Aquinas and Apologetics

If it’s “not under debate,” then why, in post 44 above, did you write:


It seems to me it’s very much “under debate” between you and all these mainstream scholars whether or not Mark etc. believed in and taught the reality of demons, possession, and exorcism. You seem to be saying (a) that the majority of mainstream scholars hold the view that Mark believed in and taught the reality of demons, and (b) that this majority is wrong, because Mark etc. did not believe in or teach the reality of demons etc. Is that not exactly what is under debate?

Thanks, Vincent.

Please read what I wrote carefully. What is not under debate is that the mainstream scholarly consensus is that “the gospel writers believed in, and taught, the reality of demons, as commonly understood in mainstream “orthodox” theology”.

We are not debating here whether or not that is the scholarly consensus. No one here is contesting that this is not the scholarly consensus, least of all me. Obviously I am contesting that consensus, but I am not denying that it exists.

So what we are debating is whether or not that consensus is correct. I stand with the minority of scholarship which says it is not correct, or that it is at the very least uncertain.

Good. That’s clear. So now: Given that you have just admitted that many recent (not 1896) commentaries support the view I’ve been endorsing, and given that you even call it “the scholarly consensus,” the relevance of your complaints about my argument in particular becomes virtually negligible. Even if I were guilty of all that you say I am (of using dated scholarship, of refusing to take into account historical-critical approaches, etc.), that would not matter, because the scholarly consensus of which you speak was arrived at by people who (for the most part) have great respect for the historical-critical approaches you endorse, and who have been writing about these questions recently. So it’s not about me; it’s about the fact that the view I endorse is widespread, and that you wish that it weren’t.

Something about the text of the Synoptic Gospels keeps driving all kinds of interpreters (including those who adopt methodological approaches you generally support) toward the conclusions that I have reached, that Gould reached in 1896, that the great classical commentators reached, and that the majority of Christians in the pews have always reached. If the Synoptic writers did not believe in the existence of demons, they were very poor communicators – since they were misunderstood almost universally, within the very Christian community they helped to form, from very early Christian times up to the present.

That was not an admission. As I pointed out, it was never in dispute. In my own writings on this subject it’s a fact I always lead with. However it has no impact on the relevance of my opposition to your argument in particular.

Which you are.

You’re missing the fact that I never once said anything like “You quote old commentaries, therefore your views on demons wrong”, or “You reject the historical critical method, therefore your ideas about demons are wrong”. I didn’t make any such connection. You’re attacking a straw man.

Yes but that’s ok, it’s going to die out, just like the other antiquated interpretations did. The global flood interpretation, all the crazy talk about witches, the immortal soul, going to heaven and hell, infant baptism, illness being caused by satanic and demonic possession, penal substitutionary atonement, they’ve all had their day.

The mainstream consensus has altered radically on these issues, and it’s going to continue to alter on the subject of satan and demons as well. I can wait. Apart from the minority scholars to whom I’ve already alluded, the recent work by Amos Yong, James Smith, and in particular David Bradnick, demonstrates that some mainstream Pentecostal theologians are now stating to take reality seriously, and as a result they now understand that their satanology, demonology, and pneumatology generally, require radical revision. The cracks in the wall are already visible. What a time to be alive.

This is the same argument Bellarmine used against Galileo. It is also the same argument Ken Ham uses with regard to Genesis 1-3, and the flood narrative. It remains your only argument; “Just read the text literally, in English”. Such an argument requires no further comment.

No, but you left the strong impression that I held the conclusions that I held because of allegedly dated and faulty scholarship and interpretive methods – without mentioning that exactly the same conclusions were reached by most mainstream scholars whose articles are not dated and who accept your view of the high value of historical-critical approaches. The constant juxtaposition in your posts of “Your scholarship is outdated and methodologically flawed” with “your conclusions about demons in the Synoptics are wrong” left it to the readers here to make the connection between the two, even if you never explicitly made it yourself. I therefore drew attention to your misleading conversational procedure.

In your dreams.

Even if it has some similarity to Bellarmine’s line of reasoning, the similarity is superficial, for reasons already explained. The astronomy which Bellarmine says is implied in the Bible is never the main point of the Biblical stories where astronomical notions are discussed, whereas in at least some cases the demonic possession and exorcism is the main point of the Biblical story. There is a huge difference between “incidental beliefs about the cosmos, having in themselves nothing to do with God, Jesus, salvation, etc., which the ancient Biblical writers probably held” and “beliefs about Jesus, demons, possession, and exorcism which the writer of the particular passage explicitly endorses.” I take Galileo’s side against Bellarmine regarding the cosmology because Bellarmine’s conservatism in astronomy is based on an unnecessarily mechanical reading of incidental background given in the Bible, but if Bellarmine had defended belief in demons and possession against Galileo, I would have taken Bellarmine’s side. There is simply no plausible way of reading Mark 5 without drawing the conclusion that Mark personally believed in demons and wanted to promote that belief among his readers.

You are welcome to prove me wrong, by providing a line-by-line commentary on the first part of Mark 5, showing me how it can be coherently read if written by an author who thought demons to be superstitious nonsense. If you had spent as many years studying the Greek text of Mark 5 as you have spent studying the secondary literature on Mark, you would be able to provide such a commentary – if you are correct in your reading. But given the option of presenting your exposition, you decline. So here is where the situation sits: The vast majority of the Fathers, the Medievals, the classic Reformers, modern scholars on Mark, the people in the pews, etc. take the traditional and most obvious reading that Mark really believed in demons; on the other side, you and the Christadelphians (and perhaps some other sectarians whose numbers are very small) affirm that Mark didn’t mean what he seems to mean. The onus is on you and your handful of allies to provide the daring new coherent exegesis to justify your belief. If you don’t, the Christian world will go on holding to the same interpretation. And rightly so.

Note that this has nothing to do with the question whether or not demons exist. The question I have focused on is whether Mark endorses their existence. Because you are religiously and theologically and scientifically certain that demons do not exist, you must prove that Mark does not endorse their existence, or you have to admit that certain passages in Mark (and in other parts of the New Testament) endorse falsehoods. And the second option is not an option for you, so you have to fight to your dying breath to deny that Mark believes in demons. Not an enviable position to be in, and I’m glad I’m not in your shoes.

@Jonathan_Burke, for all the talking past each other and (predictable) pushing of each other’s buttons, I do think @Eddie is right here that we’d all benefit from getting from you a (at least somewhat) detailed interpretation of the relevant portion of Mark 5 (verse 1-20). Your tendency seems to be to poke holes in everyone else’s thoughts and interpretations, but I don’t often see you put forward your own in any detail. I personally can understand that if you’re unsure, but you often seem quite confident so I’m assuming you can articulate your own views. I honestly don’t care so much about citations, etc. as @Eddie might want, and I don’t want to argue with you, I just genuinely want to know how you actually read it.

I linked to two full length papers of mine (one which has been published), which explain how I approach texts discussing satan and demons, both in the New Testament and in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. They contain my own interpretations. Is that what you meant by “I don’t often see you put forward your own in any detail”?

As I have said before, if you really want to understand my hermeneutic and how I apply it to specific texts, you need to start here and here.

In contrast, Eddie has given these reasons for his interpretation.

  1. It’s the traditional interpretation.
  2. The text says “demons” in English.

I guess that’s a hermeneutic, of sorts? I guess that’s enough detail from him, kind of?

I have articulated my views. As I said before, I read it as Mark reporting what was believed, while not believing it himself. I also cited a specific hermeneutical approach which I use. I also quoted two scholars using that exact same approach as an example of how I use it. Would you prefer me to give a two point interpretation like Eddie did?

As I said before, I read it as Mark reporting what was believed, while not believing it himself. I also previously identified my hermeneutical basis for this interpretation. This is what I explained previously.

  1. The socio-historical context. To explain this, I both quoted and linked to one of my papers in which I demonstrate that contrary to popular opinion, it is demonstrable that not all the New Testament writers believed in a supernatural satan and demons, so such an interpretation cannot simply be assumed when a text is read; it must be derived legitimately from the text.

  2. Lexicography. To explain this, I linked to two of my papers in which I demonstrate that Greek words typically understood to refer to the traditional understanding of satan and demons, not only have a range of meanings but during the first century were typically not understood as referring to the satan and demons of later periods.

  3. Demythlogization. To explain this, I quoted Twelftree and Dunn as an example of how this is applied to demonic possession in the New Testament by people like myself (and by them). Note that I did not appeal to their authority in an attempt to say this interpretation is correct, I quoted them as an example of how this is applied to demonic possession in the New Testament. What did you think of Twelftree and Dunn’s argument? I also linked to a paper of mine in which I quoted Dunn saying that the apostle Paul himself applied demythologization. That same paper of mine also identifies demythologization in a number of second century Christian texts, demonstrating how it was used by early Christians to reject belief in a supernatural satan and demons.

I realise all this is very likely shockingly new to you, and theologically very confronting. Given the visceral reaction people here have to unorthodox theology, I certainly don’t want to overwhelm you. But do let me know if you want to know more, after you’ve read the work of mine to which I linked previously.

I have not given these as the reasons for my interpretation. I have said that my interpretation is the traditional one, but I don’t argue that it should be accepted because it’s traditional. And I haven’t said that we should rely on the English text, and have in fact many times said we should be looking detail at the Greek.

The Greek term used throughout the story for the entity possessing the madman is pneuma akatharton (“unclean spirit”). The term is sometimes in the singular, sometimes in the plural. However, there are grounds for translating this as “demon” or “demons”: the term daimonion (generally rendered as “demon” in NT writings) in other Synoptic passages appears to refer to exactly the same unclean spirits; and in this episode (5.15-5.18) the verb daimonizomai is used several times. It means “to be possessed by daimonia”. Thus, the man with the unclean spirits is the man possessed by daimonia (demons).

That said, my interpretation does not rest on the used of the word “demon” in either Greek or English. It rests on the narrative sequence. Something (demons, unclean spirits, whatever they are to be called) asks Jesus for permission to leave the man and enter the swine; Jesus nods to their request (literally “turns toward them”); they enter the swine, and the swine immediately stampede into the lake and are drowned. The Greek words for the transfer are: “having exited [the man], the unclean spirits entered into the swine.”

(Some Greek manuscripts add the adverb “immediately” to the statement of Jesus’s assent, indicating either (a) that Jesus agrees with the demons’ request immediately or (b) if “them” refers to the swine rather than the demons, that Jesus effected the transfer to the swine immediately.)

Note what Mark does “not” say. He could easily have written: “And there was a herd of swine nearby, and after the man possessed by demons frantically entreated Jesus not to send the demons out of the country, the swine stampeded into the lake, and were drowned. And many of those standing by said that Jesus had sent the unclean spirits into the swine.” Had Mark written that, he would clearly have distanced himself from any popular opinion that the pigs had been possessed by demons. But he chose to write what he wrote, and what he wrote says that the pigs were in fact possessed by the unclean spirits which had left the man. It is a straightforward past tense Greek sentence, like the other past tense Greek sentences in the account.

The overwhelming impression of the narrative is that the man was inhabited by a being/beings that were personal agents of some kind, and that these agents were transferred into the pigs. This impression is so strong that the onus is on the person who has the alternate interpretation to show how that interpretation cashes out in the actual Greek words that Mark uses.

I have not asked Jonathan Burke to do anything beyond what Greek scholars routinely do, i.e., interpret passages in accord with the vocabulary, grammar, syntax, idiom, and literary structure. He claims great expertise in scholarship, yet he does not seem to be aware that the core of scholarship (as opposed to an ancillary duty of scholars) is not reading thousands of articles in the secondary literature, but the mastering of one’s primary text. I await his detailed account of the primary text. Until his alternate interpretation is provided, I don’t see how the discussion can get any further.

So I went back and read through your papers, and to be frank, I didn’t actually see where you put what you actually think or what the passages mean to you. I see a lot of extensive research, lots of citations of what scholars think, etc. so don’t take it as an insult, but I was more actually just looking for a straightforward, in-your-own-words type paraphrase. Or if you aren’t interpreting the actual text differently, what is the author’s intent? What do you get out of the passage? I’m not asking for hermeneutical method, I’m asking for more like a paraphrase/commentary/coffee conversation.

I’m pretty sure I understand how @Eddie takes the passage, it’s your views that I don’t feel clear about. I’m not interested in a hermeneutical “pissing contest” (pardon the term), I simply what to understand how people read the same text differently and what it means to them.

Thanks, this didn’t exactly come out clearly in the previous posts. Can you expound on this a bit more? Mark didn’t believe in demons/demon possession/demonic causes for illness, why? Why did Mark not believe it but the other people did? Why did he report it if he did, was he just accommodating them or?

I read through your papers and you seem pretty thorough and well-read. I know very little of the relevant scholarship and methodology so I’m certainly not judging your scholarship. But I confess I didn’t came away thinking that you made an obvious case for Mark not believing in demons, only that it was plausible that he meant something else by the words. In other words, I see you making room for the plausibility of an alternative interpretation, but I don’t see you 1) making a positive case for that interpretation of Mark 5, or 2) making a strong case that the “orthodox” interpretation isn’t at least as plausible.

It then seems to me that “I read it as Mark reporting what was believed, while not believing it himself” then falls a bit flat because you haven’t taken the time to explain it. This was my original criticism, you and @Eddie spend most of your time making “noise” and then gloss over the real issues, it seems to me.

The idea that some Christians don’t believe in Satan/demons, etc. isn’t new. Theologically I don’t find it particularly confronting, partially because it seems rather academic so far. My English “plain reading” of Matthew 5:1-20 is that a guy was demon-possessed, Jesus got rid of them, and they entered pigs. It’s a creepy story but I take at face value. If I’m wrong, oh well, wasn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. So far though, I’m not convinced of anything other than that some people see it differently. I’d be interested in knowing more about what you think about the passage (like the questions I posed above) but there’s no way I can go through paper upon paper of what scholars think. You’re gonna have to break it down for me. :frowning:

Actually, I’m less bothered by unorthodox theology per se than by unorthodox theology that justifies its unorthodoxy by saying that it is closer to the true “Biblical” teaching – but then departs widely from what the Bible appears to plainly teach.

For example, an Arian might try to justify his position by pointing to a passage like, “The Father is greater than I”, and on the basis of such statements, there would be a certain reasonableness in opposing the “Biblical” view to the orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. But in the case of demons in the Synoptics, the “Biblical” argument consists, it seems, of admitting that the Gospel writers wrote as if they believed in demons, while assuring us that they really didn’t – not exactly a very strong grounds on which to base an overthrow of tradition, especially when the claim that they didn’t believe in demons is apparently sheer assertion and isn’t backed by even a single reference to any of the relevant Gospel passages.

It’s nothing new for Protestants, and especially Protestants from small sects, to pit “Biblical” against “orthodox” or “traditional” Church teaching – but for such stratagems to be taken seriously, the Biblical exegesis has to be credible. I haven’t seen this yet regarding belief in demons.

You read my work on the Synoptic wilderness temptation pericope. In that paper, you read this.

The combination of this socio-historical evidence provides strong support for a reading of of the wilderness temptation as an account of Jesus’ internal struggle with his own desires, rather than a battle of will against a supernatural evil being.

That’s an explicit declaration of my interpretation of the passages examined in this paper, and it’s on the first page of the paper. You say you wanted a “straightforward, in-your-own-words type paraphrase”, and that’s exactly what that is. Are you saying you read that and you didn’t understand what it means, or you didn’t understand that this is my interpretation of the passages, or something else? I’m not sure why you would say you didn’t see my interpretation of those passages, when it’s right there on the front page.

I don’t see any record of you reading the other paper. Did you read the other paper? If you did read the other paper, you will see that at the end of each section I have an explicit summary, in my own words, of what I think each author means. That’s my interpretation. If any of those summaries are unclear, please let me know why.

I have told you explicitly what I think the text means to me, and an explanation of my methodology, and an example of how I apply that methodology to analogous texts. Please let me know if there’s anything missing.

Because he was one of those Second Temple Period Jews who didn’t believe in supernatural evil demons.

I have no idea how he came to his conclusions, or how other people came to their conclusions. That’s like asking why the prophets of Baal believed in Baal. Maybe their parents taught them? Who knows?

As I have already mentioned several times, I don’t believe he reported it as if he did. Yes he is accommodating his audience. If you compare the Synoptics to John, you will find that they treat the issue of demons in very different ways. In the Synoptics we find demons and demonic possession. In John we do not, even when John is referring to people with disorders which were typically regarded as the product of demonic possession or satanic attack. The reason for this is that the Synoptics and John were written for different audiences. The Synoptics are written for people who aren’t yet Christians, whereas John is writing to mature Christians. In the gospel written for mature Christians, demons have vanished. We find the same in Paul’s letters. In both cases the authors write the same way people write when they don’t believe in demons; they simply don’t mention them, and they don’t attribute to them the activity commonly associated with demons.

Remember that neither paper was making a case for Mark not believing in demons, or making a positive case for that interpretation of Mark, or making a strong case that the “orthodox” case isn’t at least as plausible. As I have said several times before (and I can keep repeating this as often as necessary), those papers were demonstrating the hermeneutic by which I arrive at the conclusion that Mark did not believe in demons. If you don’t find it convincing that’s fine, that’s not my problem.

If you want me to address why I think the “orthodox” interpretation isn’t at least as plausible, I can do that, but we might want to start a new thread. I’ll also need written confirmation from a moderator that such a thread is permitted on this forum, so I don’t have a moderator stepping in two posts later shutting down the thread and warning me not to write stuff like that.

In my previous post I summarized my explanation, citing the material I quoted or cited in order to support my explanation. Please let me know if anything in those three points is unclear.

This is the Ken Ham approach to the Bible. It is called “exegeting the English”. Do you understand why this isn’t considered an acceptable approach to an ancient text by professional interpreters?

When you write that, it tells me absolutely nothing about your understanding of the text. There is literally nothing there. It’s just saying “I think this”, without any process of logical reasoning, without any attempt at justification, and without any method of validation. It’s just pointing at a text saying “I think this”. I have no idea why you would think that, how you would reach such a conclusion, how you would test if your interpretation is accurate, or anything else.

This gets back to an issue raised previously on this forum, how do I know when my interpretation is correct? For most Christians here, it seems that such a process simply just isn’t considered necessary. I read the text in English, I make a conclusion, I’m done. I’ve exegeted the text, my exegesis is correct. I find this an unusual approach.

I have not required you to go through any papers of what scholars think. In my previous post I summarized my explanation in three points, citing the material I quoted or cited previously in order to support my explanation. Please let me know if anything in those three points is unclear. We can use that as the basis of a new thread, if the moderators permit.

But you have relied on the English. You’ve told me we need to just read it at face value. Additionally, when I raised the importance of lexicography and socio-historical context in order to explicate the passage using the Greek, you dismissed this approach.

Ok, first of all this is not the way to interpret the Greek. Saying “I think the Greek word here means X because I think that in these other passages it also means X” is just circular reasoning. Treating the Greek properly requires diachronic and synchronic lexical analysis, for a start.

Secondly, you need to identify the author’s sitz im leben in order to identify how they are using this language and why. This requires identifying his socio-historical context, including his theological context, which not only requires comparing what he wrote to analogous Second Temple Period literature but also to synchronic New Testament texts. You’re already drawing conclusions about what the author believes about demons, without doing any of this work.

Thirdly, you need to consider the author’s audience and their intent. This requires identifying the genre and aim of Mark’s gospel, as well as its intended readership and reading context. And of course when I say “readership” that’s almost an anachronism since most of Mark’s audience won’t ever actually read the text (I am sure I don’t need to explain why).

Is that it? That’s what you consider demonstrating “mastery of the text”? If you want to see an example of me demonstrating what you refer to as “mastery of the text”, go and read (again), my paper on the Synoptic wilderness temptation pericope, which interprets the passages “in accord with the vocabulary, grammar, syntax, idiom, and literary structure”.

The narrative sequence isn’t helpful unless you do the necessary background work to understand the context of the narrative. Reading the text and concluding “Something (demons, unclean spirits, whatever they are to be called) asks Jesus for permission to leave the man and enter the swine” doesn’t tell us anything about what this actually means, or why it was written. Not only that, but your treatment of the narrative glosses over the fact that the narrative alternates between identifying the demons as speaking, and identifying the man speaking as if he is the demons. This is an important feature of the narrative which scholars since at least the nineteenth century have viewed as an interpretive key to the passage, so I’m surprised you passed over it.

Well of course it does, because that’s what the onlookers believed. Remember, Mark is not an eyewitness to these events. Mark wasn’t even there. He is not reporting his own experiences, in his own words. He is reporting what was told by other people about their experiences, in their words.

That is categorically false. I have repeatedly disavowed any expertise in scholarship. You are the one who continually makes claims about your academic credentials, experience, and prowess.

I have already explained why this is a waste of my time. You do not recognize as valid, the hermeneutical methods I use. Consequently you do not recognize conclusions drawn from them, as valid.

Actually, I didn’t read it that way. I saw “provides strong support” as “this seems like a plausible interpretation” rather than “this is what I believe it means”. Thanks for the clarification.

I did read it and I did see those nice summaries. Again, I took them to be summaries of particular views from particular ancient authors. There wasn’t really anything that I saw that said that’s what you actually believed (I could have missed it). In particular, you are arguing about what 2nd Temple Judaism and some early church fathers seemed to have thought, not what you personally thought, it seemed to me. For instance, you overview the texts that lack a reference to Satan as a being, but don’t seem to address the ones that do. I thought you were just giving a good analysis of the beliefs of the authors based on what they do and don’t say, not necessarily summarizing your belief on the matter. To me there is a pretty big leap from how 2nd Temple Judaism and some of the 1st/early 2nd century fathers understood Satan/the devil/demons and “this is what Mark thought”.

This is an interesting thought, I’ll have to think about this. This kind of unpacking is helpful.

Yes, but I’m a scientist and not a professional interpreter. I realize my limitations here. That’s why it’s interesting to hear from people more knowledgable than myself. I simply don’t have the time and training to properly exegete the text myself. That’s also why I generally hold my interpretations “loosely” because I know I could be wrong.

Pretty much. That’s why I appreciate people at PS who have done the work and so I can learn from them. That’s also why I can get a little frustrated by distractions and “noise” in the conversations. My interest here is truly trying to learn, not in debating or correcting people.

I don’t know that I’d be that harsh. I do think people need to have an appropriate amount of intellectual humility, but most people aren’t trained in Greek, Hebrew, hermeneutics, or church/ANE history. Personal reading of the English text and maybe a commentary or two is about it. You can be of service to those people, if you want, but I think it may take a bit more gentle and irenic approach.

I’ve been a moderator for a while and I have never seen any limitation based on orthodoxy. Any censorship or moderation action I’ve seen has been based on violations of community standards and bad behavior, not on theological or scientific content. I agree though that we are far from Aquinas and the original topic. I will create a stub topic for you, and as a moderator of PS I’m saying that a discussion about the strengths and weakness of orthodox and alternative interpretations of Mark 5 is allowed, as long as the conversation itself follows the community guidelines.

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No, I haven’t. I said we need to take the text we are given seriously. I did not say that we should rely on English translations. I made clear that I wanted you to talk about the Greek.

We aren’t discussing that episode; we are discussing Mark 5. I want your interpretation of the Greek text of Mark 5 – the section on the Gadarene demoniac in particular. You talk all around the text – endlessly digressing to questions of method – but you don’t give an exposition of it.

It would help avoid unnecessary conversational friction if you would refrain from posing as my teacher. You write to me stuff like this:

Yawn. Not only have I heard all this sophomoric stuff from you many times before, I heard it until I could recite it in my sleep during grad school. Do you imagine that I could have obtained a Ph.D. from one of the top religion schools in North America, and be unaware of such considerations?

Which I have indeed noted, and take careful account of in the translation of the text which I have prepared for my own research and teaching. But I did not pretend to be offering a complete exegesis of this section in Mark; my exegetical notes come to dozens of pages, and a website discussion (aimed at an audience mostly of scientists, not New Testament scholars) is not the place to present a full-scale exegesis. And for the purpose of this discussion, that distinction is not necessary. Even if one could conclude (from the part before the pigs are mentioned) that the man is not really possessed by demons, but only deluded into thinking he is demons, that interpretation becomes impossible once the pigs are introduced and Mark tells us, in straightforward, direct, uncomplicated Greek, that the unclean spirits left the man and entered into the demons. You can’t get around what Mark says, unless you are willing to say that Mark made an outright error or that Mark is deliberately stating something he doesn’t believe to be true. But you aren’t willing to bite that bullet.

No, it has zero to do with what the onlookers believed. Mark’s statement that the spirits entered the pigs comes before we are told anything about what the onlookers believed. And in fact, if you read the Greek carefully, we are never told that the onlookers drew any connection between the behavior of the pigs and the unclean spirits. The herdsmen are alarmed by the behavior of the pigs, but they never offer any interpretation of it. You are supplying notions that are not found in the text.

The only statement about the relationship between the pigs’ behavior and the unclean spirits that we are given is the statement, not of any onlookers, but of the narrator (Mark). He does not indicate that he is relating the views of anyone else. He states as a fact that the spirits entered the pigs. You can dodge, weave, duck, etc., but you cannot get around this plain statement. All your attempts to pretend it isn’t there in the text, in the Greek, to deflect attention from the obvious meaning of the Greek words, by jabbering about methodology and sociology and so on, do not make you a better Bible scholar; they merely make you a poor philologist.

Then why is your conversational tone regarding scholarly matters always that of a lecturer, or of a professor correcting the errors of a weak student? If you regard yourself as merely an autodidactic explorer rather than a trained master, one would you think you would write in a different manner.

It’s only a waste of time if you don’t have an adequate understanding of the Greek text of Mark. If you know the text, you should be able to give an account which meets my objections. I know the Greek text well – I have been working on it for some years – and will be quite able to understand your interpretation, if you will offer it.

Ok I guess that’s just an issue of wording. When I say that something has “strong support”, I don’t mean it’s merely plausible. In the conclusion I said the same thing, even more directly.

The combined weight of this data supports a reading of psychological dualism in the Synoptic temptation pericope; Jesus was struggling against his personal desires.

That’s my interpretation.

They are explicitly my interpretations of particular views from particular ancient authors, saying exactly what I actually believe. As the article also says explicitly, they are interpretations which differ from the way most scholars interpret those views of those authors.

You think that the interpretations I wrote aren’t what I really think? What do you think they are then?

No, I addressed specifically those which do; the letters of Ignatius, and the Epistle of Barnabas. I refer to the Epistle of Barnabas speaking “explicitly of a supernatural evil referent accompanied by his own angels and presented as God’s opponent”. I say “Ignatius treats the diabolos as a supernatural being”, and “Ignatius has frequent recourse to the devil or “ruler of this age” in his etiology of evil and sin”. I am not sure how you missed this.

Of course I am giving an analysis of the beliefs of the authors (not merely based on what they do and don’t say), but why would you think that this analysis is not actually what I believe? Why would I write an analysis which I don’t believe?

I was not presenting the paper as evidence for what Mark thought. As I have said several times before (and I can keep repeating this as often as necessary), those papers were demonstrating the hermeneutic by which I arrive at the conclusion that Mark did not believe in demons. I am helping you understand my hermeneutical method.

Thank you, I am glad that helped. I can explicate this further if necessary.

Ok fair enough. As a non-scientist I have the same issue with science, in the opposite direction. As Joshua reminds us repeatedly, science is non-intuitive, which is difficult for a non-scientist to grasp because we tend to think that since science is logical then it will be intuitive, but it isn’t. Consequently I am not a good interpreter of scientific evidence.

Thank you.

In reply to Jordan, Jonathan Burke wrote:


This statement either means that all Second Temple Period Jews didn’t believe in supernatural evil demons (unsubstantiated) and that Mark, being a Second Temple Period Jew, would not have believed in them; or it means that some Second Temple Period Jews didn’t believe in supernatural evil demons (likely correct, though no examples are given), and that Mark was one of those (unsubstantiated).

We could know what Mark believed about demons in only one of two ways: (1) from the writings of others cognizant with his views; (2) from his own writings. And since I am unaware of any writings by anyone who knew Mark which discuss his views on demons, that leaves only Mark’s own writings. To my knowledge, the only writing generally accepted as Mark’s is the Gospel of that name. So his views on demons must be derived from that text.

But the Greek of the passage is against you.

Both of these characterizations are debatable, especially the first.

But it’s also the most natural conclusion for someone who has studied the Greek text for several years, as I have. And it’s still unclear to me how well you are able to interpret the Greek.

I’ll remember this the next time we discuss the evidence for anthropogenic global warming. :smile:

OK, back on topic … :smile:

Going to close this thread for now, so that we can unify the discussion here: Burke's analysis of Mark 5.