The name applied to the inhabitants of an area where Christ Jesus expelled demons from two men. According to what is considered to be the best available manuscript evidence, Matthew originally used “country of the Gadarenes,” whereas Mark and Luke, in relating this event, employed “country of the Gerasenes.”—Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26.
Both countries are shown to lie on “the other side,” that is, the E side, of the Sea of Galilee. The designation “country of the Gadarenes” possibly applied to the district radiating from the city of Gadara (modern Um Qeis), situated about five miles (8 kilometers) SE of the Sea of Galilee. Coins of Gadara often depict a ship, suggesting that its territory may have extended as far as the Sea of Galilee and therefore could have included at least a part of the “country of the Gerasenes,” to the E of that body of water. Scholars favoring this view link the “country of the Gerasenes” with the region around Khersa, a town about twelve miles (19 kilometers) N of Gadara. However, others believe that “the country of the Gerasenes” may denote the large district centered at the city of Gerasa (Jerash) about thirty-four miles (55 kilometers) SE of the Sea of Galilee and suggest that it extended to the E of that lake and embraced the “country of the Gadarenes.” In either case, Matthew’s account would in no way conflict with that of Mark and Luke.
Near an unnamed city in the country of the Gadarenes Jesus Christ met two unusually fierce demon-possessed men. These had their dwelling among the tombs, that is, natural caves used as such and/or rock-cut tombs. Jesus, in expelling the demons, permitted them to take possession of a large herd of swine that subsequently rushed over a precipice and drowned in the Sea of Galilee. This so disturbed the local inhabitants that they entreated Jesus to depart from the area.—Matt. 8:28-34.
While Matthew mentions two men, Mark and Luke center attention on only one, doubtless because his case was more outstanding. Possibly he was more violent and had suffered much longer under demon control than the other man; yet afterward perhaps he alone wanted to accompany the Son of God. Jesus did not allow him to do so, directing him instead to make known what God had done in his behalf.
This differed from Jesus’ usual instructions not to have his miracles advertised. Rather than seeking showy publicity and having people reach conclusions on the basis of sensational reports, Jesus apparently wanted others to decide on solid evidence that he was indeed the Christ. This also fulfilled the prophetic words spoken through Isaiah: “He will not wrangle, nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the broad ways.” (Matt. 12:15-21; Isa. 42:1-4) However, the exception in the case of the former demoniac was appropriate. He could bear witness among people with whom the Son of God would have only limited contact, particularly in view of Jesus’ being requested to leave. The man’s presence would provide testimony about Jesus’ power to work good, counteracting any unfavorable report that might be circulated over the loss of the herd of swine.—Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39; see SWINE.