Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes? (Mark 5)

Three of the four Gospels record the miracle of the healing of the demoniac (and, as a conequence, of the pigs rushing into the sea), but a vexing issue remains: Did this take place in the region of the Gerasenes, the Gadarenes or the Gergesenes? All three can be found among the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels. On textual evidence alone, manuscripts of Matthew 8:28 probably favour “Gadarenes”, but those of Mark 5:1 and Luke 8:26 both suggest “Gerasenes”.

Gadara, modern Umm Qeis, was about 8 km from the Sea of Galilee and thus cannot have been the place where the miracle took place. Gesara (Jerash) contains magnificent Roman ruins and a number of pagan temples, but it is 60 km southeast of Galilee and thereby also out of the question as the site of the miracle.

Gergesa, modern Kursi, is situated on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is also the only spot on this shore with a steep bank overlooking the sea (Mark 5:13). The church historian Eusebius identifies this as the site of the miracle. The remains of a Byzantine monastery, built in the sixth century to commedate this healing, have been found here. Based upon this evidence, it would appear that the earliest texts rendered the site “Gergensenes” but that, because the name was unfamiliar to many scribes and because of the similarity in pronunciation and spelling, it was erroneously copied as both “Gerasenses” and “Gadarenes”.

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