Seven facts why Jesus cast the demons to the pigs in Mark 5, but pastors still miss the point
Updated: Jul 19
We usually think of Jesus as the loving, forgiving guy from Galilee, right? So why did the meek ʼn merciful Son of Man cast countless defiling demons into two thousand piglets, sows and boars? The entire herd ran straight off a cliff and drowned. Such a contradiction in character! And he was the one who said that the Father doesnʼt miss the “falling of a sparrow.” Oops. So whatʼs the point because Pastor John Piper feels the pigs were less important and John “LOL” MacArthur just jokes about the slaughter — neither reaction seems sensible. On the other hand, the Masterʼs usually thick-headed students, the Tedious Twelve, didnʼt question him about this! And did the Gospels writers believe the explanation was so obvious they didn't need to write one? Letʼs re-examine the event in the light of seven important Scriptural facts. That will give us the perfect answer.
When Pigs Fly
Reading the Word of God is wonderful. So many beautiful verses and motivating passages are in Scripture. Regrettably, what weʼre about to study — the Big Pig Splash Down — isn't one of them. As out-of-place as the pig-assisted exorcism by the Lake of Galilee was, the awful event is actually recorded in three Gospels; in Matthew 8:28–34, Mark 5:1–20 and Luke 8:26–39. Three witnesses! This is a noteworthy fact because not every event in Jesusʼs ministry was thrice written down. But thrice is no dice if we donʼt understand the reason or the message behind the event.
Letʼs go. We have some work ahead of us.
Out of the three, Markʼs gospel presents the most information about the herd. Letʼs use his recording to the event as our jumping off point:
⁹And he answers him, saying, “My name is Legion because there are many of us.” ¹⁰Also he begs Jesus many times that he'd not send them away, out of the territory. ¹¹And there was there, near the mountain, a large herd of pigs that were feeding. ¹²So the demons all begged Him, quote, “Send us into the pigs so that we can go inside them.” ¹³And Jesus gave them the right, right away. Then having come out, the טָמֵא/defiling spirits went inside the pigs and the herd rushed off down the steep bank into the lake — around two thousand — and they choked in the lake. ¹⁴And the ones feeding the pigs ran away and reported it in the city and in the country-side, so they went out to see what was happening. ¹⁵And as they come near Jesus, they see the demon-possessed man sitting, with some clothes on and in his right mind — the one that used to have the legion — and they were scared away. ¹⁶Then the ones who saw it explained how it had happened to the demon-possessed man and about the swine. ¹⁷So they began begging him to be gone from the whole area. (Mark 5:9-17: unless otherwise noted, all translations are those of the author.)
Genre: know what youʼre dealing with
Every Bible passage is either a historical narrative piece (such as the one we just read), a legal and/or procedural document (the majority of the Five Books of Moses), or it is a poetic passage (like Psalms, Proverbs and much of the Prophets). A may also be a combination of two or more genres. Itʼs kinda like the difference between a Disney movie, a TV documentary and/or an infomercial; normally each is dissimilar from the other. Knowing the correct genre of what you are studying is a major step toward getting a correct message or interpretation. Take the first chapter of Genesis for example; oneʼs interpretation of it depends on whether one thinks itʼs a historical retelling of creation, or just a poem. (Only an amateur Hebraist would claim the latter, frankly.)
The exorcism and the slaughter: Did they happen?
Should we accept Mark 5 as literal history? The passage appears to be straightforward historical-narrative writing, like the rest of Markʼs gospel. Throughout the book, the author uses direct quotes, various and mostly verifiable place names and clear descriptions of mostly plausible actions. Furthermore, the play-by-play presents no reason to be judged as a parable or an allegory. Admittedly the whole event with the demon-crazed pigs is odd — you donʼt see it every day — but the writer wanted us to believe it genuinely happened.
Compared to the accounts of the same event in Matthew and Luke — also written in simple narrative prose — some details vary. But these differences are typical of eye-witness reports and only irritate skeptics. The tricky bit is finding the correct reason why gentle Jesus dumped hundreds of murderous, unclean spirits on so many swine.
Possible reasons for the slaughter
Seven Forgotten Facts clarify our interpretation
Catch-22: Jesusʼs sole option!
One possible reason the Son of David chose the pigs was that he had no choice. Indeed, some believe that Jesusʼs single option was to let Legion loose on the animals. Their line of reasoning supposes that Jesus wanted to save the man (men) but too many unclean spirits meant Jesus had to “negotiate” to get them to move out. And the only real bargaining chip — according to this interpretation — was offering them the two thousand big pink chips.
But this view is shocking because it places Godʼs Son on an equal footing with the unclean spirits and thus flies in the face of the normal presentation of Jesus in the Gospels. All four gospel writers repeatedly testify to Jesusʼs power over storm, waves and gravity (Matthew 8:22-27, Mark 4:35–41 and Luke 8:22–25, passages immediately before the pig-demon accounts!), his power over blindness (John 9:32) and even over death, as in the case of a three-days dead Lazarus (John 11:1-44). With such a track record, what difference would Legionʼs size or strength make? Besides, each of the synoptic gospels quotes the demons saying out loud that Jesus had the power to torture them all at will (Matthew 8:29, Mark 5:7 and Luke 8:28). So how on earth could they dictate to the Son of God where they wished to go?
Another problem with the Catch-22 interpretation is the sheer number of other animals or places that Jesus could have “negotiated” for. The text of Mark 5 says pigs were nearby, but it doesnʼt say they were the only things nearby. What about sheep? Donʼt demons like sheep? What about cattle? The Psalmist states that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills — “Because to me belong every beast of the wood, every herd on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10, and weʼre assuming Jesus — the Second Person of the triune God — had equal rights to those hills and those cattle.)
And what about trees or rocks? Living in rural Central Africa villages for ten years, I heard many stories from locals about demon spirits living in streams and trees and boulders. Iʼm not saying I totally believed the stories, but I cannot believe that a single other place could not be found to send the legion. Matthew 12:43 and Luke 11:24 mention demons going to “a dry place.” And what about just sending the killers into “the air” (Ephesians 2:2)?
John MacArthur keeps them laughing
Search the web and you will find many opinions about why the pigs died. The majority admits they are clueless and throw their hands up, stating the herd was just a “casualty of war.” Another who admits he has no idea why the gentle Jesus jettisoned all those unclean demons unto the swine is John MacArthur.
The pastorʼs attempts to laugh off the haunting question about the meek and lowly Son of Man killing all the pigs is pathetic. If you watch the short clip (above) and compare it to the one hour source video — Dominating Powers, Part 2 (Mark 5:1-20) — you will notice how MacArthurʼs speaking style changes as soon as he addresses the matter of the pigs. Early in the video, he is very factual and seems sure of himself. But when the pigs need to be explained, he immediately seems lost and turns to heartless comedy.
Unfortunately, Pastor John is not alone, joking at the expense of this tragedy. Mark Driscoll also generated some chuckles when he callously said the death of the pigs “created a bacon famine.”¹
But isnʼt it a funny “coincidence” that pork happens to be on Godʼs list of forbidden food. Why doesn't the good pastor “entertain” that avenue of possibility or is he too busy making one-liners to connect any dots? Perhaps that is his point. He doesnʼt want to connect the dots and he doesn't want us to either. He prefers we stay laughing so no one can reflect on this coincidence.
Points or Pointless
Besides the jokes being in poor taste, they make his sermon seem less than professional. And the good pastor doesnʼt give any rationale for a slaughter that huge. His sermon should have given us some point, some excuse, or some logical explanation for it all. Does he really believe Mark 5 is Biblical material just for laughs? Jewish rabbis, when interpreting the Word of God, follow an important principle: no word in Godʼs Word is superfluous or pointless. Pastor MacArthur would do well to learn from his Jewish counterparts. For heavenʼs sake, why canʼt the good pastor try to explain the incompatibility of our loving Jesus wiping out hundreds of “innocent” creatures without a punch line?
To be honest, all the bad humour honestly makes me believe the pastor is being dishonest. The jokes are a smoke screen. His wisecracks are a distraction. Johnʼs Entertaining LOL Interpretation shows me that he sees cracks in his theology, but is unwilling to own up to them. In other words, to paraphrase what Gertrude told Hamlet, Methinks the good pastor doth protest too much.
Pastor Piper: Pigs pay the price
The most plausible reason Jesus chose the pigs was because he regarded people as precious and priceless, but not swine. This Priceless People Interpretation comes from another sunny California pastor, John Piper. The good pastor basically believes that in Jesusʼs mind, one manʼs peace, preservation and freedom from unclean spirits is worth the “sacrifice” of a couple thousand pigs. R.C. Sproul also agrees with this preference of people over pigs when he writes, “a man is worth more than 2,000 pigs.”
But are these good pastors on the right track? Did Jesus really sacrifice the swine for the man? Was it correct to destroy so many for just one (or two men). And was the Master doing the right thing ... sacrificing someone elseʼs pigs. That is the exact opposite of other godly men (compare with 1 Samuel 24:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:24).
Bishop of Hippo Interpretation: Who cares!
Lastly, even if Mr. Piperʼs explanation were true, look what its application could mean. The pastorʼs “precious-people useless-swine” principle was previously dreamed up by the 3rd century church father, St. Augustine of Hippo (quoted by Spalde and Strindlund), and he ran with it. Mr. Hippo read Mark 5 and convinced himself that Jesus did not care about swine, or any other animals, and therefore, spread a church doctrine that Christians have no genuine duty to animals. While animal-abuse cases arenʼt normally rampant among church-goers, itʼs no thanks to this bishopʼs official policy.
The interpretation based on Scripture
The hard-hearted views of the Bishop of Hippo are not biblical because righteous people are obliged by God to be considerate to all animals, even wild animals, as discussed below. And sadly, neither of the two Johns considered Godʼs extreme love for His Creation when giving their interpretations. But if one cared to examine all of Godʼs Word, the only possible reason for Jesus to destroy the pigs in the exorcism seems to be connected to Godʼs opinion about ham. Yes, you read that right. The normally merciful Messiah destroyed the pigs in accordance with Godʼs Law about clean and unclean meat. That's why Jesus's motivation to kill the herd was more than obvious to the Tedious Twelve and the gospel writers. Of course this “kosher” interpretation is just as obvious — painfully obvious — to John MacArthur and Piper, yet I've never seen either refute the issue or deal honestly with their doubts. But should you also doubt, my friendly blog reader, read on. Seven Biblical facts await you that prove Jesus was obliged to love all creatures, except that a higher command forced him to partially judge the Jews who owned the two thousand poor pigs.
First Fact: God loves animals — Matthew 10:29
Some of Jesus's reputation for being normally meek and merciful comes from statements like:
Are not two sparrows sold for the smallest coin, and yet one of them cannot fall to the earth apart from your Father? (Matthew 10:29; compare with Luke 12:7)
From Jesus's own mouth, we are informed of Godʼs special love and attention for defenseless animals — and we know Jesus has the same heart for the weak. Notice how Godʼs care is cleverly contrasted with manʼs callousness: men buy birds for next to nothing because they do not value them, yet The Almighty — as large and in charge as He is — still takes careful notice of frail creatures.
Plus, when Jesus chased the sellers out of the Temple courts (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:12-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 12:13-16), there is a small, but wonderful, detail that is in complete harmony with Matthew 10:29. Instead of recklessly freeing the doves into the air (as erroneously shown in The Jesus Film and other Bible movies), Scripture records with precise detail that Jesus only knocked over the chairs of the pigeon owners, and/or told them to take their feathered property and leave (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:16) — he didnʼt use his whip on the birds or fling them into the air to be attacked by falcons or eagles. And this identical detail was written down in three different texts to remind us of the Son of Manʼs normally tender nature.
But with all this talk about tenderness, what on Earth could have changed Jesusʼs tune and made him treat the swine the way he did? Answer: the impurity of the swine.
The Good Shepherds
Something else to ponder about the Son of God is his other title, The Good Shepherd:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
David, the son of Jesse, was another selfless, compassionate shepherd. In 2 Samuel 17 we read of the young boy who would be king risking everything for one lamb. David ran after the lion that had grabbed his sheep and with just his staff, and his wits, he forced the lion to drop it. David did the same to a bear that took a sheep. (Quite likely David would have let the lion and the bear free, if not for the fact that they came back at him: 2 Samuel 17:35). Despite all the dangers to himself, David wouldnʼt allow any to be hurt. Thus, in him, God found “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 and 1 Samuel 16:1).
David was a good example of what Jesus meant by “the shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Compared to this, Jesusʼs behaviour toward the pigs appears extremely callous: giving vile demons permission to slaughter swine is not exactly compassionate. But wait, realize how deep Godʼs affection for animals goes.
Jonah: The Pitiless Prophet
The prophet Jonah is held up as the merciless messenger of God; not a great title. But as for God, what reason did He give Mr. Merciless for not destroying Nineveh? God told Jonah that it was not just all the people, but also “so much livestock” (Jonah 4:11). The book ends on that very point. And while itʼs not true God pairs animals with people every where in Scripture, He does in this statement.
Legal rights for animals
Sadly, our two good pastors seem oblivious to the fact that under the Law of Moses, animals have benefits too, and this fact should have bearing on any interpretation of Mark 5. The Law of God² states that the Sabbath is a day of rest for all livestock (Deuteronomy 5:14). This verse alone puts an interesting twist on the oft-quoted “man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man” because originally Scripture makes the point that the Sabbath is for man and manʼs animals. And wild animals are not forget because farmers in the Land of Israel are commanded in Exodus 23:11 to leave parts of their fields for food for wildlife. Also, any every person who wants to please God is forbidden the heartless act of boiling a calf in its motherʼs milk (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21), as well as the abominable practice of cutting and eating the leg of a live animal, only to leave the poor creature hobbling around with its three remaining legs (Deuteronomy 12:23; explanation).
Godʼs Law even has two commands that equate domestic livestock with wild animals. For one, Leviticus 22:28 forbids righteous farmers from killing a cow and its calf on the same day. The other, Deuteronomy 22:6-7, protects wild mother birds in a similar way, forbidding us from killing them along with their young at the same time. Interestingly, if you obey the latter, and take just the babies or the eggs but release the dame, God promises you a long and successful life. For being kind to birds!? The only other commandment with this same specific promise is the command to “honour thy mother and father” (Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16; c.f., Ephesians 6:2-3 where Paul copies out the entire commandment and the promise).
And what does the Law say about pigs? Almost there.
Mother-child time; so sweet
Remember that the Law reveals to us the mind and personality of God. A wonderful verse that reveals Him to us — and probably the most heartwarming — is the commandment in the Torah that mother animals are allowed to stay with their newborns for at least seven days before the offspring can be taken for food or for sacrifice (Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 22:27). This mother-baby law actually takes priority over another command which requires all first-born calves and lambs to be offered up to God on His altar (Numbers 18:17; Deuteronomy 15:19.) Therefore, by associating the two commandments together, and you catch some of the character of our Heavenly Father. We come to understand that the God of the Universe is willing to wait and to stall our own behaviour so as to give mother cows and mother sheep more time together with their babies. Are you seeing this?
(Question: If God cares about the mother-child relationship in animals, how does He consider that relationship for people? Furthermore, how upset must God get seeing a doctor reach into the womb of a mother and murder her unborn child? I definitely donʼt want to be near that doctor on Judgement Day.)
Judaismʼs view of animals
All of these commandments and more are still taken literally by many Jews today. They have therefore made important decisions about the proper treatment of animals. This page from an Orthodox website partially shows how Judaism views their responsibility.
“Jesus loves me, this I know” — but what about the chickadee and the crow?
After this long, careful study, it should be crystal clear that the heartless Bishop of Hippo was mistaken, as were our two good pastors. How could they say Christians not need be concerned about the welfare of animals or that they have little value, or even laugh about the death of thousands, when such beliefs are set side-by-side with Godʼs Word?
Also, this study shows that Jesusʼs actions in Mark 5 were — on the surface — contrary to the deep-rooted Jewish respect for domestic and/or wild animals. That is, they appear contrary, except for one thing: Godʼs Law forbids righteous people from eating pork. Pig meat, according to Scripture, is as unclean as the demons that Jesus sent into the swine. Seen in this light, Jesusʼs actions against the herd were more than appropriate and neither Matthew, Mark nor Luke bothered to explain or rationalize the Masterʼs actions. To any Jew, Jesusʼs actions were crystal clear.
Second Fact: Heaven hates ham
Suddenly, Mark 5 is clear. Now we see the missing puzzle piece: God had plainly prohibited pork as food, making it clear that holy people should not eat it — “all of you be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45) — and therefore, Godʼs normally merciful Messiah destroyed an entire herd in total agreement with the commandment. Owning those defiling animals was illegal and having two thousand head, the farmers were more than flouting the Law that Jesus had not “came to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Working with the Law, and not against it, Jesus is shown to be completely in character and not out of his mind. His actions now make sense in this new light. And lastly, because the herd was within the Land of Israel and owned by Jews (the joke about “Gentiles” owning them is cleared up below), the unclean swine had to go and the unclean demons did the work. The Jewish Messiah rid himself of two defiling groups in one blow.
Will it be clean or defiling meat this evening?
Overall, when it comes to any animal being selected for food or for sacrifice, God sees only two types. Every creature on land, or in the water, or in the air is classified by either the Hebrew term, טָהוֹר (tahor), meaning ritually clean/pure, or by the term, טָמֵא (tameh), unclean/defiling. Again, these classifications come from God, not man, and show up in Scripture as early as Genesis 7:1-9. (Later, in Genesis 8:20, Noah sacrificed some of the clean animals to God as thank you offerings because their ship had come in! Ba-dum-tsss.)
Later, Leviticus 11 explains to His Chosen People that He had chosen only ritually clean/pure animals for them to eat. It isnʼt a long list. Part of the reason for such a short list is due to the fact that Godʼs People are special (Exodus 19:5-6) and separate (Deuteronomy 7:6) and unique from others on the earth (1 Peter 2:9). But this is not the full explanation or the main one.
Be ye holy
The main reason God limits righteous people to a select group of clean/pure animals is for the purpose of holiness. And holiness means salvation, as Paul wrote in two different letter, “without holiness no man [or woman] shall see God” (Hebrews 12:14 and Romans 6:22). Sadly, GotQuestions misses the point, or they lie, saying that “being distinct” was all important to God. They do not bother mentioning Scriptureʼs emphasis on being holy before God. That amazing phrase, “all of you be holy for I am holy” did not start with Peter (1 Peter 1:16), because the apostle is quoting Leviticus. Why do I say that book? Because in all of Holy Writ, the phrase first appears in Leviticus 11 (Leviticus 11:44) right after God talks about clean/pure meats. And then God Himself repeated it five more times in the same book: Leviticus 11:45, Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 20:2, Leviticus 20:7-8 and Leviticus 20:26! These are tremendously important facts that GotQuestions is ignorant of, or they prefer to spread disinformation about, this important Biblical truth that, in the mind of the Almighty, holiness is bound to what we eat.
On My altar
Godʼs altar was also separate and distinct and holy. Therefore, when it came to sacrifices on it, the menu was even shorter. The list in the first chapter of Leviticus contains only bovine, sheep, goats and pigeons; all typified later, in Leviticus 11, as clean/pure animals. But what does Leviticus says about ham?
And also the pig; although it has a hoof splitting in half and it has a hoof clearly tearing in two, the pig doesn't bring back up its cud to chew. This food is unclean and defiling for you. Its flesh you must not eat. Their dead bodies you must not touch. They are unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:7-8; This Hebrew text has an obvious emphatic style and great deal of word play yet it is either ignored or intentionally omitted by Christian translators.)
Pork is the most infamous of all-things-not-Jewish and the bad press that pigs receive in Scripture, and in contemporary Western society, is another reason why I accuse both pastors of being less than honest in their explanations about Mark 5. They need to face the cracks in their theologies. Both Johns could conveniently connect the dots between the Law of God which outlaws the swine and the destructive action which Jesus took against the herd, but it would be too inconvenient for their religious views.
Without a doubt, both men know God never came up with the line, Put pork on your fork. So instead of working or hammering away at the embarrassing elephant in the room, the good pastors spoon out interpretations to us that are not biblical, or dish up corny one-liners, all in the hope that weʼll swallow them or be too busy laughing to connect the dots ourselves.
Third Fact: Not a fickle faithless Father
It is a wonderful fact, but unlike you and I, Godʼs character is constant and consistent — I AM that I AM — and understanding His unchanging nature is at the center of forming the right interpretation of Mark 5. Therefore, even though folks from the Bishop of Hippo down to our two good California pastors have tried to persuade us that the Creator has shifted His views on pork, God did not, can not, and will not vary or alter or adjust any word spoken about any decision — let alone His views on ham sandwiches. Saying God reverses a verdict or compromises a promise soils His Name. To suggest God retracts or repeals laws tarnishes His Dignity.
One day the prophet Samuel angrily told his king that God would not go back on His decision. It was like, Read my lips, Saul!:
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent for He is not a man that He should relent. (1 Samuel 15:29; compare Numbers 23:19 and Titus 1:2)
A similar remark came from Mosesʼs lips when he described God as eternally faithful and then connected Godʼs faithfulness to His faithful love.
Therefore you should understand that the LORD your God is God, the god which is faithful, the one keeping sworn promises and loving-kindness for those who love Him and who keep His commandments, even to one thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:9; c.f., Exodus 34:6-7, 1 Kings 8:23; Psalm 103:18)
Because God is so steady, and doesnʼt reverse or repeal, He can be trusted to do what He promises; good or evil. And His promise to make a new “promise” (covenant) with Israel and with Judah in Jeremiah 31:31-32 does not repeal the first promise (the covenant that Israel broke), it strengthens it.
How many times should He say it?
Itʼs one thing to understand that He personally never changes. But look at how many times God let it be known in the Law — and in very certain terms — eating pork was offensive. It is repeated over and over. Logically we understand that no person on Earth could say something in strong terms over and over, and then just one day say, “Oops, can I retract that?” So could or would God Almighty flip flop?
If the Eternal One, blessed be He, had said just once that pork was unclean and forbidden, that should be enough. End of story. Weʼd obey Him.
But the Almighty said it so many times. He specifically banned pig in Leviticus 11:6 — but to make sure we heard — God repeats the command (Deuteronomy 14:8), adds that eating it makes a person unclean (Leviticus 11:43), adds that touching their carcasses defiles a person (Leviticus 11:28), adds that righteous people must not become defiled (Leviticus 20:25), and then sends His prophet a prophesy like, “no one uncircumcised or anything unclean (טָמֵא/tameh) will anymore enter Zion or Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:1), and then openly judges pork-eaters as wicked (Isaiah 65:2-5), and then hotly repeats that identical point (Isaiah 66:15-17), and once more (Ezekiel 44:23-27) and once again, but now in the New Testament (Revelation 21:27), so where is that pastor who dares suppose the Almighty can change His mind about pigs?)
No matter how you slice it, the Almightyʼs negative view of ham and bacon canʼt suddenly switch from one day to the next. (Please donʼt hold up Mark 7:19b, “Jesus made all food clean.” Relying on that isolated, half-verse with textual problems makes God look flippant, and therefore, unpredictable and untrustworthy. See more comments below.)
In actual fact, when you stop to think about it, because God denounced pork in Leviticus, and then Jesus destroyed two thousand, and that event is thrice repeated — by Matthew, by Mark, by Luke — it all adds up to a big confirmation of the fact that God doesn't change. Such a conclusion will annoy a lot of people, even funny, leaky dispensationalists like John MacArthur. But we should never get too smug, thinking that we have corned the market on truth. “Before a shattering, a manʼs heart is proud” (Proverbs 18:12). So letʼs not laugh these verses off. Be circumspect. Perhaps even ask who might that future group of individuals be to whom Jesus will say, “Depart, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22) because even though they called him, “Lord, Lord [and had gone to seminary and made dispensational charts]” they somehow were on the wrong path.
Connecting all the dots
If our faithful, unchanging Heavenly Father God made a straightforward decisive — yet divisive — decision and repeated it over and over and over, then why canʼt the good pastors connect the dots and figure out Jesusʼs real relationship to the pigs? Mark 5 is truly very simple:
being a righteous Jew, the Law commands Jesus to abhor pigs as food,
being the holy Messiah of Israel, Jesus wants the swine out of The Land as much as he wants unclean spirits out of The People, and,
being the eternal Son of God. he has the power and the authority to ameliorate both.
Fourth Fact: Godʼs Enduring, Unchangeable Word
As was just so elegantly discussed, the destruction of the herd only makes sense if we remember that God never liked unclean food to begin with. And God isnʼt going to renounce or retract that decision no matter how many dispensational charts they print. In a similar way, we see that Scripture is the same; it doesnʼt change. It is true that we discover new thoughts or extra meaning over time, but Godʼs Word is permanent and cannot change. So letʼs have an exquisite examination of Scripture to better appreciate what happened beside the lake and why the pigs ended up in it.
Fixed in the Heavens
The Word of God canʼt change any more than God can. Throughout Scripture itself, itʼs a perpetual theme:
Your word, O LORD, is everlasting; it is firmly fixed in the heavens. (Psalms 119:89; compare with Psalms 119:152 and Psalms 119:160)
Field hay dries. Flower blossoms wither. But Godʼs Spoken Word will endure for all time. (Isaiah 40:8; compare Isaiah 55:11, Isaiah 59:21 and 1 Peter 1:25)
For I tell you truly, until the passing away of Heaven and the Earth, not the smallest letter nor the smallest comma will pass away from the Law until everything has happened. (Matthew 5:18, compare Matthew 24:35 and Luke 21:33)
Evolution: Wholly Humbug
Never believe anyone who says “the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23; KJV) changeth!
Worse yet, donʼt trust one who says Scripture evolves. (Take that, Darwin.)
Godʼs Everlasting Word is not something evolving or morphing into a strange new unusual thing, like some rose turning into a radish, or a carrot into a carnation. Theories of men that attack statements made by God — evolution for example — are sadly creeping into the minds of Christian leaders. No, at the very best, Scripture is a dazzling lily that started out as a small flower bud, grew and expanded overtime, until finally it opened to show us all its beauty, a beauty that there inside the bud since the beginning, but not fully shown. And opposite to normal flowers, our lovely Scripture-flower will never dry out or wither away (Isaiah 40:8).
Do the math
Godʼs Law has a law that you cannot change Godʼs Law. Thatʼs right, adding or subtracting from Scripture, according to Scripture, is illegal. Would you not agree that thereʼs a certain permanent feeling about a law like that? And that permanence of the Law matches well with the fact that the first time, and the second, He wrote the Ten Commandments in stone: Exodus 31:18 and again, Exodus 34:1. Itʼs odd that dispensationalist preachers donʼt preach this obvious, permanent truth.
Whatever matter I am commanding you right now, it's what you must be careful to observe to do. Do not add upon it and do not reduce it. (Deuteronomy 12:32; compare with Deuteronomy 4:2)
Double Trouble for Dispensationalists
Although the Almightyʼs statement is only one sentence in Deuteronomy 12:32, Jews regard it as two different commandments — no additions and no subtractions. And were you aware that the New Testament repeats the same two commands from Deuteronomy? At the very end of his book The Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John repeats them. And because these repeated commands are at the end of the Christian Bible, but the original commands are at the beginning of the Hebrew Bible, we get the impression that no new commands are allowed in the whole of Scripture, and no more books either. (So much for those latter revelations or new religions arriving centuries later.)
Adding up all the plagues
Please note how John repeats the commands, “adding” a zinger curse to both. Plus, these “additions” by John connect back to other passages in interesting ways.
For I myself witness truthfully to everyone hearing the words of the prophecy of this book, “If anyone adds to these, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book...” (Revelation 22:18, Deuteronomy 7:15 has a similar curse)
Besides Johnʼs cute play on words — donʼt add or God will add — consider what plagues he might be talking about and what book he might be talking about. Is John really referring to just the plagues of the book of Revelation, or could his words also include other books and plagues? Looking back over the entirety of Godʼs Word, we do indeed notice many plagues rained down on the wicked in other books. Johnʼs words seem to apply to all of Scripture.
Also, Orthodox Jews see a clear connection between Deuteronomy 12:32, “do not add,” and what happened in the Garden of Eden. When Eve said that she and hubby were not allowed to “touch the [Good and Evil Knowledge Tree] or they would die,” she was lying (Genesis 3:3 and Jewish explanation). God never said “donʼt touch.” She added that bit. And her addition to Godʼs commandment led to her disobedience and to Adamʼs, and then God added some amazing plagues to mankind, just as John says (Revelation 22:18) will happen to those who add to His Word (and not just the book of Revelation). On the other hand, it is unfortunate that the rabbis today donʼt see the even stronger connection between Genesis 3:3 and Revelation 22:18, because Jews donʼt read the “New Testament” all that much. (This sad fact may have something to do with Christians telling Jews to junk the Law which they love and to just believe and receive.) Nevertheless, the interconnections within Scripture, from the beginning, to the middle, and to the very end, are wonderful to see, just like a beautiful flower.
Another type of ʽtake-awayʼ
And what can we take away from the second part of the commandment “not to take away” from Godʼs Word?
“...and if anyone will take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share from the Book of Life, and his share from the holy city, and the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19, compare with Revelation 3:5 and 13:8)
This curse should deter makers of dispensational charts from chopping up Scripture because having my share taken from the Book of Life, or my name “wiped out of the Book of Life” (Revelation 3:5) doesnʼt sound very cool.
Also, Johnʼs emphasis — do not take away from “the words” — is stronger than Mosesʼs original statement. Deuteronomy 4 and 12 only state that none should add or remove what Moses was commanding, which sounds a little nebulous. But John is more precise, saying none should add or remove words. Either way, dispensational charts ultimately commit both acts against the Word of God. And John nicely parallels Jesus who said, “not the smallest letter nor the smallest comma will pass away from the Law” (Matthew 5:18).
As a result, our biggest take-away lesson is to never take away from the Word of the Almighty.But dispensational-flavoured pastors ignore this and teach us that Moses and David and even Jesus lived by different rules. These pastors have added to Scripture — that the God of the Old Testament is different in the New — and taken away from it — Mosesʼs 613 commandments are now reduced to 2. This picking and choosing is completely unbiblical. Paul himself said “the doers of the Law will be made righteous” (Romans 2:13), and that “the Law is holy” (Romans 7:12) and that “the Law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14). Playing with the plain truths of Godʼs eternal Scriptures means one is playing with fire and such actions will bring unfortunate consequences.
Prophets play by the rules
Look at the prophets; they also prove Scripture doesnʼt change. While foretelling death and doom was often part of a prophetʼs job description, the real task of each true prophet was to be an example to the people and to get everyone on board, or back on board, with the Law of God. Thatʼs really why they were sent.
Jesus — though he was The Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and John 1:21) — had to play by the same laws. He was constrained to act just like the other prophets before him. So he had to live according to the truth that had already revealed and to get everyone else in line with the program. Therefore, as we have seen from the Deuteronomy and Revelation, and Jesusʼs own words, he was not allowed to adjust the Law of God and he had no intention of doing so.
When Jesus said that he had not “came to destroy the Law but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17), he was not talking to the Jews who already knew the Law was permanent, he was looking into future centuries and talking to those Christians who would try to destroy it.
No joking around
When Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you” (John 13:34), he instantly had the undivided attention of the Tedious Twelve disciples because they knew changing the Law was forbidden. But when Jesus explained that the commandment was the old one from Leviticus, “Love one another,” they signed with relief, seeing how he was just underscoring the command that God already gave (Leviticus 19:18). For the moment, Jesus was just being ironic. He didnʼt give any new commandment. But Christians miss the joke and think he was being serious. They forget that all scripture is inspired of God and all of it is established in the heavens and none of it can change.
When one is none
John 13:34 was the one single, solitary time that the Master told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment.” However, the commandment wasnʼt a new commandment. And because he said it one single, solitary time, and he didnʼt actually present anything new, we have clear proof that he didnʼt add anything to the Law and his joke underscores the fact that he didnʼt add (or delete) from the Law! Letʼs dwell on that — he added no new commands to his disciples. Therefore, if Jesus gave no commandment (singular), what is he referring to when he talks about commandments (plural) in the following:
John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.”
John 15:10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love”
The answer: when he says, “keep my commandments” he means the ones he and the Father gave Israel at Sinai.
Look again at John 15:10. Jesus is equating his commandments — which can only be the ones in the Law of Moses, because he gave no commandments in the Gospels — with his Fatherʼs commandments in the Five Books of Moses. Jesus is saying that Jesusʼs commandments are the same as the Fatherʼs. This one verse alone, without all the extra proof from Jesusʼs joke, should convince us that his commandments are the 613 commandments of the Law of Moses. These three verse from John really are earth-shattering. What need have we of further witnesses? Jesus was a Jew. He always followed Godʼs Law. Jesus was also a prophet. He couldnʼt introduce a new religion. He was getting everyone on board with what was started at Sinai.
Fifth Fact: The True Author(s) of Scripture
Most Christians believe Messiah is the Second Person of the Trinity. In other words, they believe the one who killed the pigs with the demons is equal to the Father. One unambiguous (but hotly debated) verse that supports this doctrine is, 1 John 5:7: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” So if we agree Messiah is part of the Godhead, then logically we agree Messiah also co-authored, with the Father, the Law of God. Connect the dots. Itʼs all a matter of being logical. This now then is our fifth fact in a nutshell. But what are its implications?
Withdrawn from circulation?
If we agree Messiah wrote the Law of God, we should then wonder why on earth he would come to Earth to take what he authored out of circulation or to annul it? Yet this is exactly what Christians believe; Jesus came to “fulfill” (but think annul) the Law and then start a whole new religion. Yet being part of the Godhead means Messiah cannot not flip-flop his opinions. The Messiah has the same nature and character was the Father, as discussed in the Fourth Fact above. Itʼs not possible for either of them to change, and therefore, inconceivable that Jesus would modify one iota of what he helped write.
(Please donʼt hide behind that “sensational” dispensational chart. The thinking behind each chart is contrary to the unity and oneness of God. The fact anyone dreamed up dispensationalism in the first place shows how some attentive folk saw contradictions within traditional interpretations of Scripture, but were unwilling to admit to them directly, but instead they desperately concocted those nonsense charts. Itʼs all so reminiscent of John MacArthur joking and John Piper giving pat answers because n body wants to be honest with the Word of God and face facts and Jesus killing pigs is one of those uncomfortable contradictions.)
They say, “None, but Jesus, kept the Law perfectly”
Some will respond to my rhetorical question, “Why on earth would Jesus come to earth,” by giving me the usual pat answer, None can keep the nasty old Law, so Jesus came to fulfill it perfectly, and now I donʼt have to do anything, at all, whatsoever, just believe, hallelujah! This is the Just-believe-and-receive Hypothesis and the advocates thereof like to stretch Jesusʼs words, “I came to fulfill the Law,” and make it say that Jesus needed to destroy or replace the nasty Law, but hope to heaven it still sounds Biblical — hereʼs an example of “stretchy” talking from GotQuestions.
The real irritation is people saying the Law was impossible to obey, when Scripture says the opposite it true. Luke 1:6 says, “[Zachariah and Elisabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all of the commandments and judgements of the LORD, guiltless.” Sound like perfect obedience to me. So why do Christians say “no one can” when these two did? And do you believe for one minute that God told us to obey something that He knew full-well we couldnʼt obey? Was He asking us the impossible because He had nothing better to do or is He sadistic?
But the height of ignorance, the most foolhardy statement is, “Jesus fulfilled the whole Law so we donʼt have to.” Only a person who knows absolutely zero about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy would say such a thing. (But that may sadly describe a “good” number of Christians.) Such a statement is irresponsible because the Law was not written for a single person. A great deal of the Law applies only to priests (Leviticus 6:3) and to Levites (Numbers 7:9), so how could Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, keep one of those commandments? Another command applies to women who have given birth to a child (Leviticus 12:6), so that would be easy for Jesus to obey, not to mention the monthly ritual baptisms Jewish women do for certain reasons!!! And what about commands for married people (Exodus 21:10), or the command that a man gives his wife “a bill of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24:1)? Now do you see how silly the Jesus-kept-the-Law-perfectly statement is? Perhaps a tenth, or a quarter, or a half of the 613 commandments were fulfilled by Jesus, but not all. Oops! And if he missed one, he didnʼt do it perfectly. Such a pat answer to such a serious question is as irritating as it is ridiculous.
The Father and the Son are One
So if you have “the ears to hear,” the Father and the Son both wrote the Law and gave it to 630,000 men (and women and children) at Mt. Sinai. Many year later, Messiah went to Israel as a prophet to get the people of Israel back to his Law. He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This was the authentic Messiah that the Jews were waiting for. Because of his righteousness and his love for God, Peter and Andrew and John and thousands more loved Jesus and followed him. If Jesus had done anything less, he could not have been the Messiah.
It was exactly due to his righteousness and his love for God that he killed two thousand pigs. Jesus was upholding all the kosher laws within the Land of Israel — it was part of his job description.
The two Johns see more than a hint of what I am talking about in the destruction of the swine and it frightens them so they avoid a serious discussion. Instead they joke around and give pat answers. It pains them to admit that Jesus was/is a Jewish Messiah — and not a “Christian” one. Therefore, I repeat again that I believe the pastors are dishonest for not admitting this fact. They could, at least, admit to the possibility of what has been discussed here and about the other facts. Canʼt we be candid in our search to know God?
Sixth Fact: True identity of the pig farmers
This has been a long blog — thanks for sticking with it — but because Iʼm going to ruffle feathers, Iʼve gone the extra mile to explain myself clearly and to plug any holes in my argument. Not that I believe my case has holes. Over the years, Iʼve had to prove all this to myself first, and it took soul-searching and tons of Scripture research. If I still had some misgivings, I’d be man enough to share them here. No, I've checked my facts, anticipated the arguments, remembered my own arguments from ’he past, and now I’m ready to present my conclusions for Christians to consider.
Who owned the pigs? Both of our good pastors assume that the people in Gerasene (Gadarene or Gergesene) were Gentiles in Gentile territory, partially because of the pigs, partially because of the demoniacs and partially because it fits their bias.
The good pastor John MacArthur assumes in his video Dominating Powers, Part 2 (Mark 5:1-20), that Jesus must have been in Gentile territory because, as everyone knows, Jewish men and women don’t hang around tombs — even if they are demon possessed! — and therefore the good pastor declares the demoniac to be a Gentile since, as everyone also knows, Gentiles are better “tomb-dwellers.”
However, the pastor’s assumptions are perplexing. He should know that centuries before the prophet Isaiah spoke against Jews eating pork and hanging around in tombs.
[I stretch my hand out to the Jews] who sit by the graves and lodge over night in the tombs, who eat the flesh of pigs and the broth of corrupted meat from their pots. (Isaiah 65:4)
Doesn’t Pastor MacArthur know his Bible? Isn’t this what he’s paid for?
But MacArthur’s logical is “funny” for another reason. The good pastor actually believes that a Jewish man can rationally decide the best sleeping quarters — Tomb or no tomb? With or without graves? — when he’s rolling around with a thousand killer-demons inside. No one cares where he sleeps when he’s busy trying to keep himself from killing himself. Anyway, it was the demons that would have decided where, and if, he slept.
In the end, the good pastor’s assumptions keep us rolling in the aisles. But they don’t prove his point. All we know now is that the demoniac could have been either: Jew or Gentile.
For the sake of the argument, let’s start by assuming that the pastor’s assumption is right and he is a Gentile (though we know he could have been Jewish). We’ll pretend with him that the folks in Gerasenes were placid Gentile farmers happily raising their gentle Gentile pigs.
Racism: Not a modern invention
Yet a number of objections immediately spring to mind. If the pig farmers were Gentile, why would non-Jewish farmers be so gentle with a Jew (who was also an outsider) who was messing around with their farm animals? This kind of inter-ethnic scenario normally spells d.i.s.a.s.t.e.r. After all, racism wasn’t invented in the 21st century.
“A prophet is not without honour except in his home town and in his own house.”
Just remember the wonderful folks in Jesus’s hometown? Those people were Jews in Nazareth. Yet they tried to throw one of their own off a cliff (Luke 4:29). They were people who knew him. People of the same race and same religion but they still wanted to do him some serious pain. They even allowed themselves to go ballistic on the Sabbath, which shows how angry they really were.
Now, if a Jew can be treated so badly by fellow Jews, let’s put on our thinking caps and imagine what happens to a Jew walking straight into a big group of Gentiles. Add to that that recent studies claim 25% of the world today is antisemitic and ask yourself if racism was better or worse in the past? Next, what if our imaginary Jew damaged a ton of Gentile property under their very noses. Can we imagine our Jew receiving a mostly positive reaction or a negative one?
Then again, who needs to imagine anything? Scripture presents us with all we need to know. We have it all down on paper exactly how “gentle” Gentiles can get when they get annoyed by a Jew. Let’s bring in a c