A Legion is not a Mob


Last July, I commented in my blog on how the Bible translation known as the Message sometimes loses important ideas expressed in the original text. One specific example of this was the story of the demons that called themselves "Legion", which the Message Bible badly mistranslates as "Mob". In James McGrath's "Why I am a Christian" blog posting that I cited in my previous entry, he discussed why the word "Legion" is so important to that story. I thought he did such a good job of explaining this by analogy, I want to quote here what he said:

This story from Mark's Gospel is about the casting out of a 'host' of demons who call themselves "Legion". The story is the equivalent of one that could have been told during occupied France during World War II, in which a French exorcist drives out a host of demons from a French man. The demons identify themselves as called "Panzer division" and beg not to be sent out of the country - the latter is exactly what these "Roman demons" beg Jesus in Mark! To make matters funnier, the demons take the role of (anti-)exorcist, invoking a higher power (God) to adjure (a technical term used in exorcism) Jesus not to cast them out. Then, whereas exorcists usually demanded a sign that the demons have left, the demons themselves ask to show they have departed by being sent into a herd of pigs - unclean animals according to Jewish Law. This is the icing on the cake - in the WWII parallel, the German demons would beg to be allowed to leave this French man and enter instead the opera company down the road that is performing Wagner!


Rowan The Dog said...

Well, the other thing is that those are both military designations. They are infantry units... A legion in Rome, Panzer in German. This Jesus is exorcising something of state might.

Just a thought.