The strong man

Jesus said (Matthew 12:29, New International Version)

Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

One problem with interpreting the sayings of Jesus is the long tradition of spiritualising them. Why should this not just be a political statement? Then, it would fit Syria perfectly. Syria belongs to Basher Assad, his Daddy gave it to him and he does not want to let it go.

Not Al-Assad. This is a Quaker thing. The “Al” means “the”, just as “The Campbell” is the chief of the clan Campbell, or Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw is a crown vassal, entitled to be named by his estates. It is a sign of nobility. No nobility in Basher. Quakers do not use titles like that.

Onywye, where was I? Oh yes. If you consider the New Living Translation of the same verse, it enforces a spiritual interpretation, unless you see Basher as the Devil:

For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger–someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

So, what is the context? What are the parallels? Luke uses different words to say the same thing, at 11:21-22:

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

Both passages are in the context of Jesus justifying his healing a demon-possessed man, when criticised by Pharisees, and are followed by the phrase “Whoever is not for me is against me”.

Clearly, the Gospel writers did not have a scribe noting down the actual words of Jesus. They felt free to convey the sense with different words for their own purposes. So, the long speech which Jesus gives is unlikely to be a single speech. It has been crafted by another source, common to Matthew and Luke but not Mark, and possibly this verse is a discrete saying, unconnected in Jesus’ original teaching to the casting out of demons.

In any case, I may give it a spiritual interpretation, that you need someone strong to cast out a demon, or a political interpretation, that you need someone strong to cast out Basher Assad. Truth and justice have no effect on him. Picture credit.

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