Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

. (page 18 of 77)
Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 18 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prince of the devils, with the argument that Satan cannot be di-
vided against Satan, else Ins kingdom would not stand. It may
hi' added, that the woman who had a spirit of infirmity is repre-
sented by Jesns to have been hound by Satan. (Luke xiii. 11. L6.)

9. In Matt. xii. (43 et scq.) Jesus Bpeaks of an unclean spirit
going out of a man, and the man afterwards taking seven other
spirits; and in Matt. xvii. 21, he say s : " This kind goeth not out
but by prayer and fasting;" which seem like facts in their nat-
ural history.

I' 1 . Finally, it is contended that it detracts from the dignity of


the miracles of Jesus to suppose that he only healed diseases, the

casting out of devils being supposed a greater display of divine


The opposing theory is that in reality there never was such a

fact as a demon or evil spirit, whether formerly in human flesh

or alwavs a separate existence, taking possession
The opposing - , , . n , .

t k e0IT °f a man an d having such control over him as to

be able to torment and destroy him ; that all the
recorded cases are of persons miserably diseased in mind or body,
or both, and that because the phenomena were inexplicable the
popular mind assigned them to the influence of demons ; and that
Jesus, in order to be understood by his conteinporaries, adopted the
usual forms of expression as most readily indicating this special
class of diseases. It is further contended that Avhereas all parties
agree that, so far as appears in the records, whatever the possessed
did cannot be distinguished from the acts of the demon, the in-
quiry is reduced to the simple question, Can these phenomena be
accounted for without recourse to the supernatural ? No devout
scholar hesitates to accept the theory of the supernatural when
necessary; but equally does he never resort to it to explain what
is readily explicable by well-known physical or psychological
laws ; and all the phenomena correspond with what Ave know of
hypochondria, epilepsy, and insanity ; that the New-Testament
historians give as plain intimations as we* could demand that they
were employing popular phraseology, and not in these cases giv-
ing utterance to doctrines or asserting facts ; and that the doc-
trine of the agency of departed spirits upon the bodies of men
is contrary to other doctrines expressly taught by Jesus.

Those who hold this theory, in reply to the arguments cited
above by the advocates of real demoniac possession, sa}' :

1. These insane people believed themselves possessed. They
had been brought up in a community holding that doctrine, and
in their raving made utterances consistent with their crazy view
of their own cases, a thing we frequently meet in our modern
asylums for the insane. Locke's description of madmen {Essay
on Human Understanding, chap. ii. 11, 13) is, that "they reason
right on false principles, and taking their fancies for realities,
make right deductions from them."

2. The demoniacs at Gadara (Mark and Luke speak of only
one) had the fantasy that they were possessed by innumerable


devils, and so when Jesus asked the name * it was eiven as
"Legion," and the possessed men, believing themselves speaking
for the demons, begged that they should not be driven out of
the country, but allowed to enter into the swine, and that when
Jesus flung the disease from the man or men to the hogs, it was as
great a miracle as any casting out of demons would have been.f
Actual demons would not have chosen to go into the swine. And
it is specially remarked that Luke, who was a physician, speaks
of this demoniac, upon his recovery, as being in his right mind.
In the case of the blind and dumb, or simply dumb, the disease
in the organs was popularly ascribed to demons. In Matt. ix. 32
the historian specifically mentions that the mem, not the demon,
was dumb.

3. The fact that the father of the epileptic youth (in Luke ix.
39) assigned his trouble to a demon, shows only that it was his
opinion, in which he participated in a popular superstition.

4. If this argument is good here, it is valid as establishing witch-
craft, as many have professed to be bewitched, and some have con-
fessed that they practised this black art. But who now believes them {

5. It is doubted whether the New-Testament historians made a
distinction between the sick and the demoniacs, and it is held that
they spoke of demoniacs as only one kind of sick persons. In
Matt. iv. 24 are three kinds of ailments mentioned, those poss<

of demons, those who were lunatic, and those who were palsied,
all coming under the general description "divers diseases." Oc-
casionally demoniacs are omitted in the general recital of miracu-
lous cures, as in the notable reply of Jesus to John, in Matt. xi. •">,
in which an account is given of miraculous evidences attending
the ministry of Jesus. If these demoniacs were not merely a
class of sick people, would not Jesus have brought forward their
cure with great emphasis?

, it is said, « ■<
- - , he asked 2fo man, not a vro,

the demon,


f It is paralleled by the 1 1
of the leprosy from Naamaj) t Qehazi,

in 9 Kings v. -jr.


7. The supposed addresses of Jesus to the demons may be easily
understood to be, first, an accommodation to the fancy of the de-
ranged persons, and, secondly, to the understanding of spectators.
His bidding the demon depart, and no more enter the man, is of a
piece with his bidding the fever leave a patient, which he did in
the case of Peters mother-in-law.

8. In regard to the mention of Satan by Jesus, in connection
with demons, it is urged that the saying, " I beheld Satan as light-
ning fall from the heavens" (Luke x. IS), cannot be taken liter-
ally except as referring to his original expulsion from heaven. In
that case it would be wholly irrelevant. The choice is then left
among the various figurative interpretations. Satan is a name
given to anything inimical to what is good. Jesus meant, it
is said, that he had foreseen the glorious triumphs of his disci-
ples over the most formidable obstacles. And as to his argument
with his enemies, he simply took them upon their own grounds,
and, not affirming those grounds solid, showed that, even presum-
ing them so, there was no place for their objection to him : so that
nothing can be inferred from that.

0. In the case of the man who took to himself seven other
spirits, it is a mere illustration, taken as public speakers frequently
do take such, from the popular beliefs, as one might illustrate a
principle by reference to a well-known fairy story, without in-
dorsing it.

10. That no detraction is made from the dignity of Jesus; for
those who hold this view, quite equally with their opponents, be-
lieve in the divine power of Jesus, and that it was quite as great a
miracle to restore an insane man instantaneously to reason, and
rectify the shocks his mind had received, as it would have been
to cast out from the body of a man the wicked spirit of some
dead man who had come to torment and destroy him.

Perhaps the strongest thing that can be said on the other side

is this : That while a perfectly truthful person may accommodate

himself to popular fancies and phrases under cir-
Strong argument i * i i c i i.£ i

for first theory cumstances which do not confirm hurtful error,

nor misrepresent his own beliefs, — as a scientific

man of to-day may speak of the rising and the setting of the sun,

and call deranged men lunatics, although he does not believe that

the sun moves round the earth nor that mental ailments are caused

by the moon, — yet no truthful man would always speak as if he



adopted a theory which he really believed to be false, and knew to
be injurious, which is the case with this theory of demoniacal pos-
session. If untrue, it was a very hurtful superstition, and a great
and good teacher would not have countenanced it.

I think that a critical examination of all that is said in theKew
Testament on this subject will probably lead most candid readers
to the conclusion that a distinction is made be-
tween those who suffered merely from physical theoiT
ailments and those who are represented as demo-
niacs. In the latter case the patients seem to have psychical ail-
ments wlrlch came from physical disorders. They are troubled
by a sense of double consciousness, and distracted by what seems
a double will. If paralytics or those who suffer neuralgias have
their pains from physical causes, and lunatics theirs from mental
disorders, it is merely in accordance with analogy that we sup-
pose there are those whose miseries arise from psychical derange-
ments, soul-disorders. If the atmosphere act on the body, and
one mind on another, why should not one spirit on another spirit I
And this seems to have been the case with demoniacs.*

"We return now to the demoniac in the synagogue of Caper-
naum. His symptoms are such as we now see in persons who are

known to be insane. His insanity was l>v his coun-

, . , pi » , i Demoniac cured

trymen traced to the ajj-encv or a demon. As the . .,

J a J m the synagogue.

insane are often strangely moved by the presence,
the voice, and the words of certain persons, so was tin's man
moved by the intonations and language of Jesns. Believing him-
self possessed of many devils, he suddenly lost his self-control and
gave vent to such a shriek of rage and fear as such being- would
he supposed to utter under the circumstances, crying out at first
inarticulately, and then making an appeal to Jesus, and then call-
ing him "the Holy One of Grod." On the theory of demons, they
recognized the holiness of Jesus and his powerful influence, and
thus in a paroxysm of rage gave their testimony to him. He de-
clined it. lint said : " Hold thy peace and come out of hira." ^ e
see in our lunatic asylums men who are terribly afflicted with
moral insanity, as we call it. Bhowing all these symptoms. In the

* If the reader wish t" invi stigate tin'-;
subject further, he is referred bo Trench
on Miracles, tin' chapter >"! " The I >•■-
raouiaiv-. in the Country of the Qadft-

" to Fanner's Essay on the Dt-
■■•■ of the 2feu> Testament; and
i, Art " Demon



days of Jesus tliey would heave been said to he possessed with an
unclean spirit, or demon. In all ages, until the tender and wise
teachings of Jesus began to prevail in the world, such people were
objects of dread, and were cut off from the kind offices of soci-
ety. Jesus treated the case differently. He pitied. In his own
name and by his own authority he pronounced a command, which
was followed by a shriek, and the maniac passed through a con-
vulsion into health and peace. The assembled people were aston-
ished and delighted. The synagogue broke up, and men went
away wondering and praising.




Upon leaving the synagogue Jesus went to the house of Simon
Peter, who was a married man.* His wife's mother lay ill of a
fever. The marshes about Capernaum bred ma-
larious diseases, which specially manifested them- Capernaum. Je-

... . . o • i 6US heals Simon's

selves m the autumn and winter, Sometimes they w if e - a mother
were light intermittent, and sometimes violent
fevers. Luke, who was a physician, seems to designate the dis-
ease in this case as being of the more violent kind.f Peter and
his brother Andrew had witnessed the miraculous cure of the
demoniac in the synagogue, and besought Jesus to heal the sick
woman lie came and stood over her, and took her hands, and in
the poetic language applied to the cure of demoniacs and to the
stilling of the waxes, he " rebuked the fever," £ and it left her in-
stantly. She did not convalesce. She was immediately and totally
whole. She did not pass through a season of weakness. She
came back at once to strength, and rose and discharged her house-
hold duties by providing a meal for her guests. It was a festive
day for them.

This miracle and that in the synagogue made Jesus famous in
Capernaum. Before the setting of the sun, probably accounts of
these wonders had been rendered in every house in the city, and

* And we learn from 1 Cnr. ix. 5, that
his married state continued through hie
apostolic ministry. He was much more
fortunate than Paul.

f It is not certain that Luke intended
to make the distinction between the dif
ferent kinds of fever, as Alford inti-
mates that he does. If he had so in-
tended would the article have been
omitted in Lake Iv. -I s . where it is sim-
ply wvptTiTi ,. ;j>;, ? It being a violent

fever is Sufficient to make this a remark-
able miracle.
| It is to be noticed that J<

as a host ile potency, to be " re-
buked " and to 1"' n
sickness were somehow akin I
Marly commentators, among them Cyril
candria, noticed the peculiar ex-
ii in the original Qreek at
bow conveying tbis idea.


the hearts of the people were thrilling with the thought that
so marvellous a personage was residing in their

eoTe WdS ° f SlCk midst Il: WaS the SabbatL The ^rictness of
Jewish observance of that day is known. It haa

been illustrated by divers incidents in the history of the people,
but by none perhaps so strikingly as the fact that in the Macea-
bean revolt against Antiochus the insurgents, who had been sur-
prised on the Sabbath, tamely submitted to butchery rather than
violate the sanctity of the day by defensive warfare.* But the
Sabbath ended with the sunset. Admiration brought crowds to
' Peter's house, and many who were diseased came or were brought
by their friends. The lame hobbled towards the Healer, and the
blind came groping, and the palsied came trembling, and the epi-
leptic brought his mysterious malady, and even " the possessed "
were present. The streets about the house were so crowded that
Peter felt that " all the city was gathered' together at the door."
(Mark i. 33.) And none went away unblessed. He laid his hands
on all. The palsy-stricken, the man with the epilepsy, the suf-
ferers from chronic neuralgias, felt instant ease, refreshment, and
health infused into all parts of their bodies ; the deaf instantly
heard the exclamations of the demoniacs amidst the shouts of the
healed, the praises of the disciples, and the murmur of the popu-
lace; and through them all, like music through a storm, swept the
voice of Jesus, with all authority and sweetness, silencing demo-
niacs and rebuking disease, while eyes that had been long blind
looked for the first time upon the faces of their friends, upon the
multitude, and upon Jesus, as he stood in the foreground of a
soft Syrian sunset.

Virtue went out of him as it entered all these. lie became ex-
hausted and nervous and faint. (Mark i. 35.) And when the

time for bed had arrived, after this wonderful
Exhausting ef- gal)bath Jesus coll id 11( ,t sleep. He rose in the
f ects on Jesus. . '

night and went out into a solitary place that lie

might pray. When the day had come, Peter and they that were
with him sought Jesus, and told him what an excitement his deeds
had created among the people, and urged him to stay in the city
and go amongst those who so earnestly sought him. His reply
was, " Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach the king-

* See Milman's Christianity, i. 211.


dom of God there also ; for therefore came-I forth." Then com-
menced his first circuit of missionary preaching.

The earnest teacher " went about all Galilee," as Matthew says,
meaning probably Upper Galilee, which formed the most northern
part of Palestine, embracing a tract of country
about fifty miles Ions: and twenty-five broad. Matt * 1V- 23;

T ,ii , ™ " • • i ! Mark i. 39 ; Luke

It was bounded on the west by Phoenicia and the • 44

Mediterranean Sea, on the east by the Jordan
and the Lake of Tiberias, on the north by Coele -Syria, and on
the south by Samaria. It was a fertile country, full of romantic
valleys, and containing, it is said, two hundred towns and villages ;
ami Joseplms says ( Wars, iii. 3, § 3) that the smallest contained
mure than fifteen thousand inhabitants. The people were earnest,
intelligent, and remarkable for their bravery, but despised by tho
inhabitants of Judaea, because their dialect was uncouth and the
land filled with " Gentiles," who had been attracted thither by the
delight fulness of the country.

Through this region Jesus made a tour. He went into the syn-
agogues and discharged the functions of a rabbi. In his time
the rabbi was not a regularly graduated teacher
of the law, as somewhat later, but was still re- J^xs travels in

i ! i i i i if i Galilee,

garded by the people as the successor or the

ancient prophet. Jesus preached his doctrine of "the kingdom,"
and exerted his marvellous power of healing, so much that by his
words and deeds he created a fame of himself that went through-
out all Syria, through Palestine and Phoenicia, carried probably
by the caravans that went from Damascus by the Sea of Galilee to
the Mediterranean. Great multitudes followed him from all parts
of Galilee, and from the "Decapolis" (a region so called from its
ten cities, which were inhabited mainly by Gentiles, and is said
by Kitter to have been founded by the veterans of the army of
Alexander), and from the neighborhood and the city of Jerusa-
lem, and from Perea, beyond Jordan.

On this journey occurred, in some town not named, the healing
of a leper.

The Leprosy is the most horrible of diseases, and all the details
of it> symptoms and effects strike our imaginations mosl painfully.
Although not Btrictly exclusively confined to the

' . • The lrprosy.

Unent, it is the special scourge ol the Last

When it iir.-t made its appearance we shall probably never he able:


to learn. Perhaps the earliest recorded mention of this plague ia
in the books of Moses. Of the leprosy ill general the origin is
readily found in the nature of the climate in eastern lands. The
dryness and hotness of the atmosphere of Egypt and Syria would
naturally generate cutaneous diseases, which, among the lower
classes, would be aggravated by unwholesome diet and the want
of personal cleanliness. In modern books of medicine a " brick-,
layer's itch " and a " baker's itch " are specified.

Leprosy appears under four forms — elephantiasis, black leprosy,
red leprosy, and white leprosy. The first of these is especially
an Egyptian form, and is known sometimes by the name ulcus
jEgypti. Its name comes from the swelling and hardening of
the ankle-joints, so that the feet come to resemble the hoofs of the
elephant. It produces melancholy, sleeplessness, voracious hun-
ger, and unquenchable thirst. It is not rapid. The patient may
live twenty years in this horrible condition, and then die of suf-
focation. The white leprosy is known as the lepra Jfosaica, and
is described with a minuteness that is painful in Leviticus xiii.

Very great diversity of opinion has existed on the question of

the contagiousness of the leprosy. Dean Alford and Archbishop

Trench deny that it is contagious. They cite the

case of Naaman (2 Ivino-s v.), who while he was
ness. v ° "

a leper held place at court and commanded the
forces of the Syrian king ; and also the case of Gehazi (2 Kings
viii.), who, while he was an incurable leper, held familiar conver-
sati< >n with the king of Israel. The leper's exclusion these learned
authors assign to the fact that he was ceremonially unclean.
Modern travellers and writers tell us that in Palestine it is still an
open question whether mere contact will communicate the disease;
but all the police regulations about Jerusalem and Damascus, and
even among the Avabs, show that there is a dread of touching
lepers. They are excluded from the camp and city, are separated
from their kinspeople and acquaintances, and live in a commu-
nity of wretchedness, having no companionship but that of sufferers
afflicted like themselves. But it is " hereditary, with an awfully
infallible certainty." * The child of leprous parents may exhibit

* Dr. Thomson's The Lund and the taneously, without hereditary or any

Book, vol. ii. p. 019. This author says other possible connection with those

also, that " fresh cases appear from time previously diseased."
to time, in which it seems to arise spon-


all the usual sweetness of infancy and be bright and beautiful ;
but just as certainly as it lives it will begin to show the terrify-
ing ngnsof the horrible disease, and will finally perish of a malady
which medical science has discovered no skill to cure and almost
none to mitigate.

The symptoms and the effects of this disease are very loath-
some. There comes a white swelling or scab, with a change of

the color of the hair on the part from its natural

. Symptoms.

hue to yellow ; then the appearance of a taint
going deeper than the skin, or raw flesh appearing in the swell-
ing. Then it spreads and attacks the cartilaginous portions of
the body. The nails loosen and drop off, the gums are absorbed,
and the teeth decay and fall out ; the breath is a stench, the nose
decays; fingers, hands, feet, may be lost, or the eyes eaten out.
The human beauty has gone into corruption, and the patient feelf
that he is being eaten as by a fiend, who consumes him slowly in
a long remorseless meal that will not end until he be destroyed,
lie is shut out from his fellows. As they approach he must cry,
"Unclean! unclean!" that till humanity may be warned from
his precincts. lie must \ban don wife and child, lie must go
to live with other lepers, in disheartening view of miseries similar
to his own. lie must dwell in dismantled houses or in the tombs,
lie is, as Trench says, a dreadful parable of death. By the laws
of Moses (Lev. xiii. 45 ; Kntn. vi. 9 ; Ezek. xxiv. 17) he was com-
pelled, as if he were mourning for his own decease, to bear about
him the emblems of death, the rent garments; he was to keep his
head bare and his lip covered, as was the custom with those who
were in communion with the dead. When the Crusaders brought
the leprosy from the East, it was usual to clothe the leper in a
shroud, and to say for him the masses for the dead.*

In all ages this indescribably horrible malady has been con
sidered incurable. The Jews believed that it was inflicted by
Jehovah directly, as a punishment for some extra-

,. , r Incurable.

ordinary perversity or some transcendent act ot

sinfulness, and that only God could heal it. When Naaman was

cured, and his lb ->1 1 came back like that of a little child, he Baid,

11 Now I know that there i- no ( rod in all the earth but in Israel."

(2 Kings v. 11, L5.) It was to be the test of the Messiah, the

* Trench on Miracles, p. 17

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 18 of 77)