Evidence has been uncovered corroborating the site of one of Jesus’ most powerful and dramatic miracles: the casting out of demons into a herd of swine in the land of the Gadarenes (or Gerasenes).
Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a 1,500-year-old marble slab with Hebrew inscriptions near Kursi, the spot traditionally associated with the miracle of Christ’s banishment of demons into a herd of swine.
Archeologists believe the slab to be a commemoration tablet dating from around 500 AD. The inscription in Hebrew begins with the words “Remembered for good.”
The biblical description of the miracle is one of the most evocative in the entire Gospel. Recounted by Matthew, Mark, and Luke with different nuances, the Gospels depict Jesus in one of His most direct confrontations with Satan.
Mark describes the possessed man as fiercely strong and dangerous. Local citizens had tried in vain to restrain him with shackles and chains, but he broke them to pieces. The man lived among the tombs, howling night and day and gashing himself with stones. He terrified the people so much that no one dared go near.
On seeing Jesus approach, the man ran and bowed down before him, while the demons inside him howled and begged Jesus not to torment them.
Jesus, meanwhile, was ordering them, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
When Jesus commanded the demons to identify themselves, they replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Jesus then cast the demons into a herd of about 2,000 swine grazing on a nearby hillside. The pigs rushed headlong down the steep bank into the sea, where they drowned, to the utter amazement and shock of the townspeople.
The healed demoniac, now clothed and in his full senses, begged Jesus to take him back with him, but Jesus told him to stay and proclaim the mercy of God to his family and friends.
The University of Haifa researchers found the marble on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, in Kursi, the historically Gentile district of the Decapolis.
On the slab, scientists also identified the words “amen” and “marmaria,” which could refer to marble or to Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Kursi has been identified in Christian tradition with Gadarenes, where the Miracle of the Swine took place. In the fifth and sixth centuries, a Christian church was built to mark the spot of the biblical location but was destroyed by invading Persians in 614 AD and, after being rebuilt, was demolished by fire shortly afterward. The site remained abandoned for most of the following 1,300 years.
The church was lost to history until it was uncovered by accident during the building of a new road in 1970. Archaeological excavations continued at the site from 1970-74. Around the vicinity of the church, caves are still visible, and there is a mountain that drops down into the sea, such as described in the biblical account.
Christ’s trip to the land of the Gadarenes (Kursi) was one of his rare visits to Gentile territory, which also explains the presence of the herd of pigs, which was forbidden to the Jews. Jesus Himself had said that He was sent only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Celebrated Christian apologist Steve Ray, a frequent visitor to Kursi who often leads groups through biblical sites in the Holy Land, told Breitbart News that since Kursi had the largest monastery in Israel, it was obviously held in high esteem by the first Christians.
“The early Judeo-Christians remembered the places and events surrounding the life of Christ, and as soon as Christianity was legalized, churches were built on these different sites,” he said.
“The more archaeology uncovers,” Ray said, “the more the Bible is confirmed.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.