Bargaining with Jesus: Irony in Mark 5:1-20

In: Biblical Interpretation
Andrew Burrow St Mary’s University, Twickenham, UK

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This study analyzes Mark 5:1-20 from the perspective of verbal and situational irony. 
I argue that three elements of irony in Mark 5:1-20 align with distinctive features of exorcisms in the ancient world: (1) the demons act as an exorcist against Jesus, who in turn will exorcise them; (2) the demons ask Jesus to consider their well-being when they have shown no concern for their host; (3) the demons believe that their selection of the swine as a new host will allow them to remain in the country of the Gerasenes, but it results in the destruction of the pigs. Additionally, using other ancient accounts of exorcism as comparative examples (those found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Lucian, Philostratus, the Papyri Graecae Magicae, and the Testament of Solomon), I show that Mark 5:1-20 differs in many ways and that those differences both elucidate and intensify its elements of irony.

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