First, go ahead and take a few minutes to read through Psalm 109. I think you will get a lot more out of this if you have it fresh in your mind.
Psalm 109 is perhaps one of the most disturbing and violent psalms in the whole Psalter. At first glance, verses 6-19 appear to an extended request from David to see the absolute denigration, pain, and destruction of his enemy along with their family members. For those of us who value Jesus’s command to “bless those who curse you,” this is a difficult psalm to accept, and not to mention a difficult psalm to pray!
This post is for those who are skeptical or curious about the historical reliability of the Gospels (as well as those who might be curious to learn a little more about me).
I’ve tried to keep it concise, readable, and interesting for anyone who had ever pondered such a question.
I’ve never been one to just take what people tell me at face value.
I don’t think it’s really that I’m a skeptic; it’s just that, to me, it seems like a lot of people haven’t really thought through the things they believe very well.
Personally, I can’t really believe people who don’t have a good reason for what they believe, and I’ve always disliked it when people give me the textbook answer rather than a conclusion that they’ve arrived at through careful study and thought.
Last time we looked at this story in the Gospel of Mark together, we examined how Mark uses the word ischuo with a special significance throughout his Gospel.1
In the very beginning, John the Baptist claims Jesus is the “stronger” one by virtue of the Holy Spirit that empowers him.
Later, in ch. 3, Jesus claims that he is the one who has bound the strong one Beelzebul, implying that Jesus is stronger.Furthermore, Jesus is plundering his house. He goes on to connect this with the Holy Spirit just as John did before: it is not the power of Satan that allows him to do this, but the Holy Spirit of God that he wields and that wields him.
Mark hints in the story of Legion that Jesus is again facing the “strength” of the strong man, Beelzebul. However, Mark dramatically reveals partway through the story that the battle is not like before. Instead of just facing off with one unclean spirit, Jesus is now set against thousands of them. After establishing this, Jesus dispatches them with almost no effort. The power of Beelzebul is so far no match at all for Jesus.
There were two more components of the story that I wanted to look at. In this post we will be looking at one of them, which is the significance of Jesus’ allowing the unclean spirits to enter the herd of pigs and their subsequent drowning in the sea.
Today I’ve been looking at the story of the demon-possessed man at Gergasa (or Gerasa, or Gadara) in Mark’s Gospel.1 This story features in my first graduate-school research paper, in which I analyzed Mark’s use of the sea as a theme and metaphor in his narrative. I’m also planning on featuring this story in a video series that I’m currently putting together—hence my interest in the text today. As I was researching, I came across one intertextaul and two intratextual aspects of the story that I had never before realized, and which I’d like to share here.2
After beginning writing, I realized that I had far too much material for one post. I’m imagining that I can get everything out in two parts. This first one will deal with one of the intratextual features (though, in so doing we’ll touch on a bit of intertextuality yet still). Even still, this first post is far too long. Perhaps I’ll be able to conclude in my next post, yet we’ll see how long it goes, and perhaps I’ll have to split it in half again.
It has been quite a while since I last wrote about this psalm. Now it’s about time to take a further look and see what the middle two stanzas making up the center of the poem are all about. First, however, a quick recap of the first stanza.
Looking Backward: Psalm 114:1-2
When Judah went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of a strange language
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
In a nutshell this stanza retells the story of the Exodus and establishes the God of Israel as the Exodus-God. That is, he has revealed himself in this world as the one who leads people out of chaos and oppression into abundant life with him. The Exodus then is Yhwh’s act of self-revelation in which he reveals his character and quality. This revelation is unique not least in that “while the gods of the nations had images, statues, and temples as means of revelation, the God of Israel reveals himself in the Exodus of his people.”1
The Psalms have been perhaps my most consistent and steadfast partner throughout my Christian walk. For the past half-decade or so, since my earliest days as a Christian, I have made it a practice to read the Psalms daily and programmatically: twice a day—morning and evening–and through the whole book in a month. Of course, my consistency with this has waxed and waned, and it has never been perfect. Yet, that has never been the point. Rather, the point is that the Psalms have been spiritual nourishment for me, and every time I spend time with them God’s grace and power and love become present and begin to scintillate.
This said, I like to work my way through a book on the Psalms every once in a while in order to deepen and broaden my devotional appreciation. The first I ever read—a while back by now—was a work by N. T. Wright called The Case for the Psalms. It is a short, very accessible, and unique book. In it Wright characterizes the Psalms as poems that transform the reader/pray-er/singer; they reorient the imagination around what God was ultimately up to in Jesus Christ. In other words, they point to the Messiah and his work. As Wright beautifully puts it, “They are God’s gifts to us so that we can be shaped as his gifts to the world.”1 Later I would read another book called The Psalter Reclaimed by Gordon Wenham. It is a wonderful little book comprised of a series of lectures reworked into essays. It is somewhat more academic (and therefore perhaps less interesting to the lay-reader) than Wright’s book, but not overly-technical. Especially interesting is his essay incorporating speech-act theory into an understanding of what exactly is happening when the Psalms are individually or corporately sung and prayed.