Scriptural variations

Can anyone please explain the variation in the Bible of Mathew 8:28 and Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26-27 with regard to miracle took place about the drowning of the swine after casting out demons from a man by Jesus.

Mathew places the event in Gadara and Mark and Luke in Gerasa. They are two separated places. More so, it is not possible in both cases (places) for the swine (pigs) to get drowned in the sea, because even Gadara,nearest to the sea is 7 miles far away from the sea of Galilee.

Instead the most probable place would Kursi, which the gospel writers never mentioned.

I’m just curious If the Bible writers like (Mathew, Mark…) were really led by the Spirit, why such errors. (Forgive me for saying this… )

Can you please help me?

Thank you
Dan Kamei


Thanks for this question, @Kamei_Dan! I’m interested to hear what @RoySujanto and the Bible Question community think. :slight_smile:

Hi @Kamei_Dan,

Sorry been a bit hectic, being active on and off and missed this wonderful question in the process.

Thanks also @KMac for bringing this into my attention.

I’ll be honest I heard abt contradictions on these minor details, this is one that I skimmed past before, but I remembered about it actually talking about a general region in the original language. It cannot be read literally as some translation did, as if it is homing in on a specific city.

The Verses in Question:
Luke 8:26
chōran tōn Gerasēnōn (region of Gerasenes)

Mark 5:1
chōran tōn Gerasēnōn (region of Gerasenes)

Matthew 8:28
chōran tōn Gadarēnōn (region of Gadarenes)

Region of Gadara and Gerasa
And Gadara and Gerasa are names of specific cities like you mention, but they both fall in the same province/regent/state-equivalent, called Decapolis. So does the Sea of Galilee. Meaning, to say Jesus go to either the REGION of Gadarenes or Gerasenes is actually geographically not inaccurate, and acceptable during those times as a literary style.

Different Set of Audience
The reason for their not being specific city-wise is because they have a different set of audience. Mark and Luke are generally known to be writing to a more Gentile audience, which are more familiar with Gerasenes. It is supposed to be a more well-known city to non-locals.

Matthew’s audience however is geared towards the Jews, who are more familiar with the capital city of Decapolis province, which is Gadarenes.

Example: Where I Am From
It will be like if I were to explain to you where I am from. Just to let you know upfront, the country is Indonesia, the island is Java island, the province DKI Jakarta, and the city is North Jakarta, and my town is Tanjung Priok, my area is Sunter.

To a foreigner, I would say I’m from the country of Bali. (Because people might not know Indonesia, but everyone knows Bali LOL)
To a fellow Indonesian, I would say Jakarta.
To a Jakartan, I would tell them North Jakarta.
To a North Jakartan, I would say Sunter. Super specific, because they would understand. I hope that makes sense.

Understanding Literary Style
In this age, we are into specifics. Back then the writing style was quite different, they try to relate to their audience with a more familiar area to identify with, usually from a wider scope of region. So it was not wrong, but it was not specifically precise, because they were not trying to. People in those times would know, just like you would know I’m not from Bali of Indonesia, but I’m from Indonesia where Bali is. If it was an error, they would be easily refuted by the people during those days when they circulate these synoptic gospel documents. But the critics didn’t start until recently during our time, but the people back then had no problem understanding Mark, Luke and Matthew.

Where Was Jesus Then?
Just to be sure where Jesus was specifically, you are probably right, He was probably in the town of Gergesa, otherwise known as Kursi, which is situated on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, and still within the province of Decapolis, where Gadara and Gerasa belonged also.

Spelling Variants
So some scholars did debate that those cities could be just spelling variants of Gergesa, which is not uncommon to ancient manuscripts. It is more like the way we spell the country Brazil which is the english spelling, the locals and Spanish known it as Brasil, Brasilien in German, Brasile in Italian, Brésil in French.

Imagine during those days, you have so many cross settlers, foreign people from all around the world, as it was one of the major hub in the ancient eastern world. The city namings were not as technically unified and decided like today. I’m not saying there wasn’t at all. But there were lot of variants known to different people.

Remember, even if it is not due to spelling variant, it is still not inaccurate and shouldn’t be considered a geographical error.

Sorry, I kept rambling. It is 11:40pm now writing this in the dark, on mobile with my wife asleep beside me, was just back at 10:30pm after a very eventful day. Forgive me if in case I’m not being too coherent with laying out my points. Feel free for the more knowledgable to correct any mistakes, add anything I might have missed or revise certain points.

Hope it helps though, I learnt as much as you did refreshing this topic for myself.

Blessings in Christ,


Finding a satisifying answer to Kamei_Dan’s question may never happen! I have read commentators that thoroughly excoriate the author of Mark for not knowing geography. Actually, there are 3 different approaches to solving the problem in these passages… The first occurs when modern people consult modern maps of the ancient world. These maps were developed by, presumably, the best scholarship available. But we must understand that without even one person surviving from the Palestine of 2000 years ago, modern scholarship must depend on written materials from the ancient period. So who in the ancient world discussed the geography of the eastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee? Who even cared about this sparsely populated area? You can see that modern maps help stir up an issue that is nearly impossible to resolve… A second approach to answering this problem is to look into the manuscript evidence. In this case, tracing the manuscript evidence is like catching a herd of cats. Textual scholars have rated the reliability of this textual issue as a “C,” which shows their lack of confidence in resolving the geographical issue from manuscript evidence. The manuscript evidence for “Gerasenes” in Luke 8:26 barely is preferable over the evidence for “Gergasenes,” and “Gadarenes” which nearly have the same strength of attestation. One can also make the argument that the readings of Mark or Matthew influenced the copyists of Luke. The readings “Gerasenes” in Mark and “Gadarenes” in Matthew are slightly better attested, respectively. But none of the manuscript evidence satisfies because we cannot be certain that the copyists were not influenced by the readings of one of the other Gospels in whatever source manuscripts they possessed. How could those copyists correct geographical errors? Did they know how first century Palestinians referred to the region in question? Had they ever been to Palestine? So the issue cannot be resolved by manuscript evidence… Third, the real point at the core of this issue is what first century Palestinians called the region to which Jesus traveled. Please carefully note that the point is not about the name of the city at all, but the name of the region! Often nameless regions were referred to by a prominent city nearby. (for example, the region of Tyre in Mark 7:24). But here was a case of a region with a sparse population and no prominent cities. Few people knew the towns of the area. Mark was a native of Jerusalem, so what did people in Jerusalem call that region? What did Matthew, a native of Capernaum, call that region? RoySujanto, above, has done a good job with his answer. His answer falls in this third approach… So the problem for the ancient Gospel writers was which obscure town to name as the anchor of the region. The city is irrelevant to the story, because Jesus’ miracle is on a cliff overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The problem is how to identify the spot where Jesus did the miracle. There was no town there. The region had no name. The nearest town was far away. So what do you do? My opinion is that Mark and Matthew used the terms they knew. They understood first century Palestinian references to the region in question better than we do 2000 years removed. And Luke? It appears that the copyists were trying to correct his text and could not come to consensus whether to follow Mark or Matthew… After all this flurry of conversation, what truly matters? The name of the town: not at all. The name of the region: not much. Discrepancies in the manuscripts: not so much, because the rest of the passage is well-preserved. The miracle story of Jesus: absolutely.


Wow @MarkThunder. Kudos to you.

Understanding the first two approach is so key to knowing the difficult task we have today on putting our finger on the ancient near-eastern geolocation. Thank you I never knew that. And for that the 3rd approach, yeah that’s what I meant, I thought you actually did a good job to explain it in a much more concise manner than I did. So much simpler to understand.

And thanks for pointing out that at the end, the real history is about Jesus’ miracle story, not the name of the location. If it was that wrong, the local church in those days would have a bigger bone to pick than we do in our times, but they have no problem accepting and circulating the gospel texts.

Thanks once again Mark for enriching us.


Thank you so much Mark for your input and more insight.