Gadara PDF Print E-mail
Written by Micah Key and Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Water from afar
"Athens of the East"
Demons into Swine

Demons into Swine

When he came to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes [but the oldest versions of Matthew have "Gadarenes"-SL], two people possessed by demons met him there, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that nobody could pass that way.  Behold, they cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with you, Jesus, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”  Now there was a herd of many pigs feeding far away from them.  The demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!”

They came out, and went into the herd of pigs: and behold, the whole herd of pigs rushed down the cliff into the sea, and died in the water.  (Matthew 8:28-32.)

Area of Gadara harbor on Lake of Galilee There is scholarly debate over the location of this miracle. It should definitely be placed on the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee, where Gentiles predominated (as evidenced by the herd of pigs). The most ancient texts of Matthew have it in the region of Gadara , while Mark and Luke name that of Gerasa.  But the miracle is preceded by a boat ride from Capernaum, marked by a storm on the lake, and the destination is the "other side" (Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1). Gerasa, 33 miles southeast of the lake, can hardly count as the "other side." As for Gadara, the city itself was 6 miles to the southeast, and high up, but it did have a harbor on the lake's southern edge (Tell Samra, by Ha'on of today). What's more, Matthew does not say "the city," rather "the country of the Gadarenes." The area beside this harbor had no "cliff," however, down which a herd could rush. If the place was indeed the region of the Gadarenes, the swine must have rushed from the plateau on which the city sits, 1800 feet above the lake.

View from the cliff to Kursi (Gergesa) Another possible site is the ancient village of Gergesa, known today as Kursi. The name Gergesa is attested in various ancient sources, designating a village on the lake's eastern shore. The third-century church father Origen, after noting the problems with Gadara and Gerasa,  suggested Gergesa, "an ancient which is a cliff overhanging the lake, from which they [the local inhabitants - SL] show that the swine were cast down by the devils" (Commentary on John 6:41).

Notley, to whom we are indebted for this section, suggests that at a very early stage in the development of the Gospel texts, "the name of the lesser-known village of Gergesa was exchanged for one of the two renowned cities of the Decapolis," Gadara or Gerasa. Under Origen's influence, later versions of Matthew made the correction back to Gergesa. For further discussion, see Nun, p. 14.

Here is another view of the slope with the cliff-like projection (above the trees), this time from the North:

Kursi slope from noth