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What city was the drowning of the swine? I’ve heard about the area of Gadarene, Decapolis, and Sennabris.





Hi Bill,

Thank you for your question.

This is a question that doesn’t have a clear answer in the scriptures.  But we do have some help from historical reference points to which we can apply some logic to make an educated guess.  So, this is more of a scholarly question rather than a doctrinal or revelatory question.

Here is the information we have from the scriptures:

  • We know that he had just departed Capernaum (Matt 8:5, 23, 28).  Verse 28 indicates the other side of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum.
  • The two referenced cities we have in the New Testament are Gadara and Gerasa (See Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26, & Matthew 8:28).  Depending on which translation of the Bible you’re using, the spellings may be somewhat different.   And the names used in the Bible were not the city names, but the people’s names.
    • “Gadarenes” are the people who live in Gadara.
    • “Ger’asenes” means the people who live in Ger’asa.  The pronunciation and spelling vary (“Gerasa” = “Gergasa”).  Hence, the apostrophe is sometimes inserted in English.

To address your sources, the name “Decapolis” isn’t actually the name of a city.  It is the name of a region.  That name literally means “Ten Cities.”  These cities include:

  • Scythopolis
  • Philadelphia
  • Raphanae
  • Gadara
  • Hippos
  • Dios
  • Pella
  • Gerasa
  • Canatha
  • Damascus

Sennabris wasn’t a city either.  It was a place named along the Sea of Galilee.  And I don’t see it in any Bible translation I’ve read.  However, the area was the coastal region of the Sea of Galilee northwest of Gadara.  That is certainly a valid guess.  But I have a different theory.

Gadara was closer to the Sea of Galilee than Gerasa. These two sites are about 25 miles apart.  This was simply a “reference” rather than an attempt to name a city.  The narrative in all three references indicates that it happened “in the country.”  Today, we may call it “unincorporated county.”  These were pig farmers.  They were probably out in the country because swine tend to smell pretty bad.  Modern large-acre subdivisions, today allow various farm animals, but they prohibit swine for this very reason.

If it was closer to Gadara, why did Matthew say it was Gerasa?  It appears that Gerasa was also the name of a region as well as the name of a city at that time.  The “people of Gerasa” spread throughout the countryside in that region.

Naming “some nearby city” is a common practice even today.  We’re all familiar with the Apollo 13 line “Houston, we have a problem.”  But Johnson Space Center isn’t located in Houston.  It was in an unincorporated county area which is now the City of Webster, TX.  But no one would say that the astronauts were mistaken or that the movie was historically inaccurate because of the name of the nearby city being used.  And “Texas City, TX” is certainly a much smaller city than the nearby Houston.  Yet, it isn’t the State of Houston. It is the State of Texas.

The reason why I believe it wasn’t in Sennabris is that the Gospels also mention a steep slope.  That would have most likely taken them further east than Sennabris.  The toes of the mountains/hills to the east are closer to the shores of the sea than the shores to the south.  For this reason, I’d put it near what is present-day HaOn, Israel.






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