view from Gadara north toward Golan Heights
(from photo by Balgawi)

Gadara

A city of the Decapolis 8 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee & 7 miles east of the Jordan river. Situated at more than 1200 ft. above sea-level the site offers a breath-taking panorama of the surrounding region.

Gadara was a typical Hellenistic city that became a center of Greek culture under the Seleucids. It was the hometown of the Cynic philosopher Menippus [3rd c. BCE] who invented the genre of mocking narrative satire imitated by later Greek & Latin writers [e.g., Petronius' Satyricon] & birthplace of the poet Meleager [1st c. BCE] who compiled the first Greek poetic anthology.

In good satiric style Mark 5 portrays Jesus as expelling a demon named "Legion" ---the basic unit of the Roman army---from the region of the "Gerasenes" (an inland city-state of the Decapolis south of Gadara high in the Jordanian mountains, miles from any major body of water). Matthew sets this incident closer to the Sea of Galilee in the territory of the "Gadarenes." Like the satires of Menippus, however, the setting of this exorcism story is purely imaginative, since there are no cliffs in the region of Gadara, much less Gerasa, that border on a lake. The site usually shown tourists as the location of this exorcism---Kursi below the slopes of the Golan 12 miles north of Gadara---has cliffs that descend to the sea but lacks evidence of a settlement in the 1st c. CE and or any association with either Gadara or Gerasa.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 12.136; 13.356, 396; 14.75, 91; 15.351-358; 17.320;
                  _____, War
1.86, 155, 170, 396.

For further recent information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:

  • Rousseau, John J. & Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) pp. 97-98.

Other resources on line:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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