9. The Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20)
The subject of demons and demon possession has always seemed somewhat remote and academic to sophisticated 20th century Americans. Bible-believing Christians have always accepted the fact of demons and their activity in New Testament times, but most of us are inclined to relegate demonic activity in these days to pagan lands and missionary experiences.
In recent years the matter has been getting uncomfortably close to home. My office mate of several years back was interrupted by a young and very zealous new Christian teacher accompanied by a student from whom she wanted my friend to cast out a demon. Not long after that, while I was still a student in seminary, there was a car parked by the seminary in a somewhat suspicious manner and I called the police to check it out. Five squad cars converged on it. I felt somewhat guilty, particularly fearing that I may have created an unintentional hardship for some classmate. A friend of mine told me later that two students were attempting to cast a demon out of a fellow. I have always wondered what my Christian brothers had to say to the police officers by way of explanation.
Like it or not, demons and demonic activity are likely to become much more of a concern to you in days to come. Paul tells us that our struggle is, at bottom, a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12). Even in our sophisticated times, there is an intense interest in the supernatural and the occult. Ouija boards are found in many American homes. Horoscopes and astrological predictions are found in most major newspapers. In the past several weeks, there has come to light the case of a man arrested for various crimes who has several of the symptoms of demon possession, including multiple personalities, even multiple IQs.
For the Christian, there are two extremes which must be avoided with reference to Satanic activity. As C. S. Lewis aptly put it:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.110
The confrontation between the powers of heaven and hell are nowhere seen in better perspective than in Mark’s account of the encounter of the Gerasene demoniac with our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the third chapter of Mark’s Gospel, our Lord’s miraculous works were attributed by His opponents to the power of Satan (verse 22). Our Lord responded sternly by calling this accusation blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and as such was the one unpardonable sin (verses 28-30). From this point on, Jesus began to speak to the crowds in parables in order to veil or conceal the gospel from those who had blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Mark 4:lff). At the conclusion of this day of teaching by parables, the Lord had instructed His disciples to cross over the Sea of Galilee to the other side. This is when the storm arose which threatened to destroy the ship (Mark 4:35-41). Sometime after the Lord Jesus miraculously calmed the storm, the ship landed, perhaps late in the evening,111 on the other side of the lake in the country of the Gerasenes.112 If, indeed, it was late at night, the scene must have been an eerie one, with the nerves of the disciples already worn thin by the terrifying experience of the storm.
The Malady of the Madman
Immediately, as this weary group disembarked from the ship, they were met by what appeared to be a madman. Our children would probably understand best if I said that his appearance must have been somewhat like that of the television creation, The Incredible Hulk. Although his symptoms would have appeared to be those of an insane man,113 the Gospel writers inform us that he was demon-possessed.114
Although the manifestations of demonization vary widely, this man115 evidenced several of the classic symptoms.
(1) Severe personality change. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ descriptions of the demoniac reveal that he was a totally different person under demonic influence. It is something like the behavior and personality change in a man who is totally intoxicated. More than this, however, is the fact that the man’s own identity and individuality were swallowed up by the demons with him. When Jesus asked his name the man answered, “Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). Those who have witnessed demon possession tell us that each demon has its own distinct personality and that the individual possessed begins to manifest the distinct personality of the demon by which he is possessed. If it is a feminine spirit, the voice will be a feminine one, if masculine then very manly.
(2) Anti-social behavior. The conduct of this pathetic individual was obviously anti-social. That is why he was living in the solitude of the tombs, away from civilization.
(3) Spiritual insight. The demoniac further evidenced demon activity by the depth of his spiritual insight. Instantly he recognized the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God (verse 7).116 There was a source of spiritual insight beyond human capabilities here. In addition, Matthew includes the comment, “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29). This reveals to us that demons have an intuitive knowledge of their impending doom.117
(4) Super-human strength. Also, frequently associated with demon possession was a super-human strength (cf. Acts 19:16). The demoniac was uncontrollable by any of the normal means of human confinement. No matter what men attempted to bind him with, he broke loose. No one was strong enough to subdue him (verses 3,4).
(5) Torment. The price tag of possession was high, for those who fell victim to the demons agonized in constant torment. Such was the case with this man (cf. verse 5). His animal-like shrieks must have sent chills up the spines of any who were nearby.
(6) Tendency towards self-destruction. Another indication of demonic control is the fact that this man was continually doing harm to himself by gashing himself with stones (verse 5). Other demoniacs described in Scripture were bent on self-destruction as well (cf. Mark 9:17-29). The destructive desires of the demons were dramatically carried out in the drowning of the swine.
The Confrontation and Casting Out
It is not difficult to imagine what was going through the minds of the disciples as their ship landed and as these two demon possessed men rushed to them. It was like being attacked by two ‘Hulks.’ They probably thought of quickly getting aboard ship and pushing off. Perhaps they clenched their fists or picked up driftwood with which to defend themselves.
Such must have been the response of those with our Lord. But from all of the Gospel accounts, I get the distinct impression that this man’s eyes were riveted on Jesus. He did not appear to rush upon the small group of men to attack them (as he would normally have done), but rather to plead with Jesus. Though Legion bowed before Jesus (verse 6), it was no act of worship (as the King James Version would seem to indicate). He seemed to view Jesus’ approach as the launching of a direct attack on the demonic forces. He pleaded with Jesus not to be tormented. How ironic, as others have noted, that the tormentor pleads not to be tormented.
The pleas of Legion were in response to the command of Jesus for the demons to come out of him (verse 8). Significantly, the demons are called ‘unclean spirits’ (verse 2,9). When Jesus asked the demoniac his name, it was not without significance for He was, I believe, asking the demons to reveal their identity. The reply ‘Legion’118 may be some kind of evasion, a reluctance on the part of the demons to individually identify themselves. To the evildoer, anonymity is always preferable to identification. On the other hand, it may be correct to understand that although there were many demons, they had combined as one force to possess this man.119 While Mark records Legion’s request as one of not being sent out of the country (verse 10), Luke adds a significant explanation by interpreting the meaning behind this request: “And they were entreating Him not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31). In Jewish thinking, spirit beings were assigned to certain geographical territories.120
Jewish theology, at least on this point, seems consistent with biblical revelation. Demons are highly organized (cf. Daniel 10:13; Ephesians 6:12), whose leader and prince is Satan (Matthew 12:24). The passage in Daniel especially suggests specific geographical boundaries within which spirit beings must abide. For these demons to be sent out of the country would have meant that they would then be confined along with other fallen angels (cf. Jude 6), no longer to afflict men or resist God.
As an alternative to confinement, the demons posed the option of being permitted to enter the pigs, some 2,000 in number, feeding nearby. This request was granted and the entire herd rushed headlong to their own destruction
The drowning of these pigs has caused a great deal of discussion amongst Bible students, for as a friend of mine once observed, “That’s a lot of pork chops!” Had our Lord achieved such a miracle today He would have been in deep trouble. First of all, the EPA would have been investigating the pollution of Lake Galilee with decaying pigs. Then the SPCA would have been up in arms over such cruelty to animals. Then the Livestock Association and consumer groups would have been greatly distressed over the sudden decrease in the pig population and the resulting impact on pork prices.
These, however, are not the problem raised by Bible students. Their first question is a rather pragmatic one, namely, “How can demons possess animals?” To this we must confess that we know too little to understand the mechanism of demon possession but the reality is very evident. The second question is an ethical one: “What right had the Lord to inflict this loss on the owners of the swine?”121 Put even more crassly, Huxley censored this act with these words: “… the wanton destruction of other people’s property is a misdemeanour of evil example.”122
Some of the proposed answers to this question are totally unacceptable to an orthodox, evangelical Christian.123 By way of explanation, there are several factors which should be given serious consideration.
(1) As Lord of all, God has the right to make use of His creation any way that He deems best, and this includes not only pigs, but people (cf. Romans 9:19-23).
(2) Pork was a food forbidden to Jews, and as such, those who raised these pigs may have done so knowingly in violation of divine injunction. It is in no way certain, however, that the pig raisers were Jews.
(3) Our Lord was moved with compassion by the torment of Legion and the loss of these pigs should in no way dim our view of the deliverance of the demoniac. Also, the wholesale slaughter of these pigs dramatically illustrated the destructive purposes of the demons.
(4) Our Lord did not command the demons to enter into the pigs and bring about their destruction; He only permitted it.124
(5) What our Lord could have given the people of this territory was much greater than what He took away.
As we pass from this section to the next, let us not end on the note of the death of the pigs, but on the deliverance of the demoniac. Whereas he had been a slave, he was now delivered from demon possession. While he was once wild and uncontrollable, he was sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. When once he was an instrument of Satanic opposition against the Messiah, now he is a witness to His power. Once naked, he is now clothed. Once a menace to society, now a messenger with words of deliverance and healing.
The Response of the Residents
It didn’t take long for the word to spread quickly. The pig tenders reported it far and wide, in city and country (verse 14). Like the Samaritans who followed the woman at the well to see this One who had ‘told her all she had done,’ so these residents came to see for themselves what had happened.
The typical explanation for the petition of the residents that Christ leave their country is that they were motivated by materialistic considerations. In other words, Jesus had caused a loss to them of 2,000 swine already; what else would His presence cost?
In both the accounts of Mark and Luke, the primary motivation is described as that of fear. Luke seems to base this fear solely upon what happened to the demoniac, not on the loss of their pigs.
“And the people went out to see what happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. And those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to depart from them; for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat, and returned” (Luke 8:35-37).
As these people began to piece together the previous events, not only of the destruction of the pigs, but also the deliverance of Legion, they began to sense that there was One far more awesome, much more to be feared, than Legion. They had dealt with Legion (I suspect) by forcing him from their presence. Now they would deal with this One greater than he by doing likewise. It is ironic that while the demons didn’t want to leave the country, the dwellers of that land didn’t want the Messiah to stay. Here is one of the few times that a miracle drove people away, rather than to draw them to Jesus. It would seem that these people had no Messianic expectations, and therefore wanted nothing to do with One Who had such awesome power, a power over which they had no control.
The Response of the Released Demoniac
The Lord granted the only request of these residents, which was for Him to leave. As Jesus began to get back into the boat, the delivered demoniac pleaded with Him that he might accompany Him. He who feared His arrival now dreaded His departure. It is even possible that his request was to become one of our Lord’s disciples.125
The Lord refused this request and commissioned this delivered man to return to his own people and declare to them what God had done for him. His greatest impact would be on those who knew his former state.
The commission of our Lord is considerably different from His instructions to the Israelites whom He had delivered. They were instructed to keep quiet about what Jesus had done for them (cf. Matthew 8:4; Luke 8:56). In Galilee and Judea there were Messianic hopes which would have been quickly fanned into flames if the miracles of Jesus were too widely publicized. There was no such danger in Perea, and thus the mercy of the Lord was to be heralded.
The particular focus of this man’s testimony was the Decapolis region. This was a federation of ten cities (deka = ten, polis = city). This was a region east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. It was greatly influenced by Greek culture.126
Conclusion and Application
The Historical Interpretation
As always, we must begin with the principle: Interpretation is one, application is many. What purposes did Mark intend to achieve by the inclusion of this event?
First of all, I believe Mark was attempting to warn his Gentile readers of the great danger of demonic influence and activity. The Greeks were believers in the spirit world, but not necessarily convinced that demons were evil.127 As a result, Mark’s readers needed to be instructed as to the essential nature of demons and demon possession. The scene which Mark presents is deliberately dark.
A word of clarification is in order here for we must recognize that in this account the dark side of Satan is exposed, but this is perhaps the more unusual side of Satan. Satan’s most effective tool is not the demoniac wandering about the desolate places. Satan’s most useful instrument is the outstanding, outwardly moral and upright religious man, whose good deeds are done independently of God. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
As has been said before, look for Satan’s man behind the pulpit. Here is where Satan can use a man to influence scores of people, blinding minds and hearts to the truths of the Word of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Demon possession, such as that of the Gerasene demoniac is the crudest and cruelest form of Satanic control, but by and large also one of the less common manifestations of Satan’s work in the world today.
Second (and primarily), Mark employs this event to authenticate the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah. While the Jews had not denied the works of Jesus were supernatural, they had declined to admit they established His deity. Rather, they attributed the power of Jesus to Satan (Mark 3:22). The confrontation of Jesus and the Gerasene demoniac made it clear that Jesus was no servant of Satan. Far from this, He had stormed the gates of Hell and prevailed. Even the demons confessed that He was the Son of the Most High (Mark 5:7).
Implications and Applications
In this account we, by inference, learn much about the demonic spirits. They are ‘unclean spirits,’ (vss. 2,8) who can ‘possess’ men and animals. Their influence and control leads to untold agony and destruction. Demonic influence further destroys man’s reflection of God as originally designed.128 Demons have great spiritual insight and reluctantly submit to Jesus as Lord of all. They look forward to their future with great dread. They greatly desire to enter and control a physical body, whereby they may reflect their character and attributes.
For many Christians today, the horrifying experience of Legion should be sufficient testimony of the reality of the Satanic underworld. We should know from other Scriptures that our present spiritual experience is one of spiritual warfare. The occult and every ‘front’ for demonic influence and activity should be avoided like the plague. We should be warned that fooling with these Satanic ‘fronts’ is like experimenting with drugs. At first we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we are controlling them, but the ultimate likelihood is that they will master us.
Although the Gospels give us little information as to how individuals become targets of Satanic control, I would suggest for your consideration that they sometimes do so by leaving themselves open to Satanic influence. Ananias and Sapphira did so by allowing their greed to grip their hearts (cf. Acts 5:1-6). Such seems to be a similar case with Judas (John 13:1-2). The house that is left swept and clean is a likely target for Satanic influence (cf. Matthew 12:43-45). Whenever a man, woman, or child surrenders control of himself either to fleshly desires (anger, lust, passion, etc.) or by some form of self-emptying (such as various forms of eastern meditation) in my opinion, they are in a precarious position.
Having been properly warned of the demonic underworld, let us not fall into the opposite error of absolute paranoia. The lesson of this passage is that Satan is a defeated foe. When our Lord confronted the demons, they had to submit to His power and authority. By His power, we, too, are able to overcome Satan’s treacheries. For those who are shaken like leaves in the wind at the mention of demons, let us remember from this story that demons cannot even possess pigs without prior permission from our Lord. As the servant of Elisha was told, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
Some today have given demons far more than their due by blaming demons for every malady of mankind. There is the so-called demon of doubt, of anger, of overindulgence, of drunkenness, laziness and so on. Let me say as graciously as I can, Satan does not need to work on us in those areas as we are doing very well without his exploitation. There is, as we know, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But for most of us, the world and the flesh are all that are necessary to cause us to stumble.
As I have been studying this account through the week, it has seemed to me a rather bizarre and remote situation, the liberation of this Gerasene demoniac. But having recalled a passage in Ephesians, I realize now that this man is a reminder of the dilemma of every man, woman, and child who have not come to a saving dependence upon the work of Jesus Christ for sinners on the cross. Paul says of the former life of the Christian, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 1:1-2).
How Satan blinds our minds! Men in their unbelief suppose that the choice is either to be free (independent of God) or to be the slaves of Christ. That is not the choice at all. The choice is to be free by submission to Christ (cf. John 8:32; Matthew 11:28-30), or to be the pawns of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2). Unbelieving men may not rave and carry on like the Gerasene demoniac, but they are nevertheless under Satan’s control, doing his bidding. There is no true freedom and fulfillment apart from Jesus Christ, the Creator and Redeemer of men.
Finally, there is in demon possession a counterpart to the filling (or control) of the Holy Spirit. Just as demons desire to possess persons through whom they can exhibit their personalities, so the Spirit of God indwells man, imparting new life, and progressively gaining control so that the character of God is exhibited, but not in such a way as to hinder our individuality and identity. May the Spirit of God be so evident in us that men may see God in our lives.
111 Edersheim maintains that it must have been late the same night of the storm: “Most writers have, indeed, suggested, that the healing of the demonized on the other side took place at early dawn of the day following the storm on the lake. But the distance is so short that, even making allowance for the delay by the tempest, the passage could scarcely have occupied the whole night. This supposition would be further confirmed, if ‘the evening’ when Jesus embarked was what the Jews were wont to call ‘the first evening,’ that is, the time when the sun was declining in the heaven, but before it had actually set, the latter time being ‘the second evening.’ For it seems most unlikely that multitudes would have resorted to Jesus at Capernaum after ‘the second evening,’ or that either the disciples or other boats would have put to sea after nightfall. On the other hand, the scene gains in grandeur—has, so to speak, a fitting background—if we suppose the Saviour and His disciples to have landed on the other side late in the evening, when perhaps the silvery moon was shedding her pale light on the weird scene, and laying her halo around the shadows cast upon the sea by the steep cliff down which the herd of swine hurried and fell. This would also give time afterwards for the dispersion, not only into ‘the city,’ but into ‘the country’ of them who had fed the swine. In that case, of course, it would be in the early morning that the Gerasenes afterwards resorted to Jesus and that He again returned to Capernaum. And, lastly, this would allow sufficient time for those miracles which took place on that second day in Capernaum after His return thither. Thus, all the circumstances lead us to regard the healing of the demonized at Gerasa as a night scene, immediately on Christ’s arrival from Capernaum, and after the calming of the storm at sea.” Alford Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), I, pp. 606-607.
112 Skeptics and liberals have made much of the differences between the Gospel writers as to the place Jesus landed with His disciples. Textual variations have compounded the problem. Lane believes the modern Kersa is the most likely place:
“The point of arrival is indicated in a general way as the district of the Gerasenes, most probably in reference to a town whose name is preserved in the modern Kersa or Koursi. At the side of Kersa the shore is level, and there are no tombs. But about a mile further south there is a fairly steep slope within forty yards from the shore, and about two miles from there cavern tombs are found which appear to have been used for dwellings.” William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p.181.
Earle’s comments are helpful: “The difference in names for the destination on the east side of the take has caused considerable comment. In the King James Version it is called the country of the Gadarenes in Mark and Luke, and of the Gergesenes in Matthew. As indicated in the textual note, the best Greek text reads Gerasenes in Mark and Luke, Gadarenes in Matthew. There seems to be no excuse here for the charge of contradiction. Dr. Thomson discovered on the eastern shore the ruins of a village called Khersa. This is probably the Gerasa of Mark and Luke. The reference could hardly be to the better known Gerasa (Jerash) between thirty and forty miles southeast from the lake. On the other hand, Gadara is only six miles from the southern tip of the lake and could easily have given its name to the district. Gergesa may have been a variant spelling of Gerasa.” Ralph Earle, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 70.
F. F. Bruce adds additional helpful insight: “According to the best texts, Matthew calls it “the country of the Gadarenes” (viii. 28); Mark “the country of the Gerasenes” (v. 1), and Luke, probably, “the country of the Gergesenes” (viii. 26). T. H. Huxley, in his Essays upon some Controverted Questions (1892), made merry over the escapade of the Gadarene swine, running the seven miles between Gadar and the lake of Galilee, crossing the deep river Yarmuk en route. The best known Gerasa was a Greek city nearly forty miles southeast of the lake (modern village of Khersa, on the east shore of the lake. Luke’s reading “Gergesenes” may represent even more accurately the ancient name of this place, as Origen knew of a Gergesa on the lake of Galilee. But the city of Gadara owned some territory round about Khersa, so that the district and the pigs could properly also be called Gadarene.” F. F. Bruce, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? (London: InterVarsity Fellowship, 1950), fn. 1, pp. 61-62.
113 “According to the Talmud there were four characteristics of madness: walking abroad at night; spending the night on a grave; tearing one’s clothes and destroying what one was given. This man demonstrated all four characteristics.” Lane, Mark, p. 182, fn. 7.
114 We are indebted to Edersheim, who reminds us that the expression ‘demon possession’ never occurs in the New Testament: “The term ‘demoniacal possession’ occurs not in the New Testament. We owe it to Josephus, from whom it has passed into ecclesiastical language. We dismiss it the more readily, that, in our view, it conveys a wrong impression. The New Testament speaks of those who had a spirit, or a demon, or demons, or an unclean spirit, or the spirit of an unclean demon, but chiefly of persons who were ‘demonised.’” Edersheim, Life and Times, I, p. 479.
It is Geldenhuys who gives us the most concise description of ‘demon-possession’: “in the New Testament demon-possession means that a person is dominated by the spirit of a demon and tormented by him. It is noteworthy that it is distinguished (especially in the Gospel of the physician, Luke) from cases of ordinary sickness, insanity (“lunacy”), leprosy, blindness, lameness, deafness and other natural defects and diseases (cf. e.g., Matt. iv. 23, 24, viii. 16, x. 8; Mark vi. 13; Luke iv. 40, vii. 21,22). Accordingly this was not merely an ordinary form of mental disease as some writers have alleged, but a special phenomenon which was particularly frequent during Jesus’ earthly sojourn and thus was directly connected with His coming to destroy the power of darkness.
That the unclean spirits were personal beings is evident from what is related about their leaving a possessed person, talking or crying out, possessing knowledge concerning Jesus, as well as other supernatural knowledge—showing fear, and the like.
Demon-possession is, therefore, not merely a mental state in which someone suffers from a delusion or is subjected to some subjective disturbance of the world of ideas. Neither is it only a kind of physical disease, although spiritual and physical disease often accompany it (e.g. Matt. xii. 22, xvii. 15; Mark ix. 18).
It is noteworthy that Jesus nowhere speaks of forgiveness of sins or of purification-sacrifices, that have to be brought after His curing of such cases (as He did in some cases of physical illness). Those possessed are depicted throughout as unfortunate sufferers who by no fault of their own are dominated by evil spirits and who, when the spirits are cast out by Jesus, accept their deliverance with joy and gratitude (Mark v. 18-20, Luke viii. 2).
It should also be observed that nowhere in the Old Testament (except in I Sam. xvi. 14ff. and 1 Kings xxii. 22ff. where something similar occurs) is a demon-possession mentioned, and that outside the Gospels it is referred to only twice in the New Testament (Acts xvi. 16ff., xix. 13ff.). From this it is clear that demon-possession is a phenomenon which occurred almost exclusively, but then to be sure on an amazing scale, during Jesus’ appearance on earth and to a lesser extent during the activity of the apostles. For the reason why this is so we refer the reader to the introduction preceding the exposition of verses 33-7.
Although demon-possession after that time no longer occurs on such a devastating and noticeable scale, the absolute form of demon-possession will appear at the end of the age in the Antichrist and in his followers (2 Thess. ii. 9. Rev. xiii. 2ff., xvv. 8ff.). But then also Christ will triumph, and finally put an end to the evil one and all his powers of darkness (Rev. xvii. 14). Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), p. 174.
Putting all of these factors together the term demon-possessed inplies too much. It indicates full and permanent control. This was surely not so in every case, and perhaps in none. Men and women (as well as children) were ‘demonized’ in that they fell under the influence of these unclean spirits. Some appeared not to be oppressed by them so much as exploiting their powers (cf. Acts 16:16), while others were the virtual pawns of these spirits, losing their own identity and autonomy. When addressed, the person was the mouthpiece of the demon (such as Legion, Mark 5:9). Demonized individuals are not to be viewed so much as a pigeon hole category, as they are a continuem. The spectrum ranges from those who seem to control the demonic powers to those who are utterly controlled by them. The best human analogy might be in the area of drug abuse. Some illicitly use drugs, supposing that they have them completely under their control. Others are absolutely controlled (hooked) by the drug and totally dependent upon it.
115 While Mark and Luke describe only one demoniac, Matthew informs us that there were two. There is no conflict, however, for Mark and Luke have apparently focused their attention on the most striking of the two.
117 “... so that, by their own confession, a time is coming when there shall be an entire victory of the kingdom of light over that of darkness (Rev. xx. 10). All Scripture agrees with this, that the judgment of the angels is yet to come (1 Cor. vi. 3); they are ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 6); and what the unclean spirits deprecate here, is the bringing in, by anticipation, of that final doom.” R. C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949), p. 100.
118 “H. Preisker, TWNT IV (1942), pp. 68f. recognizes the military background of the term, pointing out that in the imperial period a legion consisted of 6000 foot soldiers, 120 horsemen and technical personnel. The entrance of the term into colloquial speech indicates that the Roman occupation was a heavy burden. In this context, however, he insists that “legion” has nothing of its usual Roman military overtones, but is the designation of numerous powers which oppose themselves to Jesus as the embodiment of the power of God.” Lane, Mark, fn. 17, pp. 184-185.
120 “The request is in both cases the same; for, according to Jewish notions, certain countries being assigned to evil as well as to good spirits, whose limits they were unable to overpass, to be sent out of their own country, no other being open to them, implied being sent into the abyss, or bottomless pit, since that remains for them alone.” Trench, Miracles , p. 101.
123 “1. The whole story is a myth. 2. The healing of the demoniacs and the repulse of the Healer by the inhabitants are historical, but the incident of the swine is a later figment. 3. The demoniacs frightened the swine, and the transfer of demons from them to the swine was imagined. 4. The drowning of the swine was an accident, possibly simultaneous with the healing, and report mixed up the two incidents. 5. The demoniacs were mere maniacs, whom Jesus cured by humouring their fancies; and His giving leave to imaginary demons to enter into the swine, produced the story of the disaster to the herd.—All these explanations assume that the Gospel narratives are wholly or in part unhistorical.” Plummer, Luke, p. 228. (it should be added that Plummer himelf does not hold to any of these views.)
124 “Augustine: ‘The devils were driven out and permitted to go into the swine’; and Aquinas: ‘But that the swine were driven into the sea was no work of the divine miracle, but was the work of the devils by divine permission.’” Quoted by Trench, Miracles, fn. 4, p. 102.
127 “The view of Greek philosophy was that these were the spirits of those who lived in the Golden Age. They were not looked upon as necessarily evil in all cases. Hence there was demon-worship, the worship not necessarily of evil spirits; but of the spirits of those who had existed in the Golden Age.” G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Mark (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1927), p. 114.
128 “In most of the stories of possession what is at issue is not merely sickness but a destruction and distortion of the divine likeness of man according to creation. The center of personality, the volitional and active ego, is impaired by alien powers which seek to ruin the man and sometimes drive him to self-destruction (Mk. 5:5). The ego is so impaired that the spirits speak through him. Jesus is conscious that He now breaks the power of the devil and his angels because He is the One in whom the dominion of God is present on behalf of humanity.” W. Foerster, as quoted by Lane, Mark, fn. 4, p. 180.