Is it a question or not Mk 1.24b

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at
Sat Nov 13 15:25:51 EST 1999

Dear Jeffrey:


----- Original Message -----
From: Jeffrey White <jbwwhite at>

> Mark 1:23 reads, "kai euqus hn en th sunagwgh autwn anqropos en pneumati
> akaqartw, kai anekraxen". pneumati is dat. sing. So the man was in an
> unclean spirit. This rules out the 'legion' possibility.
I hope you didn't misread me, thinking that I was raising the plurality of
demons as a possible reading of Mk 1.24f.  I was merely trying to think of
other passages where a demonized person (or demon) might have spoken in the
plural.  In Mk 5 we find specifically agree that the plural spoken is
'demons - man', not 'demons + man', and we are in agreement that Mk 1 we are
in agreement that the situation is comprised of 1 demon (sg.).

> The man is the
> speaker, but Jesus later commands the unclean spirit to come out.
Agreed: Jesus recognized who was truly behind the words.

> Who is
> speaking when one speaks in the Holy Spirit? Both the spirit of God and
> person who is speaking.
Agreed.  But even here you do not find 'we' used of 'man + Spirit', do you?
For the prophet to use 'we' in his/her address would connote that 'I speak
as a representative of a committee', or 'I and the H.S. think so-and-so'.
That counsel/committee connotation just doesn't seem appropriate for a
prophet speaking for God.

> In Mk 1:27, the other people in the synagogue knew
> very well that Jesus commanded the unclean spirit, but nothing suggests
> they made assumption that the man was speaking for them.
Agreed, in Mk 1.27.  But Mk 1.24 comes chronologically (as well as
textually) before 1.27, and the events of 1.25-26 intervene, so the people
may have, and I suspect *did*, learn something new from the interaction:
that the man was in fact demonized, and that it was the demon who spoke.  At
the point of 1.27, I don't think they thought twice about what was said in
1.24--their thoughts were already moved far beyond that outburst.  My point
is, at the occurence of 1.24, how did they react and *hear* what was said.
The only way they could have interpreted the saying as 'demon + man' would
be if they already recognized the man was demonized, and if they thought
quickly enough about it, or if the man went around on a regular basis in his
demonized state state using 'we'.  We do not have access to these latter
alternatives, and in the text I simply see that it was *Jesus* who
recognized the demonized state of the man and who addressed the demon.

> Nor does Jesus
> suggest anything like this.
Agreed.  Jesus does not address what the man said, he only *acts* to rescue

> While the crowd in the synagogue mentions
> 'unclean spirits' in the plural, 'tois pneumasi tois akaqartois', that was
> only what they said in their amazement, not the fact stated in Mk 1:23.
Agreed.  They may also have added this event to reports the had already
heard about Jesus.

> Of
> course, no book of the Bible is 'a theological treatise on demonology',
> the various passages which discuss evil spirits and demons form the basis
> what we may intellectually understand of them.
Agreed.  My point being that the point of this passage is the
power/authority of Jesus over the demon, not the intricacies of
how-who-spoke.  My emphasis on the 'drama' is that the events happened one
after the other, and what the crowd understood at one point might be very
different than what they understood three verses later.

> In Mark 1:23-27, I really
> think there is more to support 'man+demon' than 'man+demon+crowd'.
With so much agreement, I nevertheless must disagree here.  In fact, the
more I defend the *possibility* of 'we' in 1.24 as referencing 'man + crowd'
(by the manipulation and contrivance of the demon), the more I am prone to
this interpretation as the *probable* one  :-)   !  One more note from the
context: 1.22 specifically discusses the crowd, of which the man is a part,
in the 3rd plural.  I really think the option of 'man + demon' is more
informed by a full understanding of demonology rather than the immediate
context of the passage.

God Bless!
Joe F.

> However, this is certainly not this case. While the comparison is Mark 5:9
> is valid, there we are specifically told that that man had many demons in
> Mark 5:12. What is interesting is that Jesus starts by addressing them in
> the singular and they respond initially in the singular, "legiwn onama
> but shift immediately to the plural. It appears that Jesus was addressing
> them all simultaneously and personally by addressing them first in the
> singular. But this was a different man involved having a similar problem
> principle, but in greater measure. Reading through the context in the Mark
> 5, the chapter itself follows the same pattern, emphasizing singularity
> first, but them shifting toward an emphasis on plurality. What the
> singularity in Mark 5:9 really expresses is the unity of the unclean
> in possessing the man.
> One other thing which stands out is that the man in Mark 1:24 was in a
> synagogue, but the man in Mark 5:9 was in the tombs. While the man in
> is described as cutting himself and possessing superhuman strength, the
> in the synagogue is not. What is also interesting is that the man in the
> tombs worships Jesus, but the man in the synagogue doesn't. However, both
> are described as being 'en pneumati akaqartw'.
> Shalom, Jeffrey
> jbwwhite at

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