Mark 3:22-30 (ESV)
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” ——————
In the commentary so far I have not really sought to give evidence for the authenticity of the Jesus tradition. However, although I am not a big fan of the criteria of authenticity, I will offer a few comments here.
It is extremely unlikely that the first followers of Jesus would have created stories in which Jesus opponents accuse Jesus with being possessed and in the service on Satan. It makes historical sense to see Mark 22-30 as being a solid Jesus tradition, which was included because it is authentic.
Exorcisms and exorcists were not unknown to 2nd temple Judaism. They are mentioned in Josephus. eg. Jos Ant. 8:46-49
and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this:—(47) He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. (48) And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man; (49) and when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon was shown very manifestly; for which reason it is, that all men may know the vastness of Solomon’s abilities, and how he was beloved of God, and that the extraordinary virtues of every kind with which this king was endowed may not be unknown to any people under the sun; for this reason, I say, it is that we have proceeded to speak so largely of these matters.
Also see Mark 9:38-39, Acts 19:11-20. Also of note are the Rabbis Simeon and Hanina who became legends within Judaism. Exorcisms were thought to occur due to
1) words and actions of the exorcist
2) exorcist having a special relationship with God
3) personal force of the healer
Jesus has similarity with these features of the exorcist but is different in several regards.
Jesus unlike Tobit 8:3, Jubilees 10:10, Genesis Aprocryphon does not use external objects such as incence, music , amulets, dog’s hair. Jesus simply commands and the demons leave.
It is interesting to note that Jesus does not pray during exorcisms but speaks directly to the spirits.
Jesus does not invoke a name.
In acting in such a way Jesus brought attention on himself. It was his own life, words and praxis which had God given authority. The power was not in someone else’s name (others would often invoke the name of Solomen).
Today’s passage shows that Jesus faced conflict from those who witnessed his exorcism., accusing him of working for Satan. In Jesus response he talks of a kingdom being divided. Jesus brings the kingdom, but there is another kingdom. The kingdom of Satan. When the kingdom of God arrives, in the person of Jesus, other kingdoms cannot stand. They must be attacked.
In v28 Jesus draws attention to the holy spirit. Not all spirits are evil, the Holy Spirit is from God and thus speaking against the holy spirit is blasphemy.
Ok these are some reflections on demonology and exorcisms. Our western world seems far removed from this. Do we recognise the presence of anti-kingdom forces at work in the world. We should. We can start by looking at the forces of ideologies and worldviews which are opposed to Gods purposes. Atheistic Materialism as a worldview is an anti-kingdom force which can so cloud a persons viewpoint so they become sub-human. I think of the worldviews and forces which effected Pol Pott, Hitler, Stalin.
As the church, who works for the kingdom we should seek to have authority over these worldviews. To do battle with them.
In making a link between worldviews and the demonic I do not deny the presence of spirits.