For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 8:28-34; The Healing of Two Demon-Possessed Men (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

The exorcism account that Matthew tells in 8:28-34 is generally believed to be the same event also documented in Luke 8:26-39 and Mark 5:1-20. Matthew and Luke abbreviate the details, and thus are sometimes assumed to have drawn from Mark as the source, though that assumption is primarily conjecture by scholars.

The biggest difference between the account in Matthew and the accounts in Mark and Luke is in the number of demon-possessed men who are set free. Mark and Luke tell of only one demoniac living the area of the Gadarenes, yet Matthew states clearly that there were two men in this encounter. Some scholars see that difference as a forgivable error on Matthew’s part. “Because things double up elsewhere in Matthew…it is suspected here again Matthew, for whatever reason, has portrayed Mark’s one demoniac as two.” That view is common, but lacking, because it then casts onto doubt Matthew’s biographical integrity overall. If Matthew is not to be believed in his counting of the number of demoniacs, can he then be believed when he says the demoniacs were healed? Perhaps he embellished that too?

A more likely explanation is that two demon-possessed men were actually involved in this exorcism, as Matthew indicated, and that Mark and Luke felt it necessary to focus their accounts on just one of the two. “Mark and Luke wrote of one demon-possessed man,” theologians John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment, “but they did not say only one. Presumably one of the two was more violent than the other,” and therefore was highlighted in the retelling. That perspective makes sense, though there could be additional literary reasons for Mark and Luke omitting a relatively inconsequential person from their telling of this historical event.

It’s possible that only one of the two men was a mouthpiece for the demons that spoke with Jesus, and so his story is told to the exclusion of the second man. Also, it’s possible that only one of the two exorcised men stayed with Jesus afterward, begging to be allowed to go back across the Sea of Galilee with him (Mark 5:19-21). Thus so his details were highlighted while the second man faded into the historical and literary background.

Regardless, the difference in accounting here doesn’t dictate that one specific version is accurate and any of the others is error. The most likely explanation for the discrepancy is the obvious one: All three accounts of this miracle are accurate and must be taken as a whole to tell the complete story of what actually happened.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 184-185; BKC, 38]

 

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Matthew 8:23-27; Jesus Calms the Storm (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

In the second century B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Syrian Greek tyrant, ruled over the Jewish nation with an iron fist, claiming god-like power over all of nature. In the end, though, he was stricken ill and weak, prompting this pitiful epitaph in 2 Macabees 9:8, “Thus he who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea, in his superhuman arrogance, and imagining that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all.”

In stark relief when compared to the bluster of earthly rulers like Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Jesus didn’t proclaim his deity by governmental decree, with military might, or through political power. Instead, he simply exercised divine authority in daily life—like when he literally commanded a storm to be still and all of nature hastened to obey him (Matthew 8:23-27).

It is no wonder that Matthew reports Christ’s disciples “were amazed” (8:27) and that Mark adds “they were terrified” (Mark 4:41). In ancient Israel, “the sea was a mysterious, dangerous place, characterized by chaos and possessing the power to kill without warning…To some biblical writers the sea acted as a symbol, ‘a principle of disorder, violence, or unrest that marks the old creation’ (cf. Ps. 107:25-25; Isa. 57:20; Ezekiel 28:8).” Biblically speaking, only God himself was able to tame the chaotic sea—only God could impose his will upon that uncontrollable force (Psalm 65:7, 89:9, 104:6-7).

That Jesus demonstrated God’s sole and total authority over the waters—and that he did so with such enormous ease—had to be stunning for anyone to witness. As theologian Craig Evans comments, “In contrast to the Greco-Roman despots like Antiochus IV and the later Roman emperors, about whom all sorts of hyperbole were inscribed,…Jesus is the genuine article. He speaks the word, and it happens.”

Amazing. And terrifying. And more wonderful than words.

Soli Deo gloria!

 

Works Cited:

[MAT, 196; SLU, 204]

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Matthew 8:23-27; Jesus Calms the Storm (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

It’s easy to read about a “furious storm” in Matthew 8:23 and cluck at the disciples’ lack of faith over a little rain. That’s because we often overlook the true danger depicted in those two words, “furious storm.”

Our modern translations render Matthew’s description of this weather event as “furious storm,” but it turns out that’s something of an understatement. Matthew’s original Greek phrase was mĕgas sĕismŏs. If you live in California you’ve already figured out what that means. For the rest of us, here’s a more literal translation.

  • Mĕgas: “exceedingly great, high, large, loud, mighty, strong”
  • Sĕismŏs: “earthquake.”

In other words, this furious storm is so severe, it’s akin to a disturbance of tsunami-like proportions, bearing down relentlessly on a bunch of guys hanging out in little boats, just trying to get from one side of the lake to the other.

This mĕgas sĕismŏs really happened; because of it real men were in real, life-threatening danger. Drowning would have been a horrible way to die, and they knew it. In that moment, in that situation, when the end of the story was still unknown, it would’ve been truly terrifying to be trapped in a tiny fishing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. This would’ve been especially true for seasoned fishermen like Peter, James, and John who had experienced the dangers of similar storms in the past. They would’ve learned to respect, and fear, that power charging on the water.

“Why are you so afraid?” Jesus asked his disciples at that time. Well, the truth is, you and I would have been just as terrified as they were. Only the presence of God acting noticeably in that circumstance could have overcome that kind of fear. Thank God Jesus himself was there!

 

Works Cited:

[GSM, 60-61]

 

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Matthew 8:23-27; Jesus Calms the Storm (Geographical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

The Sea of Galilee is an important location in the history of Jesus, particularly because it was there he once demonstrated divine mastery over creation by miraculously calming a deadly storm. (Matthew 8:23-27). Here’s what we know about that body of water:

  • Although it’s called the “Sea” of Galilee, it’s actually a large, freshwater lake. As such, it’s sometimes referred to as Lake Galilee by modern folks. Others have also called it the “Lake of Gennesaret” (Jospehus), the “Sea of Tiberias” (naming it after a city on its southwestern shore), and “Sea of Kinnereth” (its ancient Hebrew name).
  • Measuring about 16 miles from north to south, and about 9 miles from east to west, the Sea of Galilee calls to mind the shape of a harp. Perhaps that’s why ancient Israelites tagged it the “Sea of Kinnereth,” which may be a reference to the Hebrew word kinnor, which means “harp.”
  • The location of the Sea of Galilee makes it particularly susceptible to storms. It sits about 640 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and is surrounded by steep hillsides along most of its shores. Ravines on the west side funnel cool air into the bowl-like basin where the sea sits. When cool air rushes into hot air rising from the valley lake, it can create sudden, fierce winds that stir up waves big enough to swamp a boat.
  • In Jesus’ day, the Sea of Galilee supported a thriving fishing industry—it was where Peter, James, and John earned their living as fishermen. The great lake held three kinds of fish: Sardines, Barbels (named for the barb-like feelers on their upper lips), and a tasty Bass-like fish. The latter still lives in the Sea of Galilee and has been re-named “St. Peter’s Fish” in honor of Jesus’ famous disciple. Today, restaurants on the shores of the Sea of Galilee serve this fish as part of their menus.
  • In 1986, a drought shrunk the water levels of the Sea of Galilee for a short time. Two men on a walk spotted the outline of a sunken boat in the mud of the shrunken lake. After experts excavated it, they discovered it was a fishing vessel about 2,000 years old—likely from the time of Christ. Many theorize that Jesus calmed the storm in a boat very similar to this one. The excavated boat measured about 24 feet long and six feet wide, large enough to hold a sleeping Jesus and all twelve of his disciples.

 

Works Cited:

[WWA, 340-341; ISJ, 66-67]

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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