Devils cast into swine? Jesus preaches to the pagans.
April 25th, 2002
Received by H.
My dear brother:
I know that you have a special question on the “Antichrist,” but I do not wish to speak on this topic now. I want to return with you to the year 26.
One day, Jesus indicated us that we should leave towards the other side of the Sea of Galilee, thus entering the area of Decapolis. We were pretty surprised. Although even in Galilee there lived a large number of pagans — and they may have even constituted the majority — in Decapolis we would have to deal with a population where the Jews definitely formed a tiny minority. What had the Messiah of the Jews to do with them?
The New Testament mentions this excursion in the three synoptic gospels. Mark puts the story in the context of the narration where Jesus appeased the storm that threatened to capsize the boat, in which we were dying of fear, while Jesus was sleeping. One day, I will explain this event in more detail, although it has already been dealt with in a message to Mr. Padgett.
Then, the Biblical story in Mark 5:1-20 continues thus:
So they arrived on the other side of the lake in the country of the Gerasenes.
As Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man in the grip of an evil spirit rushed out to meet him from among the tombs where he was living.
It was no longer possible for any human being to restrain him even with a chain.
Indeed he had frequently been secured with fetters and lengths of chain, but he had simply snapped the chains and broken the fetters in pieces. No one could do anything with him.
All through the night as well as in the daytime he screamed among the tombs and on the hillside, and cut himself with stones.
Now, as soon as he saw Jesus in the distance, he ran and knelt before him, yelling at the top of his voice, “What have you got to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”
For Jesus had already said, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
Then he asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is legion,” he replied, “for there are many of us.”
Then he begged and prayed him not to send “them” out of the country.
A large herd of pigs was grazing there on the hillside, and the, evil spirits implored him, “Send us over to the pigs and we’ll get into them!”
So Jesus allowed them to do this, and they came out of the man, and made off and were into the pigs. The whole herd of about two thousand stampeded down the cliff into the lake and was drowned.
The swineherds took to their heels and spread their story in the city and all over the countryside.
Then the people came to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they saw the man who had been devil-possessed sitting there properly clothed and perfectly sane — the same man who had been possessed by “legion” — and they were really frightened.
Those who had seen the incident told them what had happened to the devil-possessed man and about the disaster to the pigs.
Then they began to implore Jesus to leave their district.
As he was embarking on the small boat, the man who had been possessed begged that he might go with him.
But Jesus would not allow this. “Go home to your own people," he told him, "and tell them what the Lord has done for you, and how kind he has been to you!”
So the man went off and began to spread throughout the Ten Towns the story of what Jesus had done for him. And they were all simply amazed.
In Matthew, we find the same story, but the author of the story speaks of two possessed people.
The story contained in Luke resembles much more the narration in Mark.
In the old manuscripts there is much confusion about the location of the episode. Some claim that it happened in the country of the Gadarenes, others that took place in the land of the Gergesenes, others speak of the Gerasenes.
In one story, the number of pigs is two thousand; in another story, we only hear that there were many.
Some time ago you read comments on these passages in the Bible that caught your attention. I want you to insert them here.
[Judas is referring to the some interpretations of the Bible, where the following is put forth:]
“Since the fall of the city a few months earlier [in 70 C.E.], Jerusalem had been occupied by the Roman Tenth Legion [X Fretensis], whose emblem was a pig. Mark’s reference to about two thousand pigs, the size of the occupying Legion, combined with his blatant designation of the evil beings as Legion, left no doubt in Jewish minds that the pigs in the fable represented the army of occupation. Mark’s fable in effect promised that the messiah, when he returned, would drive the Romans into the sea as he had earlier driven their four-legged surrogates.”
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus
“While the eagle was common to all legions, each unit had several of its own symbols. These were often associated with the birthday of the unit or its founder or of a commander under whom it earned particular distinction, and took the form of the signs of the Zodiac. Thus the bull signifies the period 17th April to 18th May, which was sacred to Venus the goddess mother of the Julian family...”
- Graham Webster, The Roman Imperial Army (1979), p.137
“X Fretensis, like XX Valeria, has, in addition to the bull and trireme, the boar as one of its emblems.”
“Neptune the emblem of legion IX, and a trireme as an additional emblem to the bull on the standard of X Fretensis implies that these legions took part in the war against Sextus Pompeius...”
The explanation of the boar is unknown.
- H. M. D. Parker, The Roman Legions (1928), p. 262-263
“While the boar is not a symbol from the Zodiac panoply, there is some evidence that it was used as a symbol in this legion. This includes tile antefixes from Holt bearing a boar above the inscription ‘LEG XX,’ and a bronze decoration in the French National library...”
- Daniel Peterson, The Roman Legions Recreated in Colour Photographs (1992), p. 54
X Fretensis later assaulted and took the cliff top fortress of Masada, where the Sicarii, the most extreme of the Zealots, had taken refuge. (It is interesting to note that six decades after the war following the Bar Kochba revolt., the emblem of the garrison legion - a boar - decorated Jerusalem’s gateways.)
Parallels between Josephus and Barnabas
The normal operating strength of a legion was 5,000 not 2,000 men. While the initial reference to the wild man in Mark 5 may refer to a notable event in or around Gerasa, a gentile city in the Decapolis, the part about the legion was likely a later addition. Gerasa was not near the sea of Galilee (the lake into which the pigs supposedly rushed and drowned) but lay a distant 30 miles away. In addition, Gerasa was one of the few Hellenic cities which did not fall upon and destroy its Jewish inhabitants after the uprising began. Those who wanted to leave were actually conducted to safety
(Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Bk II, Ch XIII, Sn 5).
“The placing of this episode in Gerasa...led to several ‘corrections’ in the manuscript tradition. The story is one of Mark’s longest and provides a good example of his rambling descriptive style. (Matthew and Luke retell the story just as effectively with many fewer words).”
- The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller (Ed.), p.23
“The story is strange on all counts. It is by far the most dramatic exorcism attributed to Jesus, and it combines exorcism with ‘nature’ - the swine. One of its details renders it unlikely. Gerasa is about thirty miles south-east of the Sea of Galilee, and there is no other large body of water around. Matthew shifts the scene to Gadara, six miles from the sea, perhaps thinking that this reduces the problem - though a six mile leap is just as impossible as one of thirty miles. I am at a loss to explain the story in the sense of finding a historical kernel.”
- E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (1993) p. 155
Unlike Gerasa, Gadara was the scene of a a great massacre of Jewish rebels by the Roman troops in 69 C.E. Like the pigs, the fleeing rebels were driven into the water.
“Vespasian sent Placidus with 500 horse and 3000 foot to pursue those who had fled from Gadara...”
“Placidus, relying on his cavalry and emboldened by his previous success, pursued the Gadarenes, killing all whom he overtook, as far as the Jordan. Having driven the whole multitude up to the river, where they were blocked by the stream, which being swollen by the rain was unfordable, he drew up his troops in line opposite them. Necessity goaded them to battle, flight being impossible... Fifteen thousand perished by the enemy’s hands, while the number of those who were driven to fling themselves into the Jordan was incalculable; about two thousand two hundred were captured...”
- Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Bk IV, Ch 7
Josephus reports that as a result of the battle “the Jordan was choked with dead,” and “even the [Dead Sea] was filled with bodies.”
(War of the Jews, Bk IV, Ch 7 Sn 6)
The story of the demons and the pigs also appears in the pseudo Gospel of Barnabas. The gospel, which may also have been written in the 1st century, does not use material from the New Testament. Here the location of the story is Capernaum and the number of the demons is given as “six thousand six hundred and sixty-six.”
“Jesus went up to Capernaum, and as he drew near to the city behold there came out of the tombs one that was possessed of a devil, and in such wise that no chain could hold him, and he did great harm to the man. The demons cried out through his mouth, saying: ‘O holy one of God, why are you come before the time to trouble us?’ And they prayed him that he would not cast them forth.
“Jesus asked them how many they were. They answered: ‘Six thousand six hundred and sixty-six.’ When the disciples heard this they were affrighted, and prayed Jesus that he would depart. Then Jesus said: ‘Where is your faith? It is necessary that the demon should depart, and not I.’ The demons therefore cried: ‘We will come out, but permit us to enter into those swine.’ There were feeding there, near to the sea, about ten thousand swine belonging to the Canaanites.
“Thereupon Jesus said: ‘Depart, and enter into the swine.’ With a roar the demons entered into the swine, and cast them headlong into the sea. Then fled into the city they that fed the swine, and recounted all that had been brought to pass by Jesus. Accordingly the men of the city came forth and found Jesus and the man that was healed. The men were filled with fear and prayed Jesus that he would depart out of their borders. Jesus accordingly departed from them and went up into the parts of Tyre and Sidon.”
- Barnabas 21:1-3
Cliff Carrington, “The Flavian Testament,” has identified some interesting similarities between the story in the Gospel of Barnabas and an account in Josephus’ Jewish War (below). In 69 C.E. the Roman general Vespasian and his son Titus recovered much of the territory lost to Jewish rebels a year earlier. During the campaign, Titus’ forces assaulted the fortified city of Taricheae on the shores of Lake Gennesareth in Galilee. Josephus (Jewish War, Bk III, Ch X Sn 8) states that this area locally was known as Capharnaum. As the Roman soldiers poured into the city, many of the rebels, who were led by Jesus, son of Shaphat, attempted to escape.
“...Some of those that were about Jesus fled over the country, while others of them ran down to the lake, and met the enemy in the teeth, and some were slain as they were getting up into the ships, but others of them as they attempted to overtake those that were already gone aboard.” (Sn 5)
- Flavius Josephus, Jewish War, Bk III, Ch X
Titus’ forces sailed after the rebels who had managed to flee by boat and decisively defeated them in a pitched naval battle.
“ And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air, insomuch that the misery was not only the object of commiseration to the Jews, but to those that hated them, and had been the authors of that misery. This was the upshot of the sea-fight. The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred.”
- Flavius Josephus, Jewish War, Bk III, Ch X
A Proof of Conversion?
George M. Lamsa advances a different explanation based on the Aramaic origins of the story.
“The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’
He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.”
“The Aramaic al means ‘enter into,’ ‘attack,’ ‘chase;’ but it has been exclusively translated ‘enter into,’ so as to imply...that the demons entered into the swine. According to the context and the style of Aramaic speech, the word al here means that, not the demons but the lunatics attacked the swine. These lunatics were Syrians or Gadarenes, whose people kept swine, which were an abomination to the Jews....As a mark of appreciation of what Jesus was doing for them and as a proof of their conversion, these lunatics were willing to destroy the herd of swine which belonged to their people. This was doubtless one reason why the owners of the swine got into a panic and urged Jesus to leave their land, lest their business be completely destroyed by more conversions to the Jewish faith. On the other hand, the demons did not need the permission of Jesus to enter into the swine any more than they needed any permission to enter into the lunatics.”
- George M. Lamsa (Aramaic translator), The Four Gospels : According to the Eastern Version (1933) p. xiv
Very well, my friend. Now you have given us a long list of different explanations. It is not always so easy to interpret the Biblical stories. The exposition is interesting, although some of the references to Josephus’ books are wrong.
First, I would like to tell what really happened.
In Peter’s message to Mr. Padgett, we can read already that this supposed miracle with the lunatics and the pigs never happened. I wanted to add that there really were healings through Jesus, also of lunatics, and that Jesus traveled with us through all the regions mentioned in the diverse comments presented above.
However, in his preaching, Jesus failed. He was not able to win new disciples, and he faced firm rejection. The time had not yet come for being able to impress the pagans, and in some cases, they asked Jesus straightforwardly to abandon their towns and go away. They feared for business in their temples, something very similar to what decades later would happen to Paul of Tarsus.
What Jesus wanted to demonstrate to us was that his mission was not limited to the Jews, but rather that it bore a universal character. We did not understand this then. And the question of the mission to the heathens would constitute a great problem in the future of the infant church.
Jesus was convinced that his teachings were compatible with many religions, even with pagan polytheism, in a great vision that some development would be possible, as we can observe today in India, where intellectual Hindus no longer speak of thousands or millions of gods, but consider them rather as different aspects of one supreme being, with their accompanying mythology. And in some way, that is what would happen during the conversion of the heathens. The Master’s teachings would mix with many aspects of paganism, which today are considered highly Christian, but which are not. I may mention, for example, the celebration of Christmas, Eucharist, Trinity, and there are many more examples, which we will deal with in due course.
Nevermore, during the year 26, would Jesus venture into the pagan countries, but he would rather focus on his work in Galilee, with a few excursions into Judea, in the context of the obligations for the believing Jews, attending the Hebrew feasts in their capital Jerusalem.
In the Biblical story that we have dealt with, vague memories of the Master’s activity mix with exaggerations of a mythological character, and certainly, with some resentment against the Romans, which nobody dared to express openly.
Now, my dear brother, I want to direct some more personal words to you. I am very pleased to say that you are right in your appreciation of the following:
True faith can only be born of spiritual experience. It is not only so that the inflowing of Divine Love brings us that faith, that is, it expands our spiritual horizon, but also that the conscious experience anchors this faith as “certainty” in our reasoning mind. It is absolutely useless to discuss religious themes with arguments. The only possibility for “convincing” others, is showing them the way to their personal and unique spiritual experience. As with all mystics of all religions, the transcendental experience transforms that, which in most cases was conceived merely a hope or a doctrine, into part of our reality we are living in. This personal experience can be repeated time and again, gaining ever more depth. This is the marvelous point in Jesus’ teachings: You can put them to the test right now. His teachings are not a matter of believing but of experiencing. You had suspected this already. Congratulations!
It is a sign that you have progressed one more step in your development. Your horizon has really been enlarged.
It is always good to take a look back at the past. Then you can see that something has really moved. What seems, at first glance, like stagnation, in fact is a great progress along the way towards true understanding.
Look back, and recognize the long road that you have already traveled. Recognize how your life and your attitude have changed to the positive. And then you can await the future full of happiness — not await, but prepare the future actively and come closer to it.
If you allow me to formulate it thus, in your world, time runs and drags men along with it, no matter if they have developed or not. In my world, we drag time along with us, that is to say, if we are immobile, time does not move, and if we advance, we drag time along with us. Do you understand that? You do not grasp it all, I know.
I just want to say that it is an error to wait for the future and what it might bring, because the future is our creation. Therefore, so many people are like a living anachronism on two feet, dragged along by time, without having contributed to its formation, lumps of the past in the torrent of time.
You have to learn to be the torrent and not that which is dragged along by the torrent. Anyway, in the spirit world you will learn this.
I know that you do not understand me, but write it down and leave it so for the time being.
The Padgett messages were written eighty years ago. However, what does this mean? For some, they constitute the living present, for others, such as yourself, part of them are the past, because you have progressed further on in some aspects, for even others, they are still the future, because they do not yet know them. Remember, when you discovered them, you felt as if a window had opened up, allowing you to glimpse a brilliant future.
It is time to say good-bye. See you soon, and I would appreciate it if you could dedicate to me a little more of your time.
God bless you,
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013