Scratchpad: Key Words in Mark 5:1-17 – Suggestions?

Jesus drives out a demon or unclean spirit, fr...
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The assignment this week was to look at key words in our selected passage and how they were used in other sections of the book.

My answer:


Mark 5:1-17

The scene is a grisly one to say the least. It is set primarily in a graveyard wherein a crazed man, who is abusing his bruised body, resides (there are two in Matthew’s). Mark notes that the man, living among the dead wasn’t just unclean without, but vulgar within as well as he was possessed. In this section, tombs take on a dominant imaging with tombs being stressed several times as the location. Not only this, but so too chains and unclean. It may be implied that the man is unclean as he is living among the dead but he too has an unclean spirit(s) which was joined with the unclean pigs. I stress ‘may be’ as I note that the word for unclean, ἀκάθαρτος, (which may be translated as impure) is found only applied to the spirits in the Gospels while applied overall to anything ritually impure in the Pauline corpus. Even the woman with the hemorrhages wasn’t called impure, although by all rights, she was. Throughout the Gospels Christ was encountering unclean spirits which He would then rebuke and expel. This is Mark’s opening miracle, with exorcism occurring a total of four times in this Gospel. However, this unclean spirit is named after the occupying army. This wasn’t just a nameless disease or other psychological aliment which had trapped the poor man, but citing the name of the unclean spirit and then associating it with the impure food of the Gentiles draws our attention to specifically the name. It is also the only time in which the unclean spirits are said to be ‘many’.

Interesting enough, these unclean spirits were a turning point in the ministry of Christ. In Mark 1.23-38, Christ comes to a synagogue with religious leaders who could not contend with the spirit. The spirit, in the middle of the crowd, recognized Christ and named Him! Upon command, the spirit left the young man which helped to spread the fame of Christ around. In 7.25-30, Christ again casts out the unclean spirit from a child, a little girl this time, but here, He does so of a Gentile to the great prophetic realization that now Gentiles would receive God. The final exorcism occurs when Christ is in a challenge of what faith means. The disciples were asked, previously, to cast the spirit out, and although that they had already been given the authority in 6.7, they failed to do so. Angry, Christ rebuked them but the father of the child found great faith even in his doubt. Each of the exorcisms pointed to a grander revelation of who Christ was and the situation is no different than what we have in chapter 5.

As always, did I miss something?

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