Burke's analysis of Mark 5

This is the same hermeneutic used by YECs of the global flood, and by Bellarmine of the texts referring to the sun orbiting the earth. It’s also the same hermeneutic used by those who believe the temptation periciope is not a vision. You have to do better than this.

No, the question I was answering was Jordan’s request for “weaknesses of the “orthodox” reading of the passage”. By the way, do you believe demons exist? Supernatural evil spirits?

I have already answered this. Mark did not believe in demons, and Mark teaches nothing about demons.

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Yes, you have said this already, but here the topic is “Burke’s Analysis of Mark 5” – and analysis requires detailed consideration of the text. Here, you have made a bald assertion – providing no analysis at all. I look forward to the promised analysis. I have ready all the standard translations of Mark, plus my own translation and copious philological notes. Once you get into textual exegesis of the primary source, I shall return.

Here I pointed out that I have already answered your question. I reassert the argument for which I provided evidence previously (evidence you have never addressed).

Your own translation and “copious philological notes”, sure. And there will be countless reasons why you are unable to provide evidence for this “translation” of yours, or your “copious philological notes”.

I already did that, remember?

I note you didn’t answer this question. Do you believe demons exist? Supernatural evil spirits? I predict you will do your utmost to avoid answering this question.


Isn’t the correct interpretation of this part of Romans 19 that one can only cast out demons with the name of Jesus if one is a Christian!?

Below is the RSV translation, with has a little more clarity:

Acts 19:15-20
But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And
the “Man-in-whom-the-Evil-Spirit-was”
leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

[There is nothing here which indicates the evil spirit was an imagined or feigned entity!]

“And this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their [magical/demonic] practices.”
“And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily.”

The correct interpretation is that no one has the power to cast out demons except for Jesus and God. If this was supposed to be representing a battle between non-Christian exorcist and Christian exorcist, with the aim of showing that Christian exorcist have genuine supernatural powers, we’d expect actual Christian exorcists to appear in the record. But they don’t, because no such animal existed.

I agree. I didn’t see anyone here make such a claim.



But we do find New Testament references to Christian expellers of demons… following the example of Jesus.

Mark 6:7-13
“And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.”

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

"And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" .

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Of course there are New Testament references to Christian expellers of demons. That isn’t in dispute. But that is not what is under discussion. Please remember we’re talking about Christian exorcists in Acts 19. You were suggesting that the purpose of Acts 19 is to show that Christian exorcists are better than non-Christian exorcists. This is hard to do when there are no Christian exorcists in Acts 19. Of course we find Christian expellers of demons in the New Testament, and very notably they are not referred to as exorcists. There are important reasons for this.

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Can you expand on that? I’m not sure what you mean.

  1. There’s a specific Greek word for exorcists, ἐξορκιστής. It means “exorcist”.
  2. The New Testament uses this word to refer to Jewish (non-Christian), exorcists.
  3. The New Testament never uses this word to refer to Christians, even when they cast out demons.

The New Testament is taking care to differentiate how Christians treat demons, from how exorcists treat demons, even when the effect is the same. The New Testament doesn’t want Christians who cast out demons to be thought of as exorcists. They are in a different category.

This same approach is found in the Didache (to which I referred earlier), and in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (early Christian writings of the second century). Concerning the Apostolic Fathers of the early second century in particular, Graham Twelftree in “In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians” (2007, 285), writes “none of them expressed any interest in the subject of exorcism”, and “it remains surprising, if not a little short of astounding, that the subject found no explicit treatment - sometimes where we could have expected it - in any of the Apostolic Fathers”.

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When you actually start offering a proper exegesis of the text of Mark, my scholarly preparation will become very evident. The ball’s in your court, not mine.

Nope. You’ve hardly touched upon the primary text, and the very few remarks you’ve made on specific passages have been ad hoc and incomplete responses to points of mine, rather than exposition proper. I thought you had undertaken to given “an analysis of Mark 5”, but so far your statements have been one long methodological preamble, with the analysis yet to be unveiled.

There is no need to answer it, because we are discussing what Mark thought, not what I think. I’ve only tried to describe Mark’s position, not evaluate it.

Why should it matter to you what I think? Do you suspect that it may prejudice my reading of Mark? If that’s your concern, perhaps I can relieve it somewhat: As a person educated in the modern world, I have acquired the common modern prejudice against belief in demons. Indeed, as I already told you, I don’t even Iike the doctrine of demons. So if my reading of Mark is guided by any prejudice, it’s by a prejudice which would urge me to read Mark as not believing in demons. The fact that I read Mark as believing in demons, when it would be more personally convenient for me if he didn’t, clears me of the anticipated charge of prejudice.

Oh so that’s the fig leaf you’re going to use, “a proper exegesis”. So I guess you’ll never see what you rate as a “proper exegesis”, and we’ll never get to see all your countless hours of work.

Well if you missed it then you can always go back and read through the thread.

I certainly called that; “I predict you will do your utmost to avoid answering this question”. And behold, so it was. You’re desperate to avoid answering the question. Very telling.


This appears quite clear.

But what is also clear is that Christian “demon expellers”, while carefully not called exorcists in the New Testament, are IN FACT expelling demons!

If you don’t agree that Christians were expelling demons, please describe what you think they are doing?

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They were only “in fact” expelling demons from the point of view of someone who believes in demons.

Healing people. Have you figured out why early Christians chose not to identify themselves as exorcists, or call their activity “exorcism”, or include any reference to exorcists, exorcism, or demons in the Didache?


There is a long history of Biblical antipathy towards any aspect of “dark arts”… whether it be astrology or casting out evil spirits.

But your position is a pretty thin soup:
“Because the church fathers seem uninterested in the topic, then the considerable mentions of the process in the new testament must be reinterpreted.”

Conversely, one might reason, the Church Fathers came to conclude that the Trinity was a crucial concept… despite the lack of biblical discussion of these Trinitarian principles. So the church fathers play their trump card!

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We’re talking about Second Temple Period Judaism George. Not only is there absolutely no mention of casting out evil spirits in the Old Testament (still less any talk of antipathy), casting out evil spirits was totally cool in the Second Temple Period, and the New Testament also makes it very clear that what Jesus and his disciples are doing with these demons is totally cool. The New Testament does not express any antipathy towards them.

No that is not what I am saying. Clearly you haven’t read my paper on the Apostolic Fathers, and you haven’t read my other comments about demons in the New Testament. I don’t think you’ve read a lot of mainstream modern commentary on the subject either, or you’d be up to date with the latest surprising developments in interpretation, especially among the Pentecostals.


Seeing that i have come across this discussion “in the middle”, I certainly should read your article. Could I have the pdf, or the link to it?

The 2 papers are linked in the OP, they are each ~30 pages but I found them interesting. @Jonathan_Burke, have you ever done an “executive summary” blog post of them somewhere? It would be handy.

Jordan has helped me out here (thanks).

No I haven’t, but I probably should at some point.


First, there are a great many things in the New Testament that are virtually absent in the Old Testament… not to mention the metaphysical status of anyone like Jesus.

Second, you intentionally re-worked my sentence about the dark arts into something that you wanted to be exclusively in reference to expelling spirits. But since the O.T. doesn’t deal in spirit possession, this seems like an unfair debate tactic.

The O.T. does express antipathy towards the dark arts as we see so clearly in the raising of Samuel’s ghost. But even here, the REALITY of the ghost is not in doubt.

Third, Mark 6 describes people being healed by expelling evil spirits. But then by your own words you say that the New Testament is “totally cool” with expelling evil spirits.

So what exactly are you concluding? Does Paul believe in evil spirits or not?

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I can’t see any real reason why you requires Jon’s exegesis before your translation of Mark can be produced.

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