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Keith Warrington: The Miracles in the Gospels

For Warrington, miracle accounts in the Gospels emphasize Jesus’ person and authority.

Warrington notes that when Jesus laid hands on the woman in Luke 13:13, it is the only time he touches a woman in his Gospel. I was waiting to see Warrington’s take on Jesus touching a woman who had “a spirit.” His view ends up being very like my own: the woman was under a Satanic influence but was not demon-possessed. The Lukan (and Synoptic) evidence supports this understanding, as Warrington canvases Luke’s terminology and depictions of Jesus handling sick people and demonized people differently—Jesus never elsewhere touches the demon-possessed nor talks to the person but rather the demon.

Chapter 5, “The Synoptic Exorcisms,” connects Warrington’s previously mention that Satan has a kingdom and demons are in a contest with Jesus. This is a correct NT assessment. Warrington does not broach the idea of Judaism (and hence the NT via 2TJ) possibly borrowing ideas of demonology from Zoroastrianism. He focuses on the demons’ malevolence, their agenda being one with “eternal consequences, not merely restricted to the physical aspects of a person’s life” (149). Warrington’s examination of Jesus’ exorcisms is sane and allots decent space for a text of this size. He prefers to translate the Greek daimonizomai as “demonize” over “demon-possessed,” as the latter may wrongly infer that the demon is inside of a person, “which may or may not be the case.” This accords with my own morphing understanding of the phenomenon. In the important demon-possession (and this is one in the literal sense) of Gadara/Gerasa/Gadarene, Warrington alerts the reader regarding his ideas about the subject more broadly, as well as giving important conclusions relating specifically to it. Of interest is his interpretation of the Greek ti hēmin kai soi (Matthew) or ti emoi kai soi (Mark, Luke), that is, “What to us/me and to you?”, which is equivalent to “Mind your own business” or “Why are you interfering in our affairs?” Warrington concedes that malevolence and opposition are possible but thinks it more likely the demons are worried and surprised at Jesus’ arrival. His exegetical moves are consistently in keeping with his overarching understanding of Jesus and the miraculous: “The confrontation is one-sided, the authority of Jesus being stressed from the start” (151). Thus, Warrington disagrees with those scholars (e.g., Gundry, Mark, 1993; Twelftree, Gospel Perspectives, vol. 6, 1986) who see a pitched battle of sorts between Jesus and the demon. Rather, Warrington sees Jesus’ authority as the Son of God established in the story, so why should he, for instance, need to know the demon’s name to cast it out, after his supposed initial and ineffective effort to do so? If we understand Warrington here, he is saying that the Markan account plays out as it does so that the audience can know the severity of this possession, not because Jesus had to exert himself. Yet the facts in Mark’s Gospel still seem to suggest that the demons did not come out at Jesus’ first behest. We like Warrington’s understanding of this important theological matter and appreciate that Warrington reverently wrestles with the issues, but we are not fully persuaded he has proved his case here exegetically.

Was the Feeding of the Five Thousand a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet?

In this section, Warrington continues his excellent dissemination of valuable and interesting tidbits, noting that only in the Gadara/Gerasene demoniac and the exorcism in the synagogue (Mk 1:21–28 // Lk 4:31–37) does Jesus “engage a demon in conversation.” Warrington goes his own path and refreshingly allows for Matthean “doublets” to be discrete accounts (Mt 9:32–34).

Chapter 6 (“The Synoptics: Nature Miracles”) maintains Warrington’s emphasis on Jesus’ person and authority. Three miracles stories will illustrate this. First, when evaluating the literary/theological connection between the Calming of the Storm and the exorcism of the demoniac/s, despite the use of the word “rebuke” (Gr. epitimaō) to calm the storm and then to the legion of demons, Warrington concludes that we do not likely have a “demonically inspired storm” but simply two narratives that show obedience to Jesus. (Of course, the same conclusion could be reached if the storm was demonically inspired.) And the disciples were not necessarily in danger of drowning: “The one who had initiated the journey was capable of authoritatively ensuring that it was completed, storm or no storm.”

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2018

About the Author: David L. Ricci, MA (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), PhD (ABD), is an associate professor in the Bible and Theology Department at Northpoint Bible College in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He has served as an evangelist for many years, served on a pastoral staff, has been a marketplace chaplain, and had two radio shows in Rhode Island. He and his family live in Kingston, New Hampshire.

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