me, Jesus Son of God Most High!? Swear an oath that You will not torment me!"

For Jesus had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the (other) man.

Now He inquired of it, "What is your name?"

And it is saying to Him: "Legion is my name, for we are many!" And it begged Him strenuously not to send it out of the land, into the swirling depths.

Now a considerable herd of hogs, about two thousand, grazed nearby upon a mountainside; and the demons begged Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us among the hogs that we may enter into them!"

And He said to them: "Go!" And departing, the unclean spirits went away into the hogs.

Yet look!--the herd rushes down the precipice into the lake and was strangled. (Out of the land and into the 'swirling depths' after all...)

Now the herdsmen, seeing what had happened, fled and reported in the city and fields nearby. And a crowd from the city and countryside near Gergesa came out to see what had happened; and coming toward Jesus they found the man from whom the Legion went out, clothed and sane, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

And they were afraid.

Now those who had seen what had happened told the others how this had happened with the demented man, and with the herd of hogs.

But the crowd began imploring Him to go away out of their region, for they were greatly pressed by fear.

Now Jesus returns to the boat, stepping into it.

But as He is stepping into the boat, the demoniac begged Him to let him be with Him.

Yet He does not let him, but sends him away, saying: "Go home, to yours, and tell them how much God does for you and how He is merciful to you."

And he went away, heralding down through the whole Decapolis, how much Jesus does for him.

And all marveled.

[See third footnote below for a comment here.]

Matthew 8:23-34
Matthew 9:1a
Mark 4:35-41
Mark 5:1-20
Luke 8:22-39

[Next time: Knights and King, Errant]


Jason Pratt said…
.......[first deferred footnote here]

Concerning the 'whirl of wind'--I was surprised to discover that this appears to have been a tornado; whirlwinds and funnelclouds have often been considered embodiments of demonic forces, hostile or at best neutral. Jesus rebukes it like a demon, too: 'be muzzled', or smothered or even strangled. There is deep irony that Jesus is not reported saying this to the subsequent Legion demons, yet they end up smothered anyway in the swirling depths--which they had been trying to avoid. There is probably an echo of a house being divided against itself falling, here; including the 'unclean' animals undermining the plans of the unclean spirits!
Jason Pratt said…
.......[second deferred footnote here]

Gergesa is a town on the southeastern shore of Lake Galilee; known now as Khersa. This was part of the Decapolis ('Ten Town') region, overlapping the region known more formally as Perea, east of the River Jordan and somewhat south of Galilee Lake.

One town in the Decapolis confederation was Gerasa; about sixty miles inland southeast of Galilee Lake in the center of the Decapolis region (thus easily lending its name to the region).

Copies of GosMatt sometimes refer this story to the town/region of Gadara. There was a Gadara in southeast Syria, but it doesn't seem likely to have been connected to the Decapolis. Possibly another town even further south of Gerasa may have been named Gadara, capital of the Perean region which naturally overlapped somewhat with the loose Decapolis group. The town now known as Umm Qays, considerably closer to Lake Galilee than Gerasa (about ten miles southeast of the lake, past the river Yarmuk), has sometimes been identified as Gadara.

Obviously, there is some dispute about what exactly GosMatt (or some of its copyists) meant by Gadara.

All textual witnesses of the Synoptic Gospels are mixed as to naming the region, in fact, probably due to later copyists trying to make clarifications to general information given in the original documents. The loose naming conventions of the time factor into this; especially if the authors (and/or subsequent copyists) expected different audiences to know of the region according to different names. Add to this variant spellings--I commonly misspell Gerasa myself (I keep wanting it to be Gesera)!

So, I have given the clearest harmonization that I can figure with respect to the sources.

The eastern population of Lake Galilee tended to be regarded as 'pagan', although a healthy population of Jews may have lived in the towns as well, especially on the eastern lakeshore towns. The herdsmen of the hogs of this story certainly aren't kosher Jews!
Jason Pratt said…
.......[third deferred footnote here]

Concerning the demonic legion--at face value, GosMatt frankly looks to have misunderstood the incident to mean two men instead of one man with many demons. However, I have given him the benefit of the doubt, especially because of another situation much later in the story where two blind men are mentioned by an author but only one is named and given priority by other authors--presumably because he was someone the audience would likely have heard of afterward. In such a way, one prominent person, known to the audience, can end up eclipsing the existence of a second person.

Plus, having a second demoniac would explain why the Legion doesn't seem to leave after the first command--a curious detail simply reported and passed over by Mark and Luke, who may not have known about a second man, while Matthew includes a second man and not the apparent failure of a command. Thus a stereoscopic answer can be pieced together from the disparate narratives--a strong sign of a larger more coherent story (or history) the authors are working from. Also, Matthew doesn't include the request of the man dispossessed of the Legion to follow Jesus, nor Jesus' commission sending the man to witness among the Gadarenes--yet texts of GosMatt are more likely than others to refer to the Gadarenes rather than the more specific (and accurate) Gergesa.

At any rate, I have attempted to test-write this out. Keep in mind the 'second man' may still be just a misunderstanding, though, by GosMatt's author/final compiler.

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