Unintended Consequences.

In Mark 5: 1 – 20 and also in Luke 8:26 – 39, we are told about Jesus healing a man possessed by demons, who called themselves Legion. The man had been possessed for years and was living as an outcast, in a cemetery.  Mark tells us that Jesus drove the demons out from the man and into a heard of two thousand pigs. The pigs then all rush into a lake and drown.

Could it be that the man Jesus cured was not possessed but had a personality disorder? In the medical knowledge at that time, no one would have known or understood multiple personality, schizophrenia, or other mental disorders that might have provided another explanation than demon possession.

If the man had been possessed then there is probably no other explanation than his cure being one of Jesus’ miracles. If, on the other hand, the man were not possessed but mentally ill, I would have to think it was still a miracle, because he was cured so abruptly and, apparently, completely.

Only if the man were possessed, and the demons driven into the pigs, is there an explanation for them committing suicide in the lake; or is there?  What are the chances that the man was silent during his ‘exorcism’? It is quite possible that, given what we already know about him from the accounts in the gospel, he would have been shouting and screaming and raving during these events. If this were so, might it not be a simple case of the pigs becoming scared and running in a blind stampede?

Whether or not Jesus drove out demons, or cured a personality disorder, he healed the man of his affliction, so he was then able to rejoin society, but what of the herdsmen who had been looking after the pigs?

To Judaism, pigs are unclean (or impure), animals, although there were in biblical times good reasons for this. Some scholars now suggest that the original reason for declaring certain animals unclean had more to do with public health, than religious prohibition.

Herding pigs in Jesus’ time was not considered an honourable profession, so it might be that the herdsmen of those pigs were virtually outcasts. Nevertheless, the pigs meant that they had at least minimal, albeit low status, employment and so were able to feed and look after themselves and their families.

What now might become of these men and their dependants, after the loss of two thousand swine? How much might the healing of one possessed man have affected these swineherds? We are not told but; is it possible that this act of good for one demon possessed individual might have had a detrimental affect on others, possibly leaving them without a livelihood?

Might there be other times where one good act had possibly unintended consequences, that were detrimental to others?

I am not suggesting by the above that I disbelieve anything that The Bible tells us about these events, I just suggest a possible scenario to stimulate discussion and thought on the passage. I would welcome any ideas readers might have on this.


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