Matthew 8 In Light of "Laudato Si": Jesus prefers demons to pigs?

Does Jesus value demons more than pigs? How do we reconcile Pope Francis’ instruction that we should love and value nature and eschew the demonic with Jesus honoring demons above pigs by giving them permission to indiscriminately slaughter them? From Karl Keating’s endorsed Knox Translation:

[quote=“Knox Matthew 8”]28 So he reached the other shore, in the country of the Gerasenes; and here he was met by two possessed creatures who came out of the rock tombs, so exceedingly fierce that none could pass along that road. 29 And at once they cried aloud, Why dost thou meddle with us, Jesus, Son of God? Hast thou come here to torment us before the appointed time? 30 Some distance away, a great herd of swine was feeding; 31 and the devils asked a favour of him; If thou hast a mind to cast us out, they said, send us into the herd of swine. 32 He said to them, Away with you; and they came out and went into the herd of swine; and with that, all the herd rushed down the cliff into the sea, and perished in its waters. 33 The swineherds fled to the city, and there told all that had happened and the story of those who had been possessed. 34 And thereupon all the townspeople went out to meet Jesus; and when they found him, they entreated him to leave their country.

I’ve tried searching this forum, but the only relevant discussion I’ve found was that Jesus granted their request in order to show the reality of demons, to refute those who think Biblical accounts were a superstitious reckoning of mental illness. Does this fact alone justify the deliberate drowning a great herd of animals? I don’t see how, because today this passage seems to carry no more weight with skeptics than if Jesus had simply taught about demons, so that the pigs’ possibly painful perishing was superfluous to the point.[1]

Isn’t Jesus’ foreknowledge of the demons’ future act, combined with His decision to create the universe in a way that leads to this moment in time, make Him responsible for their drowning?[2] How then are we to reconcile this passage with “Laudato Si” from Pope Francis? To put it bluntly, "Pope Francis, you tell us to respect and to love nature, but Jesus cursed a fig tree from no fault of its own (it was not the time for figs) and drowned a great number of pigs just because demons asked him. What gives?"

Going off the statements about “Legion”, “great herd”, “swineherds” (more than one), “all the townspeople” – perhaps Jesus in fact killed all their city’s pigs. Regardless of the exact number, animal lovers have a problem here (especially if it’s true that pigs are smarter than dogs, which Americans love as pets).

I would appreciate any clarification, explanation, insight, or correction you can give me. :slight_smile: Thanks for your time.

[1] Sorry, sometimes I can’t help a little alliteration.
[2] This question is perhaps better suited for its own thread. It can be phrased more generally: Doesn’t God’s foreknowledge of evil, together with His decision to create everything as He did, make Him responsible for all of it? This point seems strengthened by Frank Sheed who teaches that since we are made of nothing, God must actively hold us in existence every moment. Sheed says this to underscore God’s love for us, but this implies that God also causes our pain.

A Commentary on the New Testament, published by the Catholic Biblical Association in 1942, on Matthew 8:32, p. 70, says, in part, “For in allowing the demons to cause this damage, Christ as the God-Man exercised His sovereign rights of dominion for some higher purpose known to Himself.” (source)

I am not certain the demons themselves caused the damage.Perhaps when they requested to be banished into swine they thought they could then again attempt to inhabit human bodies eventually or more easily.

Perhaps the demons entering into the swine caused a madness and reaction related to their brains which caused them all to run blindly off a cliff. Jesus knew this would happen.

While we’re asking idiotic questions, here’s some more:

What about that poor burning bush which suffered a painful death due to no fault
of its own?

What about those poor innocent sheep who were slaughtered in sacrifice to God?

How did God justify letting all those poor animals who didn’t make it into the Ark


That implication is incorrect.
The pain in this world is caused by sin.
God doesn’t cause our pain.

As explained in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible,

8:32 into the sea: Jesus manifests divine power by his control over demons. • In the OT, waters represent hostile forces (Ps 69:1-4) that are sometimes personified as beasts that rise out of the sea (Dan 7:1-3; cf. Rev 13:1). By driving the demon-possessed beasts back into the sea, Jesus symbolically demonstrates his triumph over the legions of Satan’s kingdom.

As usual, there is a specific Messianic message and reference in these actions of Christ. :thumbsup:

Why were Jews raising pigs anyhow?

According to Old Testament regulations (Leviticus 11), swine were “unclean.” It “is generally assumed that the owners were non-Jewish, but it is possible that Hellenizing Jews, lured by the good market for swine flesh in the cities of the Decapolis, may have engaged in raising pigs for financial gain” If such were the case, the Savior’s economic “rebuke” certainly would have been warranted.

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. Who knows how much these folks might have been blessed by the loss of their livestock! Of course the spiritually insensitive cannot appreciate this concept.

Anyone who thinks that the value of 2,000 hogs transcends that of a human soul made in the image of God himself, is so obtuse that likely no argument would be effective in unscrambling the discombobulation within his skull.

In view of these factors, no legitimate indictment can be leveled against the Son of God in connection with this episode. (edited)

I believe the Holy Father is just reiterating the Catholic position that we are all stewards of God’s creation and gift to us: the earth. We cannot profane the earth and natural resources as we should not profane our bodies; both are His creations and both are His gifts to us. What was Adam’s purpose? To care for the Garden of Eden. Why was Eden created? To help Adam (care for the Garden.) In modern day, especially in developed nations, we are so far removed from the earth. Others raise the food we eat, bring us water to drink, produce the power we use, etc. We are generally consumers not producers. I believe Pope Francis is just asking us to be mindful of the resources we consume.

WRT the Scripture passage, I’m not sure I understand your point. Jesus finds evil that is specifically terrorizing the area and exorcises the demons that is the source of that evil. He banishes them to a herd of pigs and they (the pigs) kill themselves. Are you saying Jesus preferred the demons over the pigs because He didn’t give a thought to the pigs?

The focus may be on the miracle of exorcism and that the result was the liberating of that town of demons. Or it may be the fear of the towns people after the exorcism in asking Jesus to leave. Or it may be the on the fact that this town was not a Jewish town so, by implication, Jesus saves everyone regardless of their religion or faith in Him. Or it may be on the symbolic use of pigs (unclean in the Jewish tradition) to show what happens when sin becomes part of them; sort of like what happens to us if we allow sin to get a hold on us. There are many parts of this story that we can focus on. The real question is: what is YOUR focus? What is the message God is trying to give to you and what will you do with it once you finally “get it”?

God Bless you.

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