Focus on Jesus Series
Of Pigs and Cities
Notes on Matthew 8:28-9:1, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39
by Ed Vasicek
Why the Deviled Ham?
The event described below took place in the area around Decapolis. This area was directly Southeast of Galilee, but a gentile region embedded in the Greek culture. Unlike the Jews, these gentiles ate pork in great quantity (they were the precursors to we Hoosiers).
When Jesus freed the demonized man who lived in the region of the Gerasenes, the demons asked not to be sent to the Abyss (the holding area for bound demons who are awaiting the Day of Judgment), but instead to remain in the region of the Decapolis (see below). These evil spirits asked permission to enter the nearby herd of swine. Christ granted them permission to do so, and the herd rushed off the edge of a cliff into the lake and was drowned.
Some have asked the question, "Was it morally right for Christ to allow the demons to do this, since the herd was the property of the swineherd?" Not only were the pigs killed, but the owner lost a lot of money. Mark tells us that there were about 2,000 pigs involved. Although we call this incident "deviled ham," you can be sure it wasn't too funny to those who earned their living raising pigs. This is a legitimate objection, for which we may offer these observations:
Did Christ treat the owners with contempt because he was dealing with gentiles? Certainly not. The Talmud reveals an ethic held by the Jews: "For a Jew to cheat a gentile is worse than cheating a Jew. In addition to breaking the moral law, it brings Jews into a position of contempt."
Taking things a little further, we can conclude the following:
The Decapolis means the "ten cities" in Greek, and it was the Greeks who set up these Greek "colonies" during the time of Alexander the Great, but reestablished by the Romans under Pompey in 63 B.C. Since Jesus was previously employed as a builder ("carpenter" is not an accurate translation—Jesus probably worked mostly with stone and only somewhat with wood), and since this region was booming in the early first century, it is very possible that Jesus worked in some of the cities of the Decapolis.
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