Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Gentile Rejection of Jesus

There's a story in the New Testament about Jesus traveling to a region known as the Decapolis.
I never bothered to find out what "Decapolis" referred to until today.  It was a region just to the east of Israel where ten cities were established after the conquest of Alexander the Great.  They were mostly gentile cities, with Greek colonists.  As  Wikipedia tells us
The New Testament gospels of MatthewMark, and Luke mention that the Decapolis region was a location of the ministry ofJesus. The Decapolis was one of the few regions where Jesus travelled in which Gentiles (people who are not Jewish) were in the majority. Most of Jesus' ministry focused on teaching to Jews. Mark 5:1-10 emphasizes the Decapolis' Gentile character when Jesus encounters a herd of pigs, an animal forbidden by Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws.

So here's the story in the Gospel of Mark: 
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Ger′asenes.[o] And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain;for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus[p] asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; 12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it told what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine. 17 And they began to beg Jesus[q] to depart from their neighborhood. 18 And as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But he refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decap′olis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.  (Mark 5:5-20, RSV)

So the author of the Gospel of Mark seems to make a not so subtle connection between the notorious non-Kosher pig and a place where demons prefer to live if they're exorcised from humans.  And given a choice between having someone who can get rid of demons or losing their means of making a living, the choice was obvious -- "We'll take the pigs." 
Interesting.  UPDATE:  Perhaps I should mention why I find this interesting.  We often hear that the New Testament is an anti-Semitic book, portraying Jews unfavorably, but Gentiles favorably.  Yet here we have a case where Gentiles, or at least those Gentiles who owned the pigs, aren't portrayed in a favorable light.  And given that a connection is made between pigs and demons, a not unfavorable light is cast on the Jews.  Again, interesting. 

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