In Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8 we find the account of Jesus healing a demoniac (demon-possessed man). Was it one or two demoniacs? Matthew says two, but Mark and Luke say one.
This difference in the accounts is used by skeptics to say the Bible has contradictions and that the Bible is an unreliable source of historical events. But is this really a contradiction? The accounts clearly vary:
Mat 8:28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man [one] with an unclean spirit,
Luke 8:27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man [one], which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
Are These the Same Event?
Yes, these are the same event. We can verify that by looking at the timing and the things that took place in each of the synoptic Gospel accounts.
- The event took place after Jesus and His disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee and Jesus had calmed the storm (Matt 8:23-27, Mark 4:36-4 and Luke 8:22-25)
- The demoniacs had been living in the tombs and came out (Matt 8:28, Mark 5:2, Luke 8:27)
- The demons spoke to Jesus (Mat 8:29, Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28)
- Jesus drove the demons out of the men into a herd of pigs (Mat 8:32, Luke 8:32-33)
- The herd of pigs) ran into the sea (Mat 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33)
- The pig herders fled and went into the city and told of what had happened (Matt 8:33, Mark 5:14, Luke 8:34)
- Jesus returned by ship to the other side (Mat 9:1, Mark 5:21, Luke 8:40)
Is There A Contradiction?
No, Matthew does not contradict Mark and Luke. The variance in the number of demon-possed men can be explained by:
- Writing style: Mark and Luke are more detailed in their narratives. Matthew’s narrative records the highlights with less detail, but being a tax collector, Matthew gives an inclusive count of demon-possessed men.
- Writing focus: Mark and Luke are more narrowly focused (about only one of the two demon-possessed men). Matthew’s focus is broader.
- The Laws of Logic: For the statement from Matthew and the statements from Mark and Luke to be contradictory there would have to be no possible way to reconcile them. But there is.
Reconciling the Accounts
- According to Matthew, Jesus met two demon-possessed men. Therefore, it’s true to say that Jesus met one demon-possessed man, making Mark’s and Luke’s accounts true also.
- According to Mark and Luke, Jesus met one man, but that does not preclude the possibility of there being more than one man, making Matthew’s account true also.
Clearly both of the accounts can be true. Therefore, the variation must be attributed to a different focus and/or a different writing style.
This is further supported in the variance of Matthew’s record of two beggars (Matt 20:30) and Mark’s and Luke’s records that mention only one (Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35). Once again, Matthew accounts for the number of beggars (being two), and Mark and Luke focus on only one. Again, the variances in the accounts are attributed to them being from different people, who were writing from different perspectives, about the same event. And just like with the accounts of the demoniacs, all three of the accounts of the beggars harmonize, and not one of the accounts invalidates another.
We know that the Bible is God’s perfect and preserved Word and that there are no contradictions. Therefore, it’s important that we be prepared to defend what others might suggest is a contradiction. That said, we should also understand that many who might raise such contradictions, often only want to argue. It’s usually God they want to refute, not the Bible. They are looking for ways to support their rejection of God and attacking His Word is one way to do it.
Do your best to give an answer to a skeptic’s questions. But also try to turn the conversation to one of spiritual importance. Look for a “turning point” opportunity. For example, in this case, try to turn their attention to what Jesus is doing in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8.
The real lesson, in these passages, is not about how many demoniacs Jesus encountered. It’s all about Jesus’ ability and willingness to cast out the demons from the men and give them new life. The accounts demonstrate Jesus’ amazing love and spiritual healing. That’s exactly what Jesus does when a repentant sinner comes to Him in faith and trusts in His life, death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus is faithful to forgive and wash away sins, to heal the soul, and to give new life.
Try to turn any conversation with a skeptic into an opportunity to testify for the love of Jesus. Visit our salvation page for a clear gospel presentation and be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have and how others can receive True Hope.
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
We continue to reach people worldwide with the truths of God's Word and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your generosity is both a blessing and encouragement. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and . . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2022
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- How long did JOB SUFFER?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- How are the Shepherd’s ROD and STAFF Different?
- Which Old Testament Book Did JESUS QUOTE most often?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- ONLY ONE LIFE, Twill Soon Be Past – by C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931)
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM in Psalm 22?
This is not a Got Questions? article. But it's so popular it ranked among the top pages viewed:
More Popular Got Questions
- Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the KEYS of Death and Hell?
- How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- Jesus' Last Days TIMELINE: The Cross and The Crucifixion
- How Many MIRACLES Did Jesus Do?
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
- SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
- What are the NAMES of JEHOVAH Hidden in Psalm 23?
- Jesus in the Gospels: What are the Four Different Presentations of Jesus?
- If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
- Why Did God Create Man Knowing MAN WOULD SIN?
- What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
- What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
- Was MARY a LEVITE Making Jesus both a Priest and King?
- Why Was a RAM SACRIFICED in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
- Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
- Can Jews go to Heaven without knowing Jesus?
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- Jimmy Stewart - Nativity Scene Prayer: Mr. Krueger's Christmas
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- Not by Might, Not by Power, But BY MY SPIRIT says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6)
- Erwin Lutzer - We Will Not Be SILENCED