Scratchpad: Synoptic Comparisons – Mark 5.1-20

I am working, while I am in Louisiana, on my 15 page exegesis paper for my NT class.  I am using my blog as my scratchpad. Suggestions are always welcomed. Well, helpful suggestions…

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;

7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.

12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”

13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.

19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them.

31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”

32 And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.

33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs.

34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.”

29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.

30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.

31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.

33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.

35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.

36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well.

37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned.

38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,

39 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

40 And as Jesus returned, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him.


The story of Jesus casting out the demoniac is found in all three of the synoptics, although with some notable differences. What is first noticeable is that each of the Evangelists connects the story to the calming of the sea by Jesus, while Mark and Luke follow the story with the raising of Jairus’ daughter. In the critical manuscripts, Mark’s story takes place in Gerasa while Matthew noting the very odd geography of Mark may have corrected the story to point to Gadara, which still later scribes wrote back into Mark. Luke follows Mark’s geography but allows for the distance with his note of ‘And when He came out onto the land’. Matthew, unlike Mark or Luke, has two demoniacs. Luke, unlike Matthew, also follows Mark’s reciting of the story by including the scene with the healed young man. Matthew, writing after Mark, wasn’t interested in the telling of the story which had to not only include the young man restored to sanity who turned into a disciple and the pleading of town but as well the interaction between Jesus and the Legion. Mathew also falls to note the description of the young man which is vital, as we shall see, to the historicity of the story and after the exorcism, fails to note the existence of the young man.

The meeting of the young man and Jesus is equally different among the three synoptics. Matthew has in mind the constant forward movement to the Cross and it shows with the Legion asking Christ, essentially, if the time had come for the torment (Matthew 8.29). Luke is in agreement with Mark in having the demons simply beg Christ to not torment them.  The description of young man is also varied among the Evangelists. As will see, Mark’s description is important to the story, and in failing to describe the man, both Matthew and Luke miss another detail which dismisses Mark’s historical account and instead turns it into another miracle story. Matthew notes the men are demon-possessed and violent to others. Luke merely notes that the man is, as Matthew did, demon-possessed, naked, and living among the tombs. Mark’s description, unlike Matthew’s, is that he was violent, but only to himself. Mark’s depiction is almost that of a remorseful spirit, trapped on earth due to an angry death. Both Mark and Luke complete the story with the follow up events of the town sending an embassy to Christ asking him to leave to preserve the peace while the healed man became a disciple of Christ and was sent off to tell others about what this Jesus had done.

While Mark’s Gospel focused on the minute details, such as the specific depiction of the demoniac, and even the number of swine, the other two Evangelists vary on their reporting of the story. No doubt, Mark’s account here was already in the Christian tradition, or was at least ingrained as Matthew wrote and Luke followed, although, as I will show, without Mark’s details, the story simply becomes one of a miracle and discipleship.

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3 Replies to “Scratchpad: Synoptic Comparisons – Mark 5.1-20”

  1. Matthew shortens a lot of Mark’s stories if one accepts Markan priority–which a majority do. Of course Matthew also adds all that Q material and specifically Matthean material as well, making his Gospel longer than Mark.

    If you ONLY had those three versions of that story to study, instead of having whole Gospels to study, which synoptic hypothesis do you think would make the most sense, the Griesbach hypothesis or some version of Markan priority?

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