Problem: Jesus healed one or two demoniacs
Verses: Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1-2, Luke 8:26-27; Status: Minor

Mark tells us that Jesus performed an exorcism on a man at Gerasenes. This is Mark 5:1-2:

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. (ESV)

Luke 8:26-27 agrees with Mark that there was only one demoniac:

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. (ESV)

Matthew goes his own way and makes it two demoniacs. This is Matthew 8:28:

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. (ESV)

It's open to you to say that Mark and Luke do not explicitly rule out the presence of the second one that Matthew mentioned. Still, the natural reading of Mark and Luke is that there is just one man.

Looking Unto Jesus claims that Matthew's gospel is more accurate, since Matthew was an apostle of Jesus and was actually present at the incident; however the mainstream view of academic Biblical scholarship is that the gospel of Matthew was not written by the apostle Matthew. Indeed, it's very well established that the author of Matthew used Mark as a source, which he wouldn't have had to do if he had actually been an eye-witness to the life of Jesus. If you want a convincing argument for the primacy of Mark, see Fatigue in the Synoptics, a serious work that far surpasses us amateurs.

By the way, you may have noticed that Matthew places the incident in Gadarenes. There is in fact a considerable amount of variation in the ancient manuscripts for all three gospels as to whether this took place in Gadarenes, Gerasenes, or Gergesenes. The ESV's notes reflect this (see links above). However, the context makes it clear that this is the same incident: in all three gospels, it is immediately after Jesus calmed a storm on the lake.

Updated: Summer 2008

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