A Question I Was Asked:

Did Matthew Simply Double the People in His Miracle Stories?

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My question is about the two men possessed by demons in Matthew 8:28-34. The story is strikingly similar to Mark 5:1-20. Mark's story goes into more detail about the discussion between Jesus and the demon possessed man, but both stories seem to agree about (1) Jesus crossing the water in a boat, (2) Jesus meeting the demons in a grave yard, (3) Jesus casting the demons into the pigs, (4) the pigs running off the cliff, and (5) Jesus being asked to leave. My obvious question here is: are these two accounts of the same incident and if so how does their difference effect the inerrancy of Scripture?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this. By the way, The same (or similar) story also occurs in Luke 8:26-39, but let us look at Matthew 8:

28. When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" 30. Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31. The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." 32. He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34).


To answer the question, did Matthew simply double the people in His miracle stories? Of course not. That is a slanted and jaundiced view.

Putting all things together, this is simply what the accounts claim to be, that is: three different accounts of the same incident from three different writers; the variations should not worry one because nothing major is affected. There is no doubt that this is a single incident in which the Holy Spirit has allowed Scripture to record the sort of (minor) variations which always occur when three separate witnesses/writers relate an incident. Never forget how important the principle of Deuteronomy 19:15 and 2 Corinthians 13:1 is to Holy Scripture, that is: Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

The Mark 5:1-20 account is by far the fullest, that is where there is more detail. Again, one writer may mention one main character in a story, others might mention 'men' rather than 'man' perhaps only being concerned about a main character in a story, none of this really makes much difference.

Don't forget that when police seek eye-witnesses to some incident, they actually look for variations as a sign of truth and authenticity. Major crimes have sometimes been uncovered when a few eye-witnesses very carefully agree on every single detail, it is just not human to do so; variations (as long as nothing major is effected) are considered a sign of truth. In the case of these slightly varying accounts between Matthew, Mark and Luke, not all the writers will have personally witnessed the incident but tried to reconstruct it as faithfully as possible because they considered it important to relate. The small differences are irrelevant. All three recording the incident tells us that this is certainly a true incident: Scripture remains truthful and is fully reliable, but God always wants people and witnesses to have their own voice.


Personally, I don't like the word 'inerrancy' when applied to Scripture and it's not a term I ever use. Scripture is inspired, accurate and truthful but slight copyists errors and so on do occur because God used human beings to record it, but it is fully reliable in establishing truth and doctrine, especially in its original languages, yet God did not use automatons to record Scripture. There was never any conspiracy in which people agreed on every single detail in advance.

Robin A. Brace. April 30th, 2018.