I Am Legion

What does the phrase "I am Legion, for we are many" mean?

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I think that reading the story that this passage comes from would be beneficial to you. The story involves a possessed man who is exorcised by Jesus. In the story Jesus asked the spirit possessing the man ‘what is your name’, to which the demon responded ‘My name is Legion for we are many.’ This line has become quite famous by its use in movies and books about demon possession. Looking at the phrase and considering it with only a literally sense, it looses something. A legion was a large group of Roman soldiers, these such legions sometimes contained a few thousand men. In this instance the demon is saying that there is not just one spirit inside the man’s body, instead there are thousands. The story goes on and Jesus banishes the spirits possessing the man, he sends the demons into 2,000 pigs then run to the sea and drown. The story intends to show the greatness of the lord, how powerful he is even when standing against so many. I believe that the idea of this story and particularly the phrase I am Legion for we are many is to show that no matter the insurmountable odds those who were faithful to the Lord would in the end prevail. 

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A legion represents many, as in a military unit. When the statement was made in the bible, it was in reference to many demons possessing a single man. The man was one, the demons were many. So, when you hear the statement, how to interpret? "I am Legion, for we are many." I am one person, but I have many to back me up!

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We should also note that the "legion" (Latin: legio) is one of the basic units in the Roman military system. So, when the demonic presence identifies itself as being named Legion, this alludes to Roman military term.

Roman legions were divided into 60 "centuries". As the root cent- indicates, a Roman military century, in theory, could have 100 soldiers. Thus, a Roman legion could, in theory, have as many as 6000 men. In practice, however, Roman legions seldom had that many active soldiers in each century and most scholarly sources I have seen argue that the typical Roman legion probably numbered between 4200 and 4800.

Mark's text at 5:13, though, may give a more precise hint at the number of demons in this particular "legion", since in this verse the Gospel writer tells us that the herd of pigs into which Jesus sent the demons numbered about 2,000.

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This is a Biblical allusion to an incident where Jesus healed a maniac who ranted and raved as an animal, cut himself with stones and lived among tombs. When Jesus asked "Who are you?", he was not speaking to the man but to the demons which possessed him. Through the man they replied," I am Legion (meaning 'many'), for we are many." The evil spirits leaving the man went into a herd of pigs which in turn went wild, plunging themselves into the Sea of Galilee and drowning there. Because of "collateral damage" having been done, Jesus was asked by the local authorities to leave the area. So He did.

Three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke but not John) give variable accounts of this. The Gospels were first person testimonials of Jesus' life and ministry as they were written by the disciples bearing those names. They are the first four books of the New Testament.

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