As we saw in the first blog on this topic, it was a common understanding by Greeks, Latins and Jews that demons were disembodied spirits of people often behind the idols of the day.
But if this is so, then why doesn't Jesus just say so? Why not simply explain to people rather than seemingly go along with their mythology? Would that not simply be an easier method?
The answer is not as complicated as one might think.
Let me give you an example to help clarify. Let's ask ourselves what did Jesus teach about Hades? Why didn't Jesus clarify this? We are so accustomed to hearing the word Hades that we think that it is a Jewish idea. It is not.
Hades was the ancient mythological Greek god of the underworld. Wikipedia says this...
In Greek mythology, Hades was regarded as the oldest son of Cronus and Rhea, although the last son regurgitated by his father. He and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated their father's generation of gods, the Titans, and claimed rulership over the cosmos. Hades received the underworld, Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the sea, with the solid earth—long the province of Gaia—available to all three concurrently. Hades was often portrayed with his three-headed guard dog Cerberus.
The name Hades is generally believed to mean the Unseen One and was a rather stoic guard of the underworld who made it his job to make sure that no one ever escaped.
This god/place described by the Greeks was a far cry from Sheol of the Hebrew scriptures which simply described a place of where all the dead were assigned, sometimes translated grave, sometimes meaning the afterlife. It is accepted as fact that during the Jew's captivity in Babylon and the Hellenization of their world, the Jews began to interpret their own scriptures through new lens. Hence, Sheol became Hades.
How often does Jesus explain this? When does he sit down with the disciples and have a theological discussion of the mythology of Hades. We do not have a single recorded instance.
So what does Jesus do? What does Peter say? Acts 2:
23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him:
‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
Jesus' teaching method? He never corrected the mistaken view of Hades as the realm of an ancient Greek god who held all his prisoners in the underworld. Jesus simply rose from the dead and by virtue of that resurrection experience shattered any myth that there was a Greek god who held him, or would hold anyone for that matter (see the insightful article The Healing of Hades and the End of the Lake of Fire)!
We think so much from a Western lecture-based concept of learning that it is hard for us to imagine how little teaching Jesus actually did compared to what he simply demonstrated. His resurrection was the demonstration that Hades, as it was believed, was a mere empty myth. He also demonstrated that the Jewish idea of Sheol as the dark afterlife was also conquered.
Did you ever notice that the effect of "casting out demons" is always associated with what we would call largely curable diseases or mental disorders today? What was more important in that culture... to debate a theology about the origin of their sickness, or to simply heal them? In so doing, the very act of freeing them was the demonstration that the source itself was mere myth.
It might also be noted, that we should remember Jesus came AS A MAN! There were limitations to his knowledge even of the exact time of the upcoming event of the fall of Jerusalem. He only stressed that it would be in that generation but only the Father at that time knew the day or the hour. He grew in wisdom in stature before God and man. So Jesus, while being the Son of God, was also a product of the culture in which he lived. Jesus wasn't sent to be a medical doctor or psychologist by education, nor to teach medicine. He demonstrated a superior kingdom with superior power that could change the natural world.
The reality is that Jesus demonstrated this kingdom by correcting mental disease and healing what was out of order.
In the very well researched work by Duncan Heaster called The Real Devil, he notes...
When we read in Acts 8:7 of unclean spirits crying out, the Eastern (Aramaic) text reads: "Many who were mentally afflicted cried out". This is because, according to George Lamsa, ""Unclean spirits" is an Aramaic term used to describe lunatics" (3). It should be noted that Lamsa was a native Aramaic speaker with a fine understanding of Aramaic terms. He grew up in a remote part of Kurdistan which had maintained the Aramaic language almost unchanged since the time of Jesus. It's significant that Lamsa's extensive writings indicate that he failed to see in the teachings of Jesus and Paul any support for the popular conception of the devil and demons- he insisted that the Semitic and Aramaic terms used by them have been misunderstood by Western readers and misused in order to lend support for their conceptions of a personal devil and demons. Philo and other writers comment how the demon-possessed were laughed at and mocked especially by children- indicating that 'demon possessed' people refer to the mentally ill rather than the physically sick. When Legion was cured of his 'demons', we read of him as now "clothed and in his right mind" (Mk. 5:15). The 'demon possessed' man in Mk. 1:23 sits in the synagogue and then suddenly screams out- showing he was mentally afflicted. People thought that Jesus was mad and said this must be because He had a demon- “He has a demon, and is mad” (Jn. 10:20; 7:19-20; 8:52). They therefore believed that demons caused madness. (p. 259)
Why didn't Jesus explain the true origin of these diseases and mental disorders? Partially because he is stepping down into their level of understanding in an era of massive superstition. Partially because he is revealing the more important truth, like with Hades, that his loving kingdom and his loving Father are superior to all mythologies.
In the next blog we will explore some of the possible explanations for "demonic" activity today.
You can find a more indepth teaching on the story of Legion in my blog, Love, Demons and Mental Illness.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? THIS TEACHING GOES BEYOND ADDRESSING DEMONS TO HELPING US UNDERSTAND THE CULTURAL CONTEXT FOR SATAN AND THE DEVIL AS WELL...
Are you SURE you know who/what satan, devils and demons are?
Have you been involved in "spiritual warfare" movements where the more you focus on the devil, the more warfare you actually get or where there is more talk to the devil than Jesus?
I'm not an outsider, pointing the finger, but an insider who has been through all kinds of "spiritual warfare" over the years. From extensive study, personal experience and insight into this beautiful gospel, I want to share with you THREE HOURS of material that was presented by me at a recent event.
What if you have been shadow-boxing an enemy that doesn't even exist?