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Answering The Atheist
September 1, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 35

Matthew reports of two demon possessed men (Matthew 8:28), but Mark says there was only one (Mark 5:1-2). Is there a contradiction?

Let us look at the passages in question:

Matthew 8:28
When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way.

Mark 5:1-2
Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit...

Looking at the context of these two accounts, it is evident that the same event is being described by the writers. Luke also records this event in Luke 8:27. It is true that Matthew mentions two men possessed by demons, while Mark speaks only of one man who has an unclean spirit. The apparent discrepancy is easily explained. Matthew would have been with the Lord, and was very specific in mentioning the fact that there were two men present, but did not give a detail which both Mark and Luke provide. Neither Mark nor Luke were present with the Lord, but writing of the incident as directed by the Spirit, give the name of one of the demons, "Legion". Perhaps to avoid confusion for the reader, Mark and Luke's account, do not mention the second possessed man.

To illustrate with an example, let's suppose a family enjoyed the day at the circus, and afterward stopped by grandma's house. The children speak with amazement of a fire-eater who was present, who's name was "Flame". Their mother might make mention of the fact that there were actually two fire-eaters who performed at the circus. Is there a contradiction between what the mother and the children have said? No, they have simply focused on different aspects of the same event, and all were still speaking the truth. So it is with Matthew, Mark and Luke's report of the demon-possessed one(s) healed.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible