Christ and the Gadarene Demoniac: A Criticism Answered
On the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus once encountered a man who was possessed of demons. When the Lord commanded the unclean spirits to leave the gentleman, they requested permission to enter a herd of swine feeding nearby. Christ granted that request. The demons entered the hogs, who, in turn, rushed down an embankment into the sea and drowned. Bible critics have charged Jesus with destroying the property of others. It is alleged that His conduct was reprehensible in connection with this event. There are several things that may be said in response to this baseless accusation.
First, no charge can be made against the Lord unless the event actually happened. Those who criticize Christ must concede, first, that this account represents a factual incident; otherwise, their allegation is baseless. Are they willing to admit that Jesus actually cast out demons? If so, exactly what did that circumstance prove?
Second, if Christ is a Divine Being, then He is sovereign over the entire creation and, in reality, everything belongs to Him (cf. Colossians 1:16). God said: “For every beast of the forest is mine, And the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Hogs, too! Thus, in the interest of a higher good, the Lord had every right to allow this incident to occur.
Third, swine were unclean according to Old Testament regulations (Leviticus 11). It is entirely possible that the owners of these pigs were Jews, engaged in an unlawful enterprise. If such was the case, the Savior’s economic rebuke certainly would have been warranted.
Fourth, as the scholarly R.C. Foster once observed, Christ “permitted the destruction of the swine knowing that it would awaken the Gergesenes from their indifference and ultimately assist in the salvation of a multitude in the community.” There are things that transcend the material, and hardship can have a benevolent result in the final ordering of one’s affairs.
In view of these factors, no legitimate indictment can be leveled against the Son of God in connection with this episode.