Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"My name is Legion for we are many"

"They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes, and when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no-one could restrain him any more, even with a chain, for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles 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 howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, '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!'

Then Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'My name is Legion for we are many.' He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

Now there on the hillside, a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, 'Send us into the swine; let us enter them.' So he gave them permission. 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 they drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

(The Gospel of Mark)

I listened to a program on Radio National's Encounter this evening called Out of the Tombs, as I was driving back from having been 'jilted' at tennis (transcript linked) (the transcript to the Encounter program not the one to my being stood up at tennis, for which there is no actual transcript). There was quite a bit discussed in this program, none of it terribly edifying. However one statement stood out.

For various reasons these days, it's not at all acceptable to talk about demonic possession in any serious way, and there is a very good reason for this, but nonetheless, you'd think in the context of a bible 'story' that it would be the one thing people might be the vaguest bit curious about. Not so apparently:

Brendan Byrne: Every time you speak publicly and refer to this incident, the one question that everyone asks is 'What about the owners of the pigs, wasn't Jesus rather unfair in depriving them of their livelihood perhaps?'

Right. The livelihood of the owners of the pigs? And that Jesus is acting unfairly.

Jesus wept. FFS.

Anyway, the way the actor said "My name is Legion, for we are many" was seriously creepy. Made me think about that whole method acting thing, and Heath Ledger and stuff. Also this particular Bible story very much reminds me of the film "The Field" with Richard Harris, wherein, if memory serves me correctly, there is a scene where they drive some cows stock off a cliff.

There are only a handful of stories in our culture, many of them derived from bible stories and the old driving the animals off the cliff seems to be one of them. More of it I say.

Brendan Byrne is the:

Reverand Professor Brendan Byrne
Jesuit priest and Professor of New Testament at the Jesuit Theological College in Parkville, Victoria, within the Melbourne College of Divinity.

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