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Jesus healing the man from Gerasa. Medieval illumination

Legion, also known as the Gerasene Demon, is a demon referred to in the Christian Bible. The New Testament outlines an encounter where Jesus healed a man from Gadarenes possessed by demons while traveling.

In The Bible

The Gospel of Mark, 5:9, describes the following in the country of the Gadarenes:

And he (Jesus) asked him (the man), "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many."[1]

The Gospel of Luke, Luke 8:30, describes the following in the country of the Gadarenes:

And Jesus asked him, saying, "What is thy name?" And he said, "Legion": because many devils were entered into him.[2]

The Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 8:28-34, has a unique version of the story:

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.[3]

The demons comprising the Legion are given the appearance of fearing Jesus in the King James Version, Mark 5:10:

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.[4]

The Greek word chora (χωρα) is used in the original Greek, translated "country" in the King James Version, but it can also be defined as meaning "the space lying between two places or limits" or "an empty expanse".[5] In Luke 8:31, the word abyssos (αβυσσος) is used, meaning "bottomless pit".[6] Although none of the words translated "Hell" in the Bible, those being sheol, Gehenna, Haides, tartaros, were used in the passage it can be interpreted that they begged to be spared from being sent back to Hell. Jesus casts the demons out of the man, granting their request, and allows them to dwell in a herd of pigs.[7] The pigs then drowned themselves in the Sea of Galilee.[8]

Location of the Story

The Decapolis with the location of Gadara and Gerasa.

John Dominic Crossan believes the story may be considered a parable of anti-Roman resistance. This would explain why the Gospels variously situate the story in Gadara, Gerasa and Gergesa: All three would be disguises for Caesarea, the location he postulates for the actual events behind the story.

Other authors give the ruins of Umm Qais as the location of Gadara. Based upon the Gospel accounts, the location of the miracle had to have a nearby port, tombs for the men to live in, an area for pigs to graze, a nearby city to which the men could flee, and most importantly, a steep bank for the herd to rush down.

The problem that has yet to be dealt with, however, is the site's topography. Origen initially rejected Gadara for its lack of high ridges and steep slopes down which the pigs “ran violently down into the sea” (Matthew 8:32). Above the port there are multiple hills which could potentially match up with the biblical account. The most likely site is found at the end of a chain of hills that has a bank descending into the sea. The bank is the modern site of Tell es S’alib located near the New Testament Gadaran suburb of es-Samrah.[9] A visual representation of the location of this tell can be seen in Mendel Nun’s work The Land of the Gadarenes.[10] Although this tell may not have had as steep a slope as that found at Kursi, it does have a hill that runs into the sea and could accommodate a “large herd of swine numbering about 2,000” (Mark 5:11). In addition to the slope, other features of the site make it match up well with the biblical account of the miracle. In excavations by B. De Vries completed in 1973, a Roman tomb from the time of Jesus was found in a valley nearby es-Samrah.[11] This could account for the tombs in which the demoniacs lived. Also, there is needed a nearby site where the swine would have grazed and “the groves of oak trees on the plateau above would have provided the acorns they favored” (Walking in their Sandals: 2[verification needed]). Thus, the site of Gadara can align both textually and geographically with the Biblical account of the demoniacs and the herd of swine.

In popular culture

The Gadarene swine are the subject of a joke in a comedy routine performed by David Frost called the "Deck of Cards" about a lad being taken to task for bringing a cricket bag into church.

See also

  • Legion in popular culture
  • Omissions in the Gospel of John
  • Gadeirus


Further reading

  • Newheart, Michael Willett (2004). My name is Legion: the story and soul of the Gerasene demoniac. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-5885-7. OCLC 55066538. 

External links

Legion (demon)
Preceded by
Parable of Drawing in the Net
Parables of Jesus
New Testament
Succeeded by
Daughter of Jairus
Miracles of Jesus