Questions on Jesus’ exorcism at/in Gadarenes


As I have converted to Christianity very recently, and just started reading the Bible, I apologize for any seemingly obvious questions I don’t know the answer to; but in my readings this story really jumped out at me. First, the most obvious problem I see is that Mathew and Mark differ. Mark goes into more detail, but Mathew claims that there were two possessed men while Mark only claims there was one. Doesn’t it discredit the Bible if our own scripture can’t agree on what happened?

Secondly, the demons beg Jesus to let them go into the herd of pigs, and he allows them to. Why? I would’ve assumed that Jesus would destroy them, or at least command them to leave as they seem to be forced to obey God, but instead he lets them go into a herd of pigs. Maybe this is some reference to a psalm? Or some sort of weird parallel between the “unclean spirits” and pigs being “unclean animals”

Finally, what significance does it have that the herd of pigs all suicidally stampede away and drown? Is this God’s will? Or is it the Demons’? Is this meant to simply be a kick-in-the-pants to the gentiles for herding swine as livestock? From what I see here, the demons are either in control of the pigs and they simply run away and die for no real reason; or Jesus forced them to do so, which would really seem to (put very bluntly) a jerk thing to do.

Thanks, Kaden


On the contrary, the fact that the two stories are not the same to every detail supports that the event actually occurred. Two witnesses who lie would agree on the exact same story.

Demons cannot be annihilated, they are spirits.

Yes, like the Pharaoh and his troops in the OT drown at sea, Jesus here shows that his enemies are also defeated in the same way.


This is an interesting question.
Once in awhile a question comes into my mind about Catholicism or the Bible that I can’t answer, that presses on me at the time, and then I set it aside. Then years later I see the answer.
If you don’t find a satisfactory solution, I suggest you put the question aside for now. This question hardly is enough to doubt the Bible or the Catholic faith, which perhaps you realize.


Why Matthew mentions two demoniacs and Mark and Luke only one, Haydock commentary on Matthew 8:28 says, in part, speculating:

Ver. 28. Two that were possessed with devils. St. Mark (chap. v.) and St. Luke (chap. viii.), in the same passage, mentions but one man, who is also said to be possessed with a legion of devils. Those evangelists seem to make mention only of one of them, because he might be much more fierce and famous than the other. (Witham)


Haydock Commentary on Matthew 8:32

Ver. 32. Many reasons might be brought why our Saviour suffered the devils to enter into the swine:
1. To shew that the devils had no power even over swine without his permission.
2. That such as were freed from their power, might acknowledge the greatness of the favour done them, by seeing from how great a multitude they were liberated.
3. To punish those Jewish citizens, who fed upon swine’s flesh contrary to their law. And,
4. To shew how willingly the devils dwell in the hearts of those who are addicted to the voluptuous and carnal life, aptly designated by the swine. M. [Menochius]
— Saint Chrysostom says that our Saviour permitted the devils to enter the swine, not for their own sakes, but for our instruction.
1. That we might know how very desirous the enemy of our salvation is to bring upon us the greatest evils.
2. That the devil has not any power, even over swine, without the permission of God. And,
3. That these cruel fiends would, if the Almighty allowed them, inflict still more grievous torments on their unhappy slaves.
Hom. xxix. Jesus Christ here confutes the Sadducean doctrine, which denies the existence of spirits, good or bad. A. [Additional Note: Haydock]


One reason for the discrepancy could be that here were two separate exorcism events. Jesus didn’t destroy the demons because as spiritual beings they have eternal life just as we do. This is purely speculation but it has been said that when the demons roam the earth they receive a certain alleviation from what they suffer in Hell and because they can do nothing without the explicit permission of God, their request to enter the herd of swine was a request to delay their ultimate entry into Hell. The fact that the herd of swine runs straight to their destruction is an illustration of what a relationship with Satan is all about, death and destruction.


I’m embarrassed to say that however many times I read that passage it never occurred to me to ask who was eating the swine’s flesh.


Gadara is located in what is now the Kingdom of Jordan, and was then in the Decapolis, a predominantly Greek territory. The pig farmer would have been a Gentile, and there is no suggeston he was selling pork to Jews.


Letting the unclean spirits enter the unclean animals is of no concern to Jesus. This passage demonstrates the Lord’s main concern was cleansing the man of evil spirits. This man would later become His witness to the gentiles. Mk 5:20. This means that salvation is also extended to the Gentiles. The drowning incident was a manifestation of possession – the herd of swine going wild similar to the demoniac who was always bruising himself with stones. V.5


Of course ifthe stories aligned in every detail you would use this as evidence the event actually occurred. This is classic confirmation bias. Both detail agreement or detail divergence are used as evidence for your conclusion. You can’t lose!


The different authors had different messages to convey. Whenever there seems to be a contradiction in Scripture, you need to consider if it’s really as it appears. One author only mentioning one exorcism doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t an additional exorcism, only that he only chose to record one of them to aid in his theme.


As is the case for most biblical narratives, in order to get a better understanding of one narrative it helps to read the surrounding narratives, and understand some history of the time and place. All three accounts of this story are preceded by the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples when a “storm” erupts during the night.

Jesus then shows his mastery over the sea by calming it so that he can carry on his mission the following day, and to show his disciples the folly of pagan sacrifices to the sea. There is an important Greek parallel to this story. Remember that he is going into a Hellenized (Greek influences) territory, and his Jewish disciples aren’t really excited about it, in fact they are probably a little scared, just as they were when they were crossing the sea in a “storm”. The parallel is in the Greek’s sacrificing to pagan gods, like Poseidon and Zeus, before a war, such as when Mithridates VI of Pontus sacrificed “to Poseidon by plunging a chariot with white horses into the sea” before the third war against Rome around 75 BC. But Jesus shows he needs no sacrifice to placate the sea because he is master of it.

The Decopolis cities would have been sacrificing pigs to pagan gods. Since these cities were Hellenistic, they may have sacrificed pigs to Greek gods such as Poseidon. Some sources suggest that these sacrifices were taken advantage of by demons, so that in fact, the sacrifices to pagan gods were, in reality, sacrifices to demons.

With that in mind, there then is the request from the demons that Jesus not send them into the Abyss. Interestingly, the abyss also means the “watery depths” which would have included the depths of the Sea of Galilee which was subdued by Jesus the previous night. But Jesus never tells the demons he isn’t going to send them to the abyss. The demons instead ask to be first sent into the swine before their trip to the abyss. Why would they ask that? And why would Jesus grant it?

IMO, they probably ask so they can fulfill the ultimate purpose of many of the swine, which is that of being a sacrifice to them, the demons. And, of course, to cause as much death and destruction as they can while manifesting their power as they plunge the herd into the sea.

IMO, Jesus allows this because he knows it will backfire on the demons and ultimately serve God’s purpose. Indeed it does, the mock sacrifice of the swine to the ‘Greek gods’ is completely lost on the Greeks and overshadowed by Jesus’ merciful act towards the possessed man. Of course, the demons didn’t see that coming, (Satan also didn’t see the sacrifice on the cross coming, Satan thought he had gotten the better of Jesus when he entered Judas) they have no eye for mercy. The saved man spreads the news of Jesus all throughout the Decopolis, with the help of the sensational, impressionable swine story. As a result, when Jesus returns some time later, there are thousands waiting to greet him.


There’s not a single definitive interpretation for certain passages, but the swine could signify people that allow demons/sin to control their life.

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