WAIT A SEC! YOU’RE DODGING THE TOUGHEST ONE!
Someone might say, “You’re avoiding the toughest problem! What about the Mad Man of ‘Gadara’?”
The synoptic writers report that Jesus cast out a multitude of demons and into a herd of pigs, who ran into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. This story is in Matt. 8:28–34, Mark 5:1–20 and Luke 8:26–29.
Mark and Luke say this strange event unfolded in the country of Gerasenes. Matthew says it was in the land of the Gadarenes. Right off the bat, there’s a contradiction. But it gets worse.
Gadara is 5 miles away from the Sea of Galilee. The city of Gerasa is 30 miles away from the coast. Critics have concluded that Mark was ignorant, and Matthew tried to fix it but still bungled things.
But there are diverse, meaningful textual variants in the Greek text of Mark 5:1 and the parallel passages of Matthew 8:28 and Luke 8:26‐27. In Mark and Luke, the best‐attested reading is Gerasenes, an attempt to represent the adjective corresponding to the place name. Without vowels: Gerasa = GRS or KRS is how the place name would be written in Aramaic.
Mark D. Roberts points out in his book “Can We Trust the Gospels?” that these variants tell us that perhaps we should call the demoniac the ‘Mad Man of Khersa’ instead. Khersa — or modern-day El Kursi — is on the east side of the sea. And there happens to be a steep slope that ends less than 50 yards from the Sea of Galilee.
Take a look:
Paul Rhodes Eddy and Greg Boyd point out in their book “The Jesus Legend” that archaeologists have located cave tombs within 2 miles of the site. There’s also a 5th-century chapel there, suggesting the early church regarded it as spiritually significant.
But what about the phrase ‘Gadarenes’? It’s feasible that some early scribe of Matthew’s Gospel either misspelled the term ‘Gerasenes’ or mistook it for ‘Gadarenes,’ just like somebody might confuse or mistakenly correct ‘Bertram’ for ‘Bernard’. (Sorry for the small-town Iowa references, it’s where I live.)
Copyists of manuscripts are not immune to making spelling mistakes or to “correcting” what they are copying if they think it is a spelling error.