Woe, Woe, Woe, All the Way Home!
In Response To: Little Piggies Go to Market ()

Although the story of the "Demoniac of Gedara" belittles the Jewishness of Jesus, it actually venerates him as a Gentile leader. The "pig-killer" Jesus is being lionized in this passage as a new Theseus, a king that would bring down a number of tyrants before suffering the same fate himself upon reaching the brink of becoming Great King. Although Theseus was a tragic figure, he was the progenitor of an important royal line. Aristobulus III would be the progenitor of an important royal line as well, and not one that lasted for four generations, but one that went on for 2,000 years!

The spin put on Jesus by the author of the passage is extremely subtle. The effect is however devastating. The Jews are depicted as being led to the slaughter (by way of transferring the derangement of one mad man onto the many). The royal family had from antiquity cultivated the specialness of Jewish identity, but they were now prepared to discard it. The new world order of the Flavians placed little or no value on their services and culture. The Jews are compared by this Gospel story to pigs, and by implication greedy pigs that wanted more than the royal family was prepared to go on allowing them.

Nerva tried to undo some of the damage done to the Jews in the Flavian Dynasty. After the destruction of Jerusalem, practicing Jews had been forced to pay a special tax, and for the privilege of paying that tax were evidently also forced to publicly prove that they were circumcised (and perhaps perform other demeaning acts). Nerva repealed the more humiliating elements of that Flavian fiat. Yet, the pronouncement of judgment upon the Jews became/remained a fixed policy in the New Testament and within Christianity.

Unlike the satires of Aristophanes, the Gospel humor regarding the demoniac of Gedara is callous and uncompromising. Aristophanes had used humor to challenge his audience to reconsider its attitudes (societal biases and norms) regarding war, foreigners and minorities, and the dispossessed. The Gospels leave little room for introspection on the matter of Jewish genocide. The audience is not invited to consider whether the destruction of a nation was necessary and appropriate. Instead, Jesus (being a composite of the historical Aristobulus III and his Messianic successor Titus), is put forth (to those elites who had ears to hear) as causing a multitude of Jews to rush headlong to their deaths, and is made to appear completely justified in doing so.

Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that this is a historical study and not part of any social agenda recommending continued anti-Semiticism on the one hand or Jewish sympathy/reparations on the other. It's simply an attempt to understand what happened in ancient times.