Swines flew*

Ok team. I have a question. Well, two questions. I was reading through the passage in Mark this morning where Jesus encounters the demon possessed man – with the demon called Legion. It’s an odd story, not because it’s all about demon possession and features a crazy guy living in a cemetery – it’s crazy because there’s a herd of pigs wandering around, being tended to. Here’s the story for those needing a refresher:

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

So, as I was saying, I read this this morning with a friend who’s a new Christian – and we speculated about why there would be pigs being tended by people – in a presumably Jewish city. We presumed it was Jewish because there seems to be no reaction to the fact that 2,000 pigs have just been demon possessed and drowned. If I were a farmer and some guy caused 2,000 of my stock to die, I’d be pretty upset. When I was working in a law firm at uni there was a case I did a lot of photocopying for where the government had culled a bunch of cows on the suspicion that they had tuberculosis – and that was a case worth millions of dollars… so there wasn’t much of a reaction recorded re the destruction of livestock… they just asked Jesus to leave town.

So we were wondering why Jews would be keeping a herd of 2,000 pigs that they couldn’t eat and didn’t seem to care about.

But Wikipedia suggests the region Jesus was in was a Gentile region – which just makes the story odder not simpler. Because you would assume these Gentile farmers would be pretty unhappy with a Jew killing their herd.

So what’s your take on the story?

*I wonder if swine flu is a case of a phonetic fulfillment of any contractual obligation to partake in an activity when “pigs fly”…

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

8 thoughts on “Swines flew*”

  1. Perhaps they were unhappy with Jesus, but also scared of him. I would be – he just commanded a legion of demons to possess 2000 pigs. I don’t think I would be too angry with this guy – I might end up in the lake too.

  2. Verse 17 suggests to me that they weren’t too impressed with Jesus, but needed to keep their wits about them because what ELSE was this man capable of?

  3. I’m with stuss. I think vs 17 indicates the people weren’t at all happy with what Jesus had done. But what could they do about it? Jesus was clearly powerful – he might get them! Best just get him out of town.

    My understanding is that it was half-caste or gentile territory.

  4. Au contraire, there was a lot of reaction over the fact they drowned. The townspeople asked Jesus to rack off! In our bible study it seemed a bit of a given that this wasn’t a Jewish town.

  5. You being a contrarian Leah? Who’d have thouhgt…

    I’d hardly say “pleading” is the same as “asking to rack off”.

    I am in agreement that it wasn’t a Jewish town – But – what was Jesus doing in a non-Jewish town? Particularly given the chronological context of this story – where it comes before Jesus sends out the 12 with instructions to speak only to the Jews, just as he had been doing? (I’m assuming Mark 6 = Matthew 10).

    Why did Jesus destroy the herd of pigs? Did his Jewishness mean that he saw no value in them. Does this teach us anything about the value we should place on animal life above human life – 2,000 pigs are sacrificed for the sake of one man’s sanity.

    It’s probably pointless speculation…

    Dad apparently tried to comment yesterday and didn’t manage to get past my incredible blog security… he wanted to say:

    “I was just looking at this passage today. It’s not often mentioned that there’s an amazing parallel in Isaiah 65 – people who live among tombs with pigs and tell God to go away because they are ‘too holy’ for him. It’s an odd passage in itself, and hard to work out (again) whether it’s talking about Jews or Gentiles. But it is certainly very much in Mark’s mind as he tells the story. Any effort to figure out the Mark account really needs to tangle with Isaiah as well.”

    Also, why does Legion not want to leave the area (v10) – and are pigs demon resistant – is that why they run into the water and don’t just become possessed bacon?

    It’s an odd story.

  6. It wouldn’t be unreasonable that there were Gentiles living there, even if it was predominantly Jewish. They were under Roman rule, after all.

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