Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Saying 35


Jesus said, ‘It is impossible for someone to enter the strong man’s house and take it forcibly, unless he binds his hands. Then he will be able to plunder his house.’


Mark (with Matthew and Luke copying) puts this saying after a larger passage in which Jesus is accused of being empowered by demons to exorcise other demons (Mark 3.22–26). Jesus, in typical apocalyptic form, argues that the satan and demons form a kingdom opposite God’s, so that it is nonsense to say their kingdom grows stronger if they sabotage each other. Jesus then lays out this parable to illustrate what he is doing, but such a response does not flow from the previous discussion. Jesus was being challenged as to whether holy spirit or demonic spirit enabled him to perform exorcisms, but the parable comments only on the necessity of overpowering an enemy, without any indication as to the means by which the enemy is overpowered. The placement of the parable after the challenge against Jesus is an artificial arrangement by the author. When Mark 3.27 is read in relative isolation—as it is here in Saying 35—it does not read as an allegory where symbols correspond directly to reality (i.e. Mark wants readers to interpret the ‘strong man’ as a demon, the ‘binding’ as exorcism, the ‘house’ as the satanic kingdom, and the ‘loot’ as human souls being freed from demonic power). Instead, the parable broadly applies to the mindset Jesus’ disciples must have as they carry out their assignment: to win over converts to their worldview, they must face obstacles head on.



3.27 ‘But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man. Then indeed the house can be plundered.’


12.29 ‘Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.’


11.21–22 ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder.’

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