Gergesa, Gerasa, or Gadara? Where Did Jesus’ Miracle Occur?


Christian tradition, at least since the fourth century, has identified Kursi-Gergesa with the miracle of the swine. But can this tradition be trusted? An Israeli geographer-historian gives us his answer.

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.[1] 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.

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Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee viewed from Caphernaum. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton)

  • [1] 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.
  • Zeev Safrai

    Zeev Safrai

    Ze'ev Safrai is Professor in the Martin Susz Department of Land of Israel Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel. Safrai has written and edited ten books, among them Haggadah of the Sages (English ed.; Jerusalem: Carta, 2009), co-authored with his father, Professor Shmuel Safrai,…
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