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§ 162. The Conjurations of the Jewish Exorcists. (Luke, xi., 23-26.)

It followed, from the foregoing words of Christ in reply to the Pharisees, that all cures of demoniacs wrought on any other principles must be entirely apparent and deceptive.428428   As a physician, who treats the symptoms of disease, but neglects the cause, strengthens the latter by the very medicines which palliate the former. A vivid illustration of the pregnant truth here unfolded by Christ in reference to the cures of the demoniacs. It was of no avail to remove individual symptoms while the cause, viz., the dominion of the evil principle, remained unshaken. The very agency that removed the former for a time would only strengthen the latter, to break forth again with increased power. Therefore, although Christ, speaking κατ᾽ ἄνθρωπον, presupposed that the Jewish exorcists could heal demoniacs, he could not recognize their cures as genuine. So he says (Luke, xi., 23), “Whosoever is not with me (works not in communion with me in the power of the Holy Ghost) is against me (opposes in his works the kingdom of God); and he that gathereth not with me (does not, in communion with me 242gather souls for the kingdom) scattereth abroad429429   This text is put in the same connexion in Matt. (xii., 30). But the διὰ τοῦτο of v. 31 does not naturally join with v. 30; there is no such causal relation as is implied by the phrase, nor does it join any more closely with what follows; indeed, it appears rather to belong at the end of all the proofs adduced against the Pharisees. The right arrangement is doubtless that of Luke (xii., 23-26); and the more profound order of the thought, as Luke presents it, is not the work of chance, but a proof of the originality of the account. I must differ, therefore, from Professor Elwert, who, in his ingenious dissertation (Stud. der Geistl. Würtem., ix., i., 1836), denies that Luke, xi., 23, has reference to the verses immediately preceding. Understanding the parable more in the sense of Matthew (although. he admits Luke’s originality also), he connects this passage with it, and considers it as directed against the indecision of the multitude, who, after moments of enthusiastic excitement in Christ’s favour, suffered themselves to be so easily led astray. But we ought not to seek new combinations when the original connexion of a passage, lying before us, offers a good sense. Even apart from this, however, Prof. E.’s explanation does not suit the latter clause of v. 23 at all—“He that gathereth not with me, scattereth”—which is obviously not directed against an inward disposition, but outward acts; viz., acts which pretend to be done in favour of Christ’s kingdom, but in reality operate against it. Prof. E. himself admits (p. 180) that the words quoted, if taken strictly in their connexion, do not favour his view; but thinks he is justified, by their approaching to the character of a proverb, in departing from the strict construction. There is no proof, however, that Christ made use here of an existing proverb; but this is immaterial to the interpretation of the passage. On the whole, my view corresponds with that of Schleiermacher, in loc. The relation of Luke, xi., 23, to ix., 50, will be examined in its place hereafter. (leads them astray, and thus really works for the kingdom of Satan, against which he apparently contends).” The exorcists pretended, in casting out devils, to fight against Satan; but in fact, by their arts of deceit, were striving against the kingdom of God. How cutting a contrast to the assertion of the Pharisees that devils might be cast out by the aid of Satan!

The same truth is illustrated in parabolic form in verses 24-26; unless a radical cure of the demoniac is made by the redeeming power of the Divine Spirit, his soul remains estranged from God, the apparently cured disease seizes it with new force, the ungodly spirit finds his old haunt—his former dwelling is completely prepared for his reception.430430   Luke, xi., 24-25. In Matt., xii., 43-45, the passage is introduced in a different connexion, and must be differently interpreted; it was applied to illustrate the truth, viz., that that generation, refusing to obey the call to repentance, should therefore fall into worse and more incurable corruption. This corresponds perfectly to the sense of the parable, and the thought which it contains finds a rich and manifold illustration in history, both on a large and small scale; in all those cases, namely, in which a temporary and apparent reformation, without a radical cure of fundamental evil, has been followed by a stronger reaction. This application of the passage implies that signs of an apparent amendment had shown themselves in “that generation;” and, moreover, it requires that the passage itself should be referred to the impressions, great, but not permanent, which Christ’s works, now and again, produced upon the multitude. But it is clear that the nearer and stricter application of the passage is that given in Luke, viz., to the apparent healing of the demoniacs. One thing is evident from Matthew’s use of it, viz., that it was well understood from the beginning that the passage was not to be taken literally, but figuratively, which, indeed, is obvious enough from the whole form of discourse. It would have been contrary to all analogy for the men of that time, disposed as they were to take every thing in a literal sense, to attach a spiritual meaning to these words, if it had not been obvious that he spoke them entirely by way of parable. This is written—quite superfluously—solely against Strauss; for the sense in which Christ used the parable is plainly obvious from the connexion.

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