Demons!–Part Twenty Nine

Demons!–Part Twenty Nine August 7, 2020

BEN: Your discussion of unclean spirits in Chapt. 10 is fascinating. But I wonder if any of the hearers or readers of the NT could have possibly known to associate that terminology with the spirits of the dead Nephilim? Or for that matter could Mark’s audience, even the Jewish Christian ones, in Rome really be expected to know all the ANE and 2nd temple speculations about evil spirits and demons? It seems unlikely. And we have to remember there was not yet a canon even of the OT before late first century at most, and even most synagogues did not have a whole collection of the 39 books of the OT in scrolls, never mind all the intertestamental books like Jubilees or 1 Enoch. At most Jude suggests some in his Jewish Christian audience would know some of this. How would you respond to these points?

MICHAEL: I think that the biblical writers were writing to readers – that is, literate people. I think we all know as scholars that the real time speeches, conversations, sermons, etc. of Jesus, the apostles, and Paul were consistent with, though different than, the crafted literary works we call the books of the New Testament. Those books included “boots on the ground” sayings, of course, but they are crafty literary works. They all had communicative agendas and were designed to accomplish those agendas. This is, to my eye, transparently obvious. We can have a high degree of certainty, for example, that Jesus didn’t have conversations in chiasms, yet the gospel writers frequently present what Jesus taught in that literary form (and others). So, for literate readers, I do believe that the New Testament writers did indeed presume that their craftsmanship would be noticed by those sorts of readers. Why else would a writer quote subtly from LXX, or mix LXX references, or borrow a phrase here and there from a Second Temple text, or use a specific literary device? It’s not all the accidental result of dis-engaged minds. I think it’s very purposeful and aimed at readers who would notice. In the course of doing that, less literate readers would still get content they needed, though they wouldn’t be able to trace the thoughts as well or as deeply.

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