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The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: It’s in There (Legions and Demons edition)
“Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” Luke 8:30-31
This passage is the center-point of another project I'm working on this semester. The pericope as a whole is fascinating, but even in these two verses it’s apparent there is quite a lot going on here.
To flesh out the nuances of the passage I recently looked up Legion, Demons, and Abyss in The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. There were substantial articles on each topic, and in them I found some very intriguing details.
Legion is of course a reference to Roman military units, but the details of their size (up to 6,000), their ferocity in battle, and their personal fealty to their emperor certainly add to the tension of the passage. Jesus just displayed his power over the sea and is now being faced with another great challenge.
At first glance it wasn’t readily apparent if there was anything more to the use of the term Legion. Turning to the article on Demons however it also commented on this very passage that it is possible the demon possessed man had lost loved ones to the swords of the Legion and that this led to his naming.
Finally although I knew Abyss was roughly parallel to the Greco-Roman underworld, I did not realize that in the Septuagint it had the imagery of the great depths of the primeval sea. With that in mind the driving of the demons/pigs into the sea may in fact be the very fate they were so eager to avoid.
There is still much more research to be done, but once again The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible has proven to be an excellent starting point for my studies.
- Mason with Zondervan
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