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The Gadarene Demoniac.

The Gadarene Demoniac.

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Published by glennpease
BY LEONARD WOOLSEY BACON


— Mark v. 6.

We are not permitted, in the contemplation of this story of
one possessed with a legion of unclean spirits, to avoid speak-
ing of the somewhat difficult question. What was the nature
of the so-called " demonism " of the New Testament?
BY LEONARD WOOLSEY BACON


— Mark v. 6.

We are not permitted, in the contemplation of this story of
one possessed with a legion of unclean spirits, to avoid speak-
ing of the somewhat difficult question. What was the nature
of the so-called " demonism " of the New Testament?

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Published by: glennpease on Oct 12, 2013
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06/29/2014

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THE GADAREE DEMOIAC.BY LEOARD WOOLSEY BACO — Mark v. 6.We are not permitted, in the contemplation of this story of one possessed with a legion of unclean spirits, to avoid speak-ing of the somewhat difficult question. What was the natureof the so-called " demonism " of the ew Testament?Part of the difficulty in the case is wholly unnecessary,having been created by a misuse of words in the old trans-lation, which (not at all to the credit of the company of Revisers) is perpetuated in the new. It is nowhere said in theew Testament, concerning any one, that he Avas possessed of the devil. In one passage only (Acts x. 38), mention is madeof the healing of " all that were oppressed of the devil." Butin all other like passages there is no mention made of " thedevil," but of " unclean spirits " or " demons." The two wordsare used Avith absolute distinctness throughout the books of the ew .Testament. There is the devil, that is to say, theaccuser, or the calumniator, used always in the singular numberand with the definite article, of a ruling spirit of malignant¦wickedness, " the ruler of the darkness of this world." Andthen there is frequent mention of dcemons, or spiritual beingscapable of coming into relation Avith men. The Avord is com-mon enough in oth-er Greek authors, as applied either to goodor to evil influences. But in the caa^ Testament it is usedrarely if at all in any but a bad sense, as equivalent to " evil133134 THE SIMPLICITY THAT IS I CHRIST.spirits," or " unclean spirits." The confnsion between thesetwo words is a needless confusion, from which we should have
 
been saved if the counsels of the American scholars had pre-vailed in the revision of the English ew Testament; thisword demon and its derivatives would not then have beentranslated as if they pertained to the devil and to things dia-bolical.A second point of difficulty that troubles some people isthat this describing of a malady as if it were the infestationof some living thing that had entered into the person seemsso like the relic of a barbarous and superstitious pathology,which ascribes all sicknesses to such a cause. To which wemay make either of two answers : (1.) That if this descriptionof certain maladies as wrought by evil spirits is a survival of the superstitious notion that all maladies w^ere so caused, itmay be a survival of just so much in that notion as was trueand ought to survive. Or, (2.) That if barbarism and super-stition used to allege that all human diseases are producedby the agency of living beings invisible to the ordinary sightentering into the patient, tlien barbarism and superstition arein pretty good company, considering that the very latest wordof the most advanced pathological science comes out at pre-cisely the same point.And here is a third difficulty, which is suggested in thequestion Why are there no cases of demonism in our owntimes ? — a question to which, as before, there are two answers :(1.) That it is not certain that there are no such cases now.There are many to insist, with a very formidable array of evidence in favor of their claim, that cases of possession byspirits, clean or unclean, are peculiarly frequent in these days.(2.) If no cases just like what are described in the gospels arerecognized in modern pathology, this is no more than mightbe expected from analogy. Some of the diseases most clearlydefined in early history do not appear in any modern treatiseon the Theory and Practice of Medicine, and cannot be iden-TIIE (JADAREE DEMOIAC. 135
 
tified, by the description, with diseases now known ; and onthe other hand some of the most formidable diseases that nowscourge the human race are known to have had a modernorigin. It is one of the commonest maxims of medical sci-ence, quoted sometimes to cover its own change of front,that the type of diseases changes from age to age. Formy part, I find it nothing unlikely that in an age likethat of the coming of our Lord, when a decisive conflict wasimpending between the kingdom of evil and the kingdomof heaven, these maladies that involve the mind and soul, andindicate the presence of some mischievous s])iritual agency,should be found to take on a character of peculiar malignity.The four evangelists give themselves very little concern aboutpathology and diagnosis, although one of them was a physician.But taking the gospels as an honest and not unintelligent recordof the phenomena, we make out two points very clearly concern-ing this demonism : 1. It was not mere lunacy or epilepsy, forthese diseases are recognized and clearly distinguished from thework of the evil spirits. There are j^atients in whom the work of the infesting spirit produces symptoms like epilepsy; andother patients in whom it produces symptoms of dumbness ; andthere are still other manifestations ; but beneath these symptomsthey detect indications, which the sufferer himself confirms, of something different from the mere physical diseases of like symp-toms, by which these cases were surrounded. 2. As this demon-ism was not mere disease, so, on the other hand, it was not merewickedness — the willful giving up of one's self to the instigationof the devil ; — a mistake to which we are inclined by the un-happy mistranslation of which I have spoken. It is alwaysspoken of and dealt with as an involuntary affliction, lookedupon by the Lord with pity rather than censure. either is ittreated as if it were, in any special sense, a visitation for sin.Doubtless these sufferers were sinners ; and doubtless their suf-ferings stood in some relation to their sins ; but it was not thisrelation, that thev were "sinners above all others."136 THE SIMPLICITY THAT IS I. CIII^IST.

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