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MIRACLES OF JESUS CONSIDERED AS WITNESSES OF THE
POWER OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WHICH HAS
We have already pointed out the sense in which we use the expression 'witness.' A witness is more than a mere sign, more even than a symbol pointing beyond itself. It bears testimony to something already existing Those miracles which we include under this category are real proofs of Jesus as the Redeemer. They do not show what He can and what He will do, but they manifest Him in the fulness of His glory, as the Lord of the kingdom, who, as such, acts with majesty.
The kingdom which was come near in Him, could not simply take any place on the earth; it must fight and must gain by force its real position there, and this in a combat against him who rules in the darkness of this world, and who (Matt. iv. 9) said to Jesus, that the world with all its glory was his, for he could both promise them and present them. Our Lord did not now receive it from his hand as a fee, wishing to take it from him by the overpowering of its prince; thus a fight must necessarily break out, which will grow more and more intense, and at last become decisive. We know that not until the moment of the death of Jesus does the concluding decisive combat occur, as
our Lord Himself, in John xiv. 30, says, in view of His departure, that the prince of the world cometh, although he has nothing in Him. But this last decisive act not only does not exclude, but in reality presupposes that movements on the other side have taken place, where the scene of action was not in the centre, but merely on the outskirts. Scripture shows the victory of the Son of God over the prince of this world in a double view, the one negative—He has overthrown him, has taken from him the reigns of government; see John xii. 31: “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out'-and the other positive: He has on His part now brought life and incorruptible being to light (2 Tim. i. 10). It ascribes the negative side more to the account of His death; the positive to that of His resurrection through death. It says in Hebrews ii. 14, Jesus 'had destroyed the power of him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;' and since He has arisen from the dead, it is taught that He gives eternal life to all who believe on Him. Now, if there should have been given some real witnesses of this working of His death and resurrection during His earthly appearance, these can only consist in the fact that He at one time accomplished deeds by which Satan was cast out (Luke x. 17, 18); and at another, deeds by means of which his effective power was taken away, and that of his opponent substituted. The former are the drivings out of devils; the latter, the raisings from the dead.
THE LIBERATION OF THOSE POSSESSED.
It is this class of miracles within which Strauss has made the most concessions. Just as Schleiermacher (Leben Jesu, p. 219) most willingly lets them pass, Strauss declares (p. 446), that if Jesus has really cured
the sick, it must have been chiefly demoniacs; at least, among all the cures which have been ascribed to Him, these have in themselves more of natural possibility and historical probability than others. He adds, indeed, to settle the question, that he will not say that even any single one of the narratives related gives à true historical report, and thus he leaves to each one only so much reality as his psychological views allow him.
But here we have not to deal with Strauss alonę; others, who in nowise share his views on other points, have represented the persons on whom our Lord has performed these deeds, in such a manner, that we must at once express our dissent from it. It is said that the so-called demoniacs are persons with a characteristically natural illness, whose sufferings, according to the view of the time, were supposed to be founded, not in an abnormal physical organism, and also not in natural disturbances of the psychical habit, but in devilish possession; that, in truth, there lie here before us only forms of mania, epilepsy, melancholy cases of contraction, temporary dumbness, and blindness. How these theologians can explain their position as to the positive side of the question, that is, how they can believe that they are able to put aside the difficulty, that they are contradicting the plain meaning of the evangelist himself, they give us no information. But it will certainly be acknowledged that the biblical writers knew very well when they saw natural sicknesses, and they were quite able to distinguish them from cases of demoniacal possession. They speak also of natural blindness, dumbness, paralysis ; they also knew of a natural mania, as was the case in the Old Testament (Deut. xxviii. 28), nyaw, where such madness is referred to. If they narrate of blind, of dumb, of lame, who were possessed, they will have had good grounds for believing them to have had no mere natural sickness.
But let us see how it stands with the negative side of the opposite assertion. There are four arguments which have been used against the reality of a demoniacal possession. In the first place, it is remembered that in the whole of the Old Testament there occurs no single example of the kind; and secondly, stress is laid on the fact, that in the present time nothing similar is known. We will stop for the consideration of these two points. The facts stated are both right; the question is, whether a sufficient examination would not destroy the force of the argument. Let us try all the cases where possession by demons appears in our Gospels. Where are they found ? It is marvellous that they never, not even once, occur in Judæa, the centre of the theocracy, but always in the extreme borders of Palestine; partly in heathen countries, partly in those strips of land of Palestine which bordered on a heathen region where the inhabitants dwelt among the heathen, in Galilee of the Gentiles, high in the north, or in the extreme east. examine this closer. Those castings out of demons which have been reported in detail to us, are performed partly on real Gentiles, partly at least on Gentile ground and territory
The daughter of the Canaanitish woman is characterized by this definition as a Gentile; the chief narrative of the possessed at Gadara has a purely Gentile stage, for Josephus expressly tells us that only a few Jews lived there, as in the Diaspora; that the real inhabitants were Gentiles. But the other demoniacs also with whom we meet are found in Upper Galilee, mostly in the country of Capernaum, on the road to Damascus. Hence the 1st chapter of Mark, which especially describes the working of Jesus performed in
this part of Galilee, frequently mentions His driving out demons. See Mark i. 27, 32, 34, 39. In Jewry proper, we do not meet with any appearance of demoniacs. It is well known that the Jews considered the whole of the Gentile world as subject to Satan, while they looked upon themselves as the peculiar people of Jehovah. And this was no presumptuous view, as it had the truth at its foundation, that the Lord had really chosen Israel as a 'peculiar people,' and that it was to be from Zion that the shining light' should be extended over the Gentiles.
The kingdoms of the world which Satan, in Matt. iv. 8, shows to the Saviour, were the Gentile countries. Here only he reigned with undisputed power, while in Israel Jehovah was acknowledged and worshipped as the Lord. Thus it is that these manifestations, by means of which Satan announced his right of possession (see the significant expression possessed), only occurred on Gentiles, and only in those places where heathenism possessed more or less influence over Judaism. This latter could (especially at the time of its strict exclusion from heathenism under the Old Testament dispensation) show nothing of these manifestations. That they did not occur later, that they in fact never occurred any more in after times, will not be remarkable to those who believe with the apostle that Jesus was come that He might destroy the works of the devil, and who are convinced that He has attained that end. In the first centuries of the Christian Church, we still continually meet with demoniacs. There was, it is known, an ecclesiastical office of Exorcists, who drove out the unclean spirits.' The
1 The remark of the Apostolic Constitutions (chap. viii. 26), that an Exorcist cannot be chosen, as it is the gift of the free grace of God in Christ, hardly places the office in question (it is not much different with the catechetical work); at any rate, it justifies the otherwise assured acceptation of a complete exorcising of possessed on the part of the Church