Q&A: Two Demon Possessed Men or One?

Two Demon Possessed Men or One?

Question

Did Jesus cast the demons from two men or one man into the swine? Is there a way to harmonize the three accounts?

Answer

Matthew 8:28-33; Mark 5:1-16 and Luke 8:26-39 all relate the story of Jesus casting out demons from a man or two men and sending them into a herd of swine which then drowns itself. Matthew claims that there were two men, and that the event took place in the country of the Gadarenes. Luke and Mark only mention one man, and locate the event in the country of the Gerasenes. It would be easiest to say these were two separate events in two different places, but the reality is that "the country of the Gerasenes" and "the country of the Gadarenes" are in all likelihood the same place.

The real solution is simply that the authors had different perspectives. Notice that Matthew ends his account with the herdsmen fleeing and with the country coming out to meet and speak with him. Matthew shows no interest in what happened to the demoniacs after the demons were exorcised. In contrast, Luke and Mark both show particular interest in the demoniac who wanted to follow Jesus. It is quite easy to reconstruct a historical situation to explain this: There were two demoniacs, but only one of them wanted to follow Jesus after the demons were exorcised. Matthew concentrates on the exorcism and Jesus' power over the demons. As a result, he mentions both demoniacs so as to emphasize Jesus' power. Luke and Mark, however, concentrate on the one demoniac that wanted to follow Jesus. They tell the story of this demoniac only, not of the other who did not respond so positively. Everyone should agree that all three accounts necessarily omit far more information than they include -- this is the nature of all reporting. Authors choose which facts to include in their stories based on which aspects of the story they want to emphasize. Luke and Mark are not less true simply because they only tell the story of one of the demoniacs, just as Matthew is no less true simply because he does not explain what happened to one of the demoniacs after the exorcism.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.