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The Function of Exorcism Stories in Mark’s Gospel

The Function of Exorcism Stories in Mark’s Gospel

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The Function of Exorcism Stories in Mark’s Gospel

707 pagine
5 ore
May 29, 2019


This book investigates stories of Jesus' exorcisms in the Gospel of Mark. The story of Jesus' first public ministry in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28) and the Beelzebul controversy story (3:20-30) are examined to understand the other acts of exorcism that Jesus performed (5:1-20; 7:24-30; 9:14-32). Both Mark 1:21-28 and 3:20-30 highlight Jesus as a teacher and as an eschatological exorcist. The latter stresses Jesus' own understanding of exorcism and relates his identity with that of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first two exorcism stories in Mark's Gospel confirm Jesus as the bearer of the kingdom of God. The motif of discipleship, which is evident in both stories, contributes to delineating Jesus' christological identity as the Son of God, as indicated by the incipit of Mark's Gospel (Mark 1:1).
Markan exorcism stories in Mark 5:1-20; 7:24-30; and 9:14-29 further develop the presentation of Jesus' exorcisms and other primary motifs. The motifs of authority, identity, and mission confirm the christological identity of Jesus within gentile territory, and are an important part of his mission to the gentiles. Jesus' specific mission in Mark 9:14-29 presents the exorcism that Jesus performed in the context of his role in both death and resurrection. In this way, Jesus as the bearer of the kingdom of God defeats the kingdom of Beelzebul.
May 29, 2019

Informazioni sull'autore

Andreas Hauw is a lecturer of the New Testament at Southeast Asia Bible Seminary at Malang, Indonesia. He is a former translation advisor for Lembaga Alkitab Indonesia.

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The Function of Exorcism Stories in Mark’s Gospel - Andreas Hauw



Exorcism in the Old Testament

This chapter will describe the notion of exorcism in the OT.⁵⁵ Unlike the accounts of miracles in the OT (e.g., Moses’ exodus miracle stories, and the Elijah-Elisha cycle in 1 Kgs 17, 18, 21 and 2 Kgs 1–9, 13), references to exorcism stories (and demon-possession) are relatively few in the OT.⁵⁶ This is caused partly by the concept of monotheism in the OT.⁵⁷ Nevertheless, there are three passages that come closest to being regarded as relating to exorcism: 1 Samuel 16:14–23, Zechariah 3:1–2, and Psalm 91.⁵⁸

1. Is 1 Samuel 16:14–23 an Exorcism Story?

Whether 1 Samuel 16:14–23 is an account of exorcism or not has been debated by scholars. The questions in their debate are: Does the text contain a story of exorcism? Was Saul possessed by demons? Was David an exorcist? Scholars who construe the passage as being exorcistic in character have used both external (e.g., psychology, anthropology, sociology) and internal support (e.g., related texts of demonology in the OT and NT) for their stand. For example, Alexander,⁵⁹ Böcher,⁶⁰ McCasland,⁶¹ Unger,⁶² and Twelftree⁶³ have used external support, so do Berends⁶⁴ and Gruenthaner,⁶⁵ who argue otherwise. In fact, the different answers to the questions are based on the words: an evil spirit from YHWH (רוח רעה מעת יהוה), or an evil spirit from God (רוח יהוה רעה ,רוח אלהים רעה ,רוח אלהים ,רוח הרעה), to terrify (בעת), and the context of 1 Samuel 16:14–23 (see 1 Sam 18:10; 19:9).

1.1. An Evil Spirit from YHWH (רוח רעה מעת יהוה) Terrifies Saul

An evil spirit may function as the vehicle of the Lord in accomplishing his purpose (cf. 2 Kgs 19:7; Isa 37:7; Dan 4:13 [cf. 4:10, 20; 5:20; 8:13; 1En]; in metaphorical use: Num 5:14–15, 30; Hos 5:4; Isa 19:13–14, 29:10).⁶⁶ Furthermore, an evil spirit (רוח רעה) may also represent YHWH (Judg 9:23 [אלהים רוח רעה]). The latter finds a good example in our passage (1 Sam 16:23 [רוח אלהים and רוח הרעה]), where the Hebrew phrases


רוח אלהים רעה ,רוח רעה מאת יהוה and רוח יהוה רעה are used interchangeably to refer to a malevolent spirit coming from אלהים ⁶⁷ or YHWH. What all this means is that the notion that Saul was possessed by a demon sent by YHWH is conceptually possible, as argued by Keil and Delitzsch.⁶⁸

However, Keil and Delitzsch’s argument is problematic. The passage shows that the spirit (רוח יהוה) who came upon David (v. 13) is the spirit (רוח יהוה) who left⁶⁹ Saul (v. 14). Furthermore, the spirit who left Saul (רוח יהוה) may be equated with the spirit who entered and terrified him (רוח רעה מאת יהוה, v. 14).⁷⁰ Both spirits are the spirit referred to in verse 23. This manner of reading is supported by the LXX.⁷¹ This implies that the evil spirit (רוח רעה or the רוח הרעה) in verses 14 and 23 is not a demon as claimed by Keil and Delitzsch. Indeed, רוח רעה or the רוח הרעה is conspicuously sent by YHWH. The adjective רגו in the phrases (רוח רעה מאת יהוה and רוח אלהים or רוח יהוה רעה) carries the wider sense of injurious effects (misery to moral perverseness); this adjective therefore is not intrinsically evil or demonic.⁷² Hence, the contention of Keil and Delitzsch can be set

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