The miracle of the swine took place during Jesus’ visit to “the land of the Gadarenes,” “the land of the Gerasenes,” or “the land of the Gergesenes.” All three of these New Testament variants have solid textual support. On the basis of the textual evidence alone, we cannot determine which of these variants is the original in any of the three synoptic versions. Despite this frustrating textual problem, we can determine, on the basis of geographical considerations, the location of the miracle. We are confronted by two questions. First, where did the miracle happen, or, what site did believers connect with the miracle? Second, how reliable, in this instance, is Christian tradition? Did second- and third-century Christian communities have accurate traditions about the deeds of Jesus? Before we launch into a geographical discussion, we must survey what early Christian writers had to say about the miracle of the swine.
Origen, Eusebius and Saba
Origen (3rd century) identifies Gergesa, an “ancient city” in the vicinity of the “Sea of Tiberias,” as the site of the miracle of the swine. “Sea of Tiberias” is also the name used for the Sea of Galilee in second-century rabbinic literature; hence, Origen has preserved historically reliable details.
Eusebius (4th century) contradicts himself: in one place he identifies a village named Gergesa beside Lake Tiberias as the site of Jesus’ miracle, while immediately before he mentions Gadara, apparently commenting on one reading of Matthew 8:28 that has “Gadara.” In still another place, treating the name Girgashi (the land of the Girgashites) mentioned in Deuteronomy 7:1, Eusebius noted that “others say that it is Gadara.” Thus, it would seem that Eusebius identified Girgashi with Gadara. Eusebius, however, sometimes mentions towns and villages that existed in his day, because of some similarity to a biblical site, without equating the two places; therefore, Eusebius may not necessarily be equating Gadara with Girgashi.
-  Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26. For a discussion of the site, see C. Kopp, Die heiligen Staetten der Evangelien (Regensburg, 1959), 282-287. ↩
-  Origen to John 6:41, chpt. 24. ↩
-  Eusebius, Onomasticon 74.16. ↩
-  Eusebius’ wording and explanation are very similar to the words of Origen, suggesting interdependency. Both authors may have used the same lost geographical lexicon. ↩
-  Eusebius, Onomasticon 64.1. ↩