Q. I have heard that Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. If so what were they? Also, my sister read that when Jesus was being whipped before his crucifixion that he was given 40 lashes less one. Do you know why it was worded that way? Why not just say 39 lashes?
A. In Mark 16:9 we’re told that Jesus had cast 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene. As far as I have been able to determine, that’s the only Biblical reference to the event and no further detail is given. Some scholars seriously question the authenticity of the last 12 verses of Mark, beginning with verse 9, saying they contain unverifiable content, are written in a different linguistic style, and are missing from important early manuscripts. Yet since the Holy Spirit allowed their inclusion, we must assume they’re there for a reason.
As for the issue of 40 lashes minus one, 40 lashes was the prescribed method of interrogation. The whip they used had multiple strands into which had been embedded pieces of bone and metal. These would dig into the skin when the whip was applied and pull the flesh off the prisoners back when the whip was drawn back. Many prisoners didn’t survive this method of interrogation.
The idea was that if while being whipped the prisoner confessed to crimes he had committed, the soldier would lessen the force of each blow. But if he didn’t confess, the whip would be applied with greater force. As a sign of mercy, the Jews required that one of the 40 be omitted when their people were being interrogated, thus the phrase 40 lashes minus one.
Since Jesus had committed no crimes, and since he couldn’t lie and make things up to lessen the force of each blow, He received the maximum effect of the beating. It’s the opinion of the New England Journal of the American Medical Assn. that the flesh of our Lord’s back would have been almost completely torn off, leaving His rib cage exposed, and he would have been in deep shock following His interrogation.
Paul endured five such interrogations, on three other occasions he was beaten with wooden rods, and once he was stoned. (Stoning was the Jewish method of execution.) I believe this was the thorn in the flesh Paul complained about, and when the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” He was in effect saying, “Don’t worry. I’ll heal you each time.”
For more detail on this read my article entitled, “My Grace Is Sufficient For You.” You’ll find it at