I’m trying to reconcile an apparent discrepancy/contradiction between
Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts of the Gerasene demoniac. Matthew says there
were two while Mark says there was just one. I’m conviced the Bible is
inspired, but it seems strange (to me at least). Wasn’t Matthew an
eye-witness? And isn’t Mark’s Gospel Peter’s (another eye-witness)
memoires? How can I resolve this?


This apparent “contradiction” is one of the ones brought up fairly often.
It therefore deserves a careful answer. To introduce my answer, I will
share a personal story. I was a juror on a trial a couple of years ago.
The crime was attempted murder. A young man had attacked his sister
brutally. A number of eye witnesses came in to give their account. Two
things really stuck out. First of all, each reported very different
details, some of which could almost be seen to contradict. Second, when
the jury got together, we all concluded that the sum of the eyewitness
accounts, although different, gave us a pretty full and accurate picture
of what happened. The witnesses did not lie, but their personal
perspective determined which details they noticed and remembered.

The evidence from the gospels is that they represent separate, independent
eye-witness accounts of what happened. This is the case, even with the
gospels of Luke and Mark, which are actually gathered second hand from
eye-witnesses to the events. The significant difference in details
between the parallel accounts of events in John, Luke, Matthew and Mark
show that the authors did not rely on one another, at least not
principally, as they wrote their accounts of what happened. Different
authors focus on different aspects of what happened. This is the case
with the demoniacs in the region of Gerasenes. If one wants a fuller
account of what happened, just as in my experience as a juror, one must
find a way to reconcile apparently contradictory accounts. When the
accounts are reconciled (assuming that all the witnesses are telling the
truth), the story is more fully understood. I assume that Matthew and
Mark chose to recall different aspects of what happened. They do not

Let me share how I personally reconcile the two versions of the story. I
assume that when Jesus arrived on the scene in the boat, he found two men
who were possessed by demons wandering in the tombs. I believe that one
of these men was extremely violent, that he was the one who broke his
chains, shouted out, and fell at Jesus? feet (Mark 5:1-8). Matthew?s
account (Matthew 8:28-34) includes the detail that there were actually two
demon-possessed men among the tombs. Most likely, one of these two was
much more violent and loud than the other, although both were possessed
and needed healing. Mark mentioned the one who got everyone?s attention,
while Matthew mentioned both men. Again, if the gospels were all based on
a single person?s recollection, then they would be less valuable. The
fact that the different accounts differ, yet all can be readily reconciled
gives evidence of separate, reliable eye-witness sources for the gospel

John Oakes

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