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This is the part where Jesus heals a demon-posessed boy that the deciples don't have enough faith to heal.

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

-- Luke 9:37-41

From Matthew 17 we know that the disciples couldn't drive this demon out because they didn't have enough faith, so it makes sense that Jesus says "unbelieving generation". How does the "perverse generation" part fit into this context? It seems unrelated to the faith (or their lack therof). What's the connection?

To be clear, my question is about the word 'perverse' and how it fits into the context.

  • Merriam-Webster: Pervert, (verb) - to cause to turn aside or away from what is good or true or morally right. – elika kohen Jun 22 '17 at 3:55
  • It strengthens the idea of alienation from God, among whose symptoms demonic possession is reckoned. – Lucian Jan 2 at 23:31
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HORIZONTAL GENERATION?
The English word 'generation' doesn't mean the same thing as the word (**
מַטָּע**) Yeshua (Jesus) likely used. To get a sense of the original meaning, think of the English word though:

'Generation' arises from the root 'gen' (genos "birth", genus "family", generate "produce") so denotes a relationship from 'things that cause' or 'produce'.

The word has two meanings: 'all people born and living at the same time' (emphasis on same time) or 'the production of something from a common source (emphasis on same source)'. Lets call the emphasis on same time as horizontal since it implies a specific time, whereas lets call the emphasis on same source as vertical since it spans through time and emphasis a common source.

Today, the former (horizontal) meaning dominates the English sense, but didn't always. Whereas, formerly the latter meaning (vertical) dominated its sense: hence all of the other similar words employing gen. The original etymology of the English word still implies this vertical sense; a sequential relationship from one-to-the-next (timelessly). However now, the current English word 'generation' doesn't carry this same timeless sense (to most English speakers at least) even though the act of 'generating' still does. To most English speakers the 'generation' (noun) carries a horizontal sense-meaning (particular time) that doesn't exist in the original Aramaic/Hebrew or even Greek (all people born and living at the same time).

VERTICAL GENERATION?
Now consider the Hebrew/Aramaic words Yehshua most likely used (read back from the same Greek words used in the LXX to impart Hebrew/Aramaic meaning); noting that ancient Hebrew/Aramaic were languages that lack tense (meaning were timeless).

Luke 9:41 says ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν Ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου. The word γενεὰ is translated into English as 'generation'. Notice how this same word γενεὰ is translated into Greek from the Hebrew in the LXX in Isa 61:3:

Greek: δοθῆναι τοῖς πενθοῦσιν Σιων δόξαν ἀντὶ σποδοῦ ἄλειμμα εὐφροσύνης τοῖς πενθοῦσιν καταστολὴν δόξης ἀντὶ πνεύματος ἀκηδίας καὶ κληθήσονται γενεαὶ δικαιοσύνης φύτευμα κυρίου εἰς δόξαν

Hebrew: לָשׂוּם לַאֲבֵלֵי צִיֹּון לָתֵת לָהֶם פְּאֵר תַּחַת אֵפֶר שֶׁמֶן שָׂשֹׂון תַּחַת אֵבֶל מַעֲטֵה תְהִלָּה תַּחַת רוּחַ כֵּהָה וְקֹרָא לָהֶם אֵילֵי הַצֶּדֶק מַטַּע יְהוָה לְהִתְפָּאֵֽר׃

English: .. to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting (or generations) of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Clearly this γενεὰ (also Hebrew מַטָּע) was not restricted to 'a people who all lived at the same time' since this quote clearly refers to a people who existed timelessly as a branch through time. The sense of γενεὰ here isn't 'horizontal', a cross section or slice of the branch, but the whole branch itself; generations through time. Look at similar metaphors of 'plantings' to refer to a people in (Matt 13:32, Matt 24:32, Mark 13:28, John 15:2-6 Rom 11:16-24).

The generation Yehshua is talking about, to an Hebrew/Aramaic speaker (a language with no tense) or to a timeless God, is not a 'people living at the same time' but 'a people who have sprung from a common source' and who appear as a branch through history, and who have resisted the prophets.

This same metaphor is also evident in Yehshua's strongs words of John 8:44.

CONCLUSION: Therefore Yehshua was speaking to a people of common heritage in a timeless sense, regardless of when they were born. A General but recurrent lack of faith prevented them from performing a miracle.

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    Thanks for the explanation on 'generation', my question was more about how the word 'perverse' fits in with the context. – user640 Feb 21 '17 at 21:54
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The man in the crowd is apparently a Jew.

A major theme of the gospels is the unbelief of the Jews both because of their history in the scriptures as always exasperating God.

In the gospels as in the book of Jonah the Jews are contrasted with the gentiles in that the Jews hardly ever exhibit any faith while the gentiles often have amazing faith:

NIV Matthew 8: 5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

The word "You" is not present in the Greek which instead reads "Oh":

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Luke 9:41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.

Given all this background I think that Jesus is exasperated that here among the Jews not enough faith could be mustered up to perform a simple healing and he attributes it to their being Jews. Jews, apart from a regenerating work of the spirit of God are uniquely stiff-necked and in judgment are temporarily and partially subject to a judicial blinding, per Isaiah.

This all leads inexorably to the turning from the Jews to the Gentiles until such a time as they say "Blessed is he who comes in the name of YHVH":

NIV Acts 13: 38“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

41“ ‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’ ” 42As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“ ‘I have made youf a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

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Luke 9:41 in the YLT is,

" And Jesus answering said, `O generation, unstedfast and perverse, till when shall I be with you, and suffer you? bring near hither thy son;'"

The words were addressed to the entire multitude before him, among which surely were unbelieving scribes and Pharisees, as well as the disciples who might still have had some lingering doubt. While an application may be made to the unbelieving people of any generation, Christ pointedly asked how long He must suffer their unbelief; clearly indicating the multitude of the people standing before Him of that time period of the first century A.D.

He had just been on the Mount of Transfiguration the day before. His thoughts were in preparation for the sacrifice shortly to be borne for all the sins of the people, and He is confronted the very next day with the continued feeble and surface desire of a need for a miracle.. further proof of His authority.

He was not averse to healing the child, but was amazed at the petty attitude of the unbelieving people for whom He was about to be killed.

The Pulpit Commentary recognizes the event in its contemporary setting.

" What a contrast for the Lord between the heavenly hours he had just been spending on the mount, and this sad sight of pain and suffering, of jealousy and wrangling, of doubts and indecision, in the midst of which he now stood! "faithless and perverse," cried the pitiful Lord with a burst of intense sorrow, "how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" One word, he knew, and for him all this might be exchanged for the scenes of heaven, for the company of angels and of blessed spirits, for the old home of grandeur and of peace; only it was just to heal this bitter curse that he had left his heaven-home. But the contrast between the glory of the Transfiguration mount and the memories which they evoked, and the present scene of pain and woe unutterable, of human passions and weakness, called forth from the Lord this bitter, sorrowful expression. " Source: here

The Interlinear uses "perverted", from Strong's Greek #1294: diastrephó: to distort, fig. misinterpret, corrupt. From Thayer's Greek Lexicon b) "perverse, corrupt, wicked." Source: here

They were perverse or wicked because of their continued blindness to what He had been teaching them for over 3 years, specifically about the need for them to repent of their sins. And, they still were not listening even when He was about to die for them.

(Bold emphasis is mine.)

  • The Pulpit Commentary is off here. Jesus is referring to the father in the story, not the multitude or the disciples. Biblehub provides Chrysostom's commentaries as well, but they dropped his commentary on Matthew 17:14ff here for some reason. It can be found here. Cyril's commentary on the Luke passage, written around the same time (late 4th century), can be found here. – user33515 Jan 25 '18 at 15:21
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Before Moses is taken up right before Joshua leads the children of Israel into the promised land, he sings a song that all the people are to learn from. in the song he calls the people a perverse generation. Jesus uses the term just after descending from the mount of transfiguration where he met with Moses. And Jesus came to earth to lead us to Heaven even though we are sinners. I think Jesus is quoting Moses, indicating the parallels. I think the people of Israel at the time of Moses and at the time of Jesus, and me myself non-Jew right now are not so very different, easily going astray, without doubt frustrating our good Lord, and is saying "Owen, you are no different to the people coming out of the desert, but I will still lead you to cross over the Jordan."

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If you read the gospels then you see the whole time that the Disciples did not truly believe until the resurrection of our Lord. They all ran from Him, and only one stood at the cross. Unbelieving and perverse generation is exactly what Jesus is getting at. He is telling them because you don’t believe correctly, and still using man’s thinking you can’t cast demons like these out. The same goes for us today, if we don’t have true faith then we are a perverse and unbelieving generation.

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It is actually the father, not the disciples, that Jesus accuses of lacking faith here.


The account is in all three synoptic Gospels: Matthew 17:14-18, Mark 9:17-27, Luke 9:37-42. In Mark, Jesus is quoted as saying, O faithless generation (ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος); in Matthew and Luke, he says O faithless and perverse generation (ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη).


The word the NIV translates here as "perverse" is a passive participle of the verb διαστρέφω (diastrephō), which is defined in various lexicons as pervert, distort, divert, turn away, mislead, or lead astray. "Perverted" (not in the sexual sense) rather than "perverse" is probably a more literal translation. The root is στρεφω (strephō), which means to turn or turn around oneself. The prefix δια- (dia-) signifies thoroughness or completeness, so we might interpret diastrephō to mean something like throughly turned or thoroughly turned around.

Many other versions also translate diastrephō as "perverse", but it is also translated as "twisted" (ESV), "corrupt" (NLY), and "rebellious" (HCSB). Tyndale chose the word "crooked" (croked). "Perverse" is consistent with the Latin version of the text, which uses the word perversa here.


It is relevant here that Jesus is actually upbraiding the father, not the disciples or the crowd. The father is essentially committing blasphemy, finding fault with the grace by which Christ imparted power to the disciples to cast out demons (Matthew 10:8, Mark 3:15, Luke 10:19). This can also be seen in the rude and discourteous way that he approached Jesus, immediately blaming the disciples. Theophylact (1055-1107) noted that he even seems to blame nature (the moon) for his son's malady1: the Greek text of Matthew literally reads He is lunatic (σεληνιάζομαι - "moonstruck"). Commenting on the father, Cyril of Alexandria (378-444), wrote:

He did not simply ask the healing of the child, and in so doing crown the healer with praises, but, on the contrary, spake contemptuously of the disciples, and found fault with the grace given them. For I brought him, he says, to Thy disciples, and they could not cast it out. And yet it was owing to thy own want of faith that the grace availed not. Dost thou not perceive that thou wast thyself the cause that the child was not delivered from his severe illness?2

It was the father and not the disciples who lacked faith. We might recall here:

Matthew 21:22 (KJV)

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing [πιστεύοντες; also lit. having faith], ye shall receive.

(See also Mark 11:24)


Cyril also commented extensively on the nature of the man's "perversion":

It was the duty therefore of the father of the lad rather to lay the blame upon his own unbelief, than upon the holy apostles. For this reason Christ justly called out, O faithless and perverse generation: how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? He justly therefore calls both the man himself, and those like him in mind a faithless generation. For it is a wretched malady, and whosoever is seized by it is, as He shews, perverse, and utterly without knowledge to walk uprightly. And therefore the sacred Scriptures say of such persons, that their ways are crooked, and their paths perverse.3 From this malady the divine David fled: and in order that he may also benefit us, he reveals the set purpose of his mind thereupon, saying, A crooked heart hath not cleaved unto me:4 that is, one that cannot walk in an upright course. To such the blessed Baptist, as the forerunner of the Saviour, cried, saying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.5

The man therefore was thoroughly an unbeliever, and perverse, refusing the straight paths, straying from the mark, and wandering from the right ways. And Christ deigns not to be with such as are thus minded, and have fallen into this wickedness: and if one may speak in the manner of men, He is tired and weary of them. And this He teaches us saying, How long shall I be with you, and suffer you? For he who says, that those were powerless for the expulsion of evil spirits, who by Christ's will had received power to cast them out, finds fault with the grace itself, rather than with the receivers of it. it was wicked blasphemy therefore: for if grace be powerless, the fault and blame is not theirs who have received it, but rather belongs to the grace itself. For any who will may see that the grace which wrought in them was Christ's. For, for instance, the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple was made whole; but Peter ascribed the miracle to Christ, saying to the Jews, For Him Whom ye crucified, even by Him this man stands before you whole: and the grace which He bestows hath given him this soundness.6 Elsewhere the same blessed Peter proclaimed to one of those who were healed by Him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ healeth thee.7 It is plain therefore in every way that the man wickedly found fault with Christ's power in saying of the holy apostles, they could not cast it out.8


A similar interpretation of the parallel passage in Matthew can be found in John Chrysostom's (c 349-407) commentary.


The above explanation may seem inconsistent with what Matthew recounts occurring shortly afterward:

Matthew 17:19-21 (RSV)

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

If anything, however, this actually reinforces the claim that Jesus had not speaking to the Apostles. If he had been, it would have been clear to them that they were the ones at fault for being faithless and perverse, and they would have had no need of asking further. Knowing, however, that they had been given power to cast out demons previously (Matthew 10:8), they remained perplexed. Theophylact's commentary explains here:

The apostles were afraid that they had lost the grace against demons that had been given them; this is why they asked Jesus in private and with great anxiety. But the Lord reproves them for being imperfect in faith, saying, "Because of your unbelief." For if you had fervent, ardent faith, you would accomplish great things even though they appeared to be small.9

Thus, the Apostles may not completely blameless with regard to faith in this episode, but they are not the ones whom Jesus is calling out above as "faithless and perverse."


1. Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew (tr. from Greek; Chrysostom Press, 1992), p.149
2. Sermon LII on Luke (tr. from the Syriac)
3. Proverbs 2:15
4. Psalm 100:4 LXX
5. Matthew 3:3; also Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23
6. Acts 4:10
7. Acts 9:34
8. Op. cit.
9. Op. cit., p.150

  • The answer is not consistent with the same account in Matt. 17:14-21, where vs. 20 speaks of the little faith or lack of faith of the disciples. The disciples were certainly included in those who lacked faith. Moreover the power of Christ to heal the child did not depend upon the child's father's lack of faith. – Gina Jan 26 '18 at 2:52
  • @Gina, that's a really good point. I edited and amended my answer. – user33515 Jan 26 '18 at 12:58
  • Can you please cite (cut and paste) a lexicon to support your definition of στρεφω? Thanks. – Ruminator Sep 21 '18 at 16:23
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Reference to the final song of Moses

And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. (Deuteronomy 32:20)

This is part of the song sung by Moses just before he died - a last ditch effort to communicate to Israel their relationship with God as he understood it.

Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?" (Luke 9:41)

Jesus draws a parallel between the disciples and the Hebrew people of Moses' generation, as a man begs him to heal his son - his disciples had tried and failed when Jesus had sent them out earlier in the chapter. The story sits amid other stories that show how far even 'the twelve', the chosen, still have to go - not just in their faith, but in following the path of Jesus.

The word διεστραμμένη (diestrammene), translated as 'perverse', comes from διά (diá, meaning across, to the other side) and στρέφω (strephó, meaning to turn or change direction). Together it describes a turning or twisting aside - a straying or turning from the path.

Like in Moses' song, there is a sense of frustration here; an awareness of the limited time he has left among them, of their continued lack of faith and tendency to stray from the path he has set for them - just as the Hebrew people continually strayed from the law, because they didn't understand, and therefore had no faith in, the relationship with God behind the law.

The chapter begins with Jesus sending the twelve out 'to preach the kingdom of God and to heal':

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9: 1-6)

Their failure to understand the relationship with God behind the instructions given to them, and their inability to trust in the truth behind what they are shown, is then laid out in the rest of the chapter.

After the disciples return, Jesus feeds the five thousand, demonstrating his instruction to take nothing for their journey - no bread, nor money. But clearly they haven't followed this instruction, and don't understand the relationship with God behind it:

Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” (Luke 9: 12-13)

The disciples later argue amongst themselves over who is the greatest, failing to recognise that they should not be striving for greatness or popularity, but for humility. This lesson links to Jesus' instruction to stay in the one house, rather than seek to be hosted all over town.

"Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (Luke 9:48)

And when a Samaritan town turns Jesus away, the disciples want to do more than 'shake off the dust' from their feet as he instructed:

And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. (Luke 9: 54-56)

In Luke 10, when Jesus sends out a further seventy with the same instructions and they return amazed at their success, he gives thanks for this lesson in humility:

I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. (Luke 10:21)

These twelve have been chosen by Jesus, just as the twelves tribes of Israel were chosen by God. So much has been revealed to them, and still they cannot trust in their relationship with God over what they think they know about how the world works for them - such as their access to food or their ability to heal.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17: 19-20)

Conclusion

The word 'perverse' refers to the disciples' straying from the instructions given to them, on account of their lack of understanding or trust (faith) in the truth behind those instructions. Luke's account of these events draws strong parallels with Moses' use of these same terms to describe God's chosen, and contrasts the lack of faith of the 'twelve' with the faith and success of those not specifically chosen.

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At the risk of a downvote I’ll take a different route, previous answers have already done a good job translating generation and perverse, no need to split hairs further.

Perverse is referring to the father of the child and generation also includes the father because he is part of that generation.

What Jesus is accusing the father is that he did something to open up the child to this demon. And Jesus was frustrated with the father because from a practical stand point the father a) opened the door (to the demon) and b) kept it open and possibly was still engaging in it. But Jesus was actually quoting Scripture.

“They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

This is the Scripture that in context, speaks how the nations rejected G-d by uniting against G-d and building a ziggurat at Babel tried to make a name for themselves and summon G-d to be under their control. in v8 G-d hands over the leadership to his sons the elohim who each take control of a jurisdiction or a people group, with a new language.

“When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam(mankind), he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of G-d(LXX and DDS).” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭

However Deuteronomy is speaking to Israel and G-d is saying, you belong to Me, I chose you where as all the other nations I divided among the elohim. You have direct access to Me, the nations have intermediaries the elohim.

And Jesus is frustrated because this father had opened himself up to another elohim or god or in Greek Daimonion (and under daimonions there are daimons, which we know as demons). What He is saying is, if you would not have perverted yourself by entering spiritual contracts with demonic entities by worshipping other gods this would not have happened to your son. Why would you go to an intermediary when you had direct access to G-d?

Notice the father puts into questions “if you can”, but of course He can and not only can He but He has authority and power over the other gods or elohim or daimonions ans their daimons.

And He follows up with how long will I be with you, so as to say that they are at an advantage that He is present in the flesh and obviously He has authority over these demon/s.

Perverse is referencing the fact that these people including the father for whatever reason (maybe things got tough and he went to a sorcerer or enchanter or witch or he sacrificed to another god because he was feeling desperate and didn’t deal with his sin by seeking G-d instead thought he could take the easy way out) opened himself to the demonic and brought this upon his own son. The father is accused of not having faith because the very reason he opened himself up to the demon was because he didn’t believe G-d would take care of his problem in the first place. Possibly because he felt unworthy or because he didn’t see G-d work fast enough and so he put his faith(trust) in another source.

Jesus was indignant for certain.

Feel free to ask for clarifications this is a very short hand version. I hope it makes sufficient sense.

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