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Mark 5:2 Commentary - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

2. With an unclean spirit As this is one of the most unequivocal instances of supernatural possession, it may be properly prefaced by some remarks on this class of phenomena as presented in the New Testament.

1 . No one is said to be possessed by Satan, or the devil; but, in the original, by demons or unclean spirits, or spirits connected with specific diseases, as a deaf or dumb spirit. The whole system of Bible demonology presupposes one arch enemy of God and man, finite yet powerful, an archangel of evil, who is the mightiest finite representative of wickedness revealed to us in the universe. See note on Mat 4:1. He makes his appearance in Eden under the base guise of a serpent, and procures the fall of man. As Belial he is known in Old Testament history, and perhaps as Azazel. He is Satan in the book of Job. He is Satan, Beelzebub, and prince of devils in the New Testament.

2 . Out of the range of the Scripture lands the powers of evil widely and powerfully ruled. Yet it may have been under other names and wearing other guises. The same world of invisible evil powers in its great outlines is dimly disclosed; but the demoniac agencies appear in different specific modes and styles, as the customs and institutes of men admitted them. There were the oracles, revealing apparently more or less of hidden truth, and with their devotees more or less inspired and phrensied. And it is by this very oracular inspiration that the girl in Act 16:16, was said to be filled, namely, by the spirit of PYTHON, which was the name of the god of the oracles. And this maiden exhibited the same peculiar phenomenon as these demoniacs, in showing a supernatural knowledge of the true character of the apostles, proclaiming them to be the servants of the Most High, while she herself only professed to belong to a far inferior opposing power. It is a striking fact, (which we shall again notice,) that the fathers of the Christian Church boasted that the oracles became dumb after the coming of Christ. This brings us also to another striking conclusion of the Church, namely, that the demons of the New Testament, the devils of Scripture, lurked under the guise of much of the mythology of heathendom. And on that view of the case we are at no loss to find an abundance of phenomena in pagan antiquity analogous to the possessions in the New Testament.

3 . To those who maintain that the cases of supposed possession were nothing more than ordinary diseases, it is fairly replied that the New Testament writers, and, evidently, the Jews of that age, generally and fully distinguished between diseases produced by natural causes and the same diseases attended with demoniacal symptoms. All phenomena of the diseases exhibited by the possessed manifest themselves in abundance in that country at the present day. Thus Dr. Thomson says: “In Sidon there are cases of epileptic fits which, in external manifestations, closely resemble that mentioned in Mar 9:18, Mat 17:15, and Luk 9:38. These fits have seized a young man in my own house repeatedly; and lo! the spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out, and foameth at the mouth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and is cast down wherever he may be seized, and pineth away until you would think he was actually dead. Matthew calls him a lunatic; but according to Mark it was a dumb spirit.”

And yet over above these diseases, which were natural, there are, in the cases of the possessed, phenomena which show that, in their case, either the disease is preternaturally produced or aggravated, or attended with evidence of demoniac action in addition. Such is most strikingly the case of the demoniac of Gadara, whose case is now before us. It is impossible to account for his strange consciousness of a wonderful power in Jesus, (see note on Mar 1:24;) or for the utterance of language which comes, as it were, from a being within the man; or for the language on the part of our Lord clearly recognizing the fact of possession; or for the departure of the devils out of the man into the swine by the express permission of Jesus, on any other hypothesis than the existence of beings superinduced upon men.

4 . It is asked, Why do not demoniacs appear at the present day? and to this we reply: The most profound observers in mental and psychological science have remarked that certain supernaturalisms seem to affect the human system in particular ages, then disappear, and are the subjects of scepticism in a later era. Phenomena of this kind took place in the middle ages which are unknown now. We have elsewhere remarked (note on Mat 1:20) that the coming of our Lord was attended by a series of splendid manifestations of the heavenly world; that the powers of hell should come forth in counteraction is not wonderful. That the battle between supernal and infernal powers then took place on earth more or less manifestly, is plain from the whole scene of the Saviour’s temptation. That victory was on the side of heaven was boasted, as we have before remarked, by the Church in regard to the dumbness of the oracles. The fatal blow was struck to paganism, and the decay of diabolical influence commenced, which is yet to result in the binding of Satan and the casting him down to the abyss, the triumph of the martyr spirits reigning in heaven and over earth with Christ. Revelation 20. Yet still there are cases, especially of men given over to delirium tremens, which exhibit a terrible approximation to possession, and which, if Satanic power were at the present time in the manifest ascendant, would very possibly develop a clear possession by the power of the evil ones. Dr. Trench quotes cases where a double consciousness has shown itself, and we have known cases take strangely a supernatural tendency. How much diabolical mingles with the so-called spiritism of the present day, may be matter of serious consideration. That these phenomena, many of them, may belong to the human organism in a preternatural condition, is probable. But they may belong to that part of the human which is allied to the supernatural; and no one can perhaps draw the line which divides them from the supernatural, or tell when the supernatural is superinduced upon the preternatural in man. This much we are certain: these phenomena belong not to the divine, but to the lower if not to the infernal order of invisible powers. As there is day and night, light and darkness, good and evil, so there is a kingdom of heaven and a kingdom of hell. Let men beware how they join themselves to the power of darkness, and come under the dominion of Beelzebub, prince of devils.

Consult other comments:

Mark 5:2 - Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Mark 5:2 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Mark 5:2 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Mark 5:2 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Mark 5:2 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 5:2 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 5:2 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson

Mark 5:2 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Mark 5:2 - Geneva Bible Notes

Mark 5:2 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Mark 5:2 - Gnomon of the New Testament

Mark 5:2 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Mark 5:2 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Mark 5:2 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Mark 5:2 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Mark 5:2 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 5:2 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 5:2 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 5:2 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Mark 5:2 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Mark 5:2 - Combined Bible Commentary

Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments