Home > Bp. Breidenthal, Fisks, Occult, Theology > Drawing the Battle Lines: Dean Breidenthal “Exegetes” Mark 1:21-28 [Part II of IV]

Drawing the Battle Lines: Dean Breidenthal “Exegetes” Mark 1:21-28 [Part II of IV]

2 March 2010

…continuing my fisk of this.  (part 2 of 4)

We left off with Dean Breidenthal painting a picture of Jesus as an expert facilitator for a brainstorming session (the first Jesus Seminar, perhaps?) during Temple, which upset a poor demoniac in the audience one Sabbath  (leaving out Jesus’ divinity of course, so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities of atheist blue-bloods in the Princeton audience).

Into this intensely collaborative activity bursts a man possessed by an unclean spirit. Imagine the shock of it – the sanctity of the Sabbath night and the vigorous but profoundly civil discourse about that week’s Torah reading shattered in an instant by the appearance of a madman who seems to have come out of nowhere. In the course of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus will have many encounters with people possessed by demons, but this is the only one that occurs indoors in a supposedly safe and sheltered setting. The implication is clear. The realm of the demonic is on the attack, challenging Jesus on his home ground, interrupting him as he teaches, seeking to bring his ministry to a standstill before it can get off the ground. This is an intervention on the devil’s part, and it bears all the marks of urgency.

Here, DB pauses to apologize for the text speaking about the world of the supernatural intersecting the natural world. 

For some of us, talk of the devil and the demonic may seem primitive or anachronistic.

Now, watch carefully as DB neuters the very un-chic talk of the devil and the demonic, in favor of a sanitized pluralistic view that can only be understood singularly (yes, you read that correctly – you’ll see what I mean in a minute…).

But you don’t have to believe in Satan to know that evil is alive and well in the world. However you understand it, this passage dramatizes the world’s resistance to the message and personal witness of Jesus.

In other words, DB believes that the passage “dramatizes the world’s resistance to the message and personal witness of Jesus,” so even if you are one of those anachronistic peons that didn’t make it into one of Princeton’s blue-emblazored clubs who actually believes that the text is talking about an actual demon possession, you see of course that the passage dramatizes the world’s resistance to the message and personal witness of Jesus… without admitting that the text is talking about demon possession. 

Right??

(hunh?)

In any case, we mustn’t be misled by the demon’s words into thinking it’s on the defensive.

Oh, not at all.   And we also mustn’t be misled by the demon’s crying out and convulsing the man while Jesus was casting him out, either, into thinking that it’s on the defensive.  Nor must we be misled by the demon’s leaving the man in short order (and rather pathetically) to mean that the demon didn’t have any control over the situation. 

[roll eyes]

“What do we have to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to do us in? I know what you are, the Holy One of God.” As Joel Markus (Anchor Bible Commentary on Mark 1-8) has pointed out, the wheedling tone of these questions conceals a grab for power.

Where to start?  Well, perhaps with the dictionary

wheedle
–verb (used with object)
1.to endeavor to influence (a person) by smooth, flattering, or beguiling words or acts: We wheedled him incessantly, but he would not consent.
2.to persuade (a person) by such words or acts: She wheedled him into going with her.
3.to obtain (something) by artful persuasions: I wheedled a new car out of my father.
–verb (used without object)
4.to use beguiling or artful persuasions: I always wheedle if I really need something.

So… DB believes that the demon is using artful persuasion on Jesus (?). 

Okay .. Um, while I do get the impression that the demon is trying to undermine the ministry of Jesus, it’s not as strong as the impression that it is afraid and desperate.  To employ a Clintonism, the demon neither required boxers nor briefs, at that point.  😉

When magicians sought to conjure up a spirit and compel its services, they would call it by its secret name. In this case it is the spirit that is doing the conjuring by not only naming Jesus, but outing him as the Messiah.

It is true that one of the great lies of necromancy is the (false) presupposition that powerful spirits can be controled if protocols are followed scrupulously and exactly.  The act of naming an unclean spirit may be one of those “protocols.”  But as I said, the illusion is that the occultic protocols exert control over the world of unclean spirits.  In this case, the demon would be aware of the illusion which his own realm has used against humanity and the Kingdom of God.  Put more simply, the demon would have known that humans do not have control over him with protocols (e.g., like naming a demon), so therefore he wouldn’t have used the same “protocol” on Jesus. 

Sorry, Tom.

Jesus’ response is swift and fierce. The New Revised Standard Version, which we heard today, cleans Jesus’ language up a little: “Be silent, and come out of him!” But the Greek is much more raw, and might be more accurately rendered this way: “Shut your trap and get out of him!” [I am indebted to Markus for this locution.]

What a contrast to the Jesus we saw at the beginning of this passage. I can well imagine Jesus the rabbi doing everything he can to encourage his students to speak up. “What do you think? Say more. What is your perspective? I want to hear from you.”

I’ve already dealt with Tom’s view of a Pluralistic Jesus teaching in the Socratic Method, in my last installment. 

But to the unclean spirit he says, “Be quiet and get out of here.”

Well yes, because it was His intention to cast out the unclean spirit, rather than invite it out for tea and crumpets. 

And remarkably enough, the unclean spirit does just that, howling as he goes.

I say “remarkably” because Jesus has not done or said anything to impose control over the unclean spirit. 

Er … because He (Who had assisted in the creation of the universe) was already in control ?  

 He has not countered by calling the demon by name, nor has he invoked any name by which he abjures the unclean spirit to depart.

Tom, do you really believe that the act of naming a spirit, imposes control over the spirit?  And if so, do you believe that Jesus (the Second member of the Holy Trinity) would need to play the name-game, in order to cast out the demon? 

As a slight tangent, according to some of my charismatic friends, when they are counseling a person who is suffering from demon-possession, the counselors do make some effort  to determine the name(s) of the demon or demons.  As I understand it however, the intent of the exercise is not to exercise control over the demon, but rather in having the victim of demon possession confess their sins so that they might be covered by the blood of Christ.  But – the authority itself over the demon has already been provided (praise be to God) through external means. 

Here, as throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus refuses the dynamics of power, and relies simply on the authority of truth. And because Jesus is so committed to truth, in his own person he embodies that authority.

This is beyond ludicrous:  “Jesus embodies the authority of truth, because He is so committed to it” ?  So, it was conditional, and if Jesus wasn’t so committed to truth, He would have lost some or part of His authority?? 

Praytell, what other Divine attributes are conditional within the Holy Trinity?

In his presence falsehood and disingenuousness stand out. The same commitment to truth that inspires his students to vigorous and critical engagement with Scripture sends this demon packing.

Well, no.  Jesus (again, Jesus the God-Man) commanded the demon to shut up and leave the man, which compelled the demon to do so.

(to be continued…)

– Elder

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