An “Eschatological Allegory” – Katapetasma on the Exorcism of the Demon-Possessed Man of Gerasa

It seems that every time I read a post by blogger Katapetasma that I walk away from it not only having learned quite a bit but also envious that I lack the insight and writing ability to bring biblical texts to life as he so effortlessly seems to do. (And that, kids, is why you should read to become a better writer. The two are invariably connected.) A post published back in August entitled “The Demonized Gerasene and the Paganized Greek: Eschatological Allegory in Mark 5:1-20” is an example of this trajectory in my life. In it, Katapetasma discusses one of the few places where Jesus interacts with a gentile in the Markan Gospel. Its significance is the Gospel should not be discounted. As Mary Ann Beavis observes, at this juncture in Mark “Jesus’ mission has not spread to gentile territory” and that upon “reaching foreign soil, Jesus’s first act is an exorcism, paralleling his first public act in Galilee (1:21-28).”[1] But Katapetasma takes things one step further, showing that on some level the story in Mark is an “eschatological allegory” in which the mighty son of God overcomes the unclean spirits much in the same way he will one day at his Parousia destroy the unclean spirits and bring the gentiles into worship of the god of Israel. He writes, 

For Mark and the early Christians, this central hope of Christ’s victory over the paganized world at his parousia was dramatized in the legend of the Gerasene demoniac. The exorcist who once crossed the waters and disposed of the demonic Legion would one day cross the skies and cast down the idolatrous empire.

Or, in the words of the apostle Paul, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, NRSV). 

I was first introduced to a similar reading of this story while sitting in the pew at the Presbyterian church wherein I had served as youth director. A guest preacher, an evangelist serving in our presbytery and the son of one of the founding members of the congregation, had preached on Mark 5:1-20 and cast the scene as an example of the Evangelist portraying Jesus as master even over the nations. I had never considered that, reading the text superficially as merely a scene in which Jesus casts out a host of demons. The symbolic value – the deeper layer – escaped my notice. Building on that in this post, Katapetasma suggests that there is an eschatological component to it, namely that Jesus is the one who will come and take down the principalities and powers of the world (cf. Ephesians 6:12) to restore the world to the worship of the one God.  

[1] Mary Ann Beavis, Mark, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 93.

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