top of page


Table of Contents Next Page

The Demoniacs' Caves at Kursi

Location - Kursi National Park

Map Coordinates - 32.826297, 35.650226

Merged Gospels story - 94

On the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee are the ruins of this ancient monastery. It was built here in the fifth or sixth centuries to commemorate an event that actually took place centuries earlier.

The Biblical Story.

In around 28 AD, Jesus and His disciples were sailing from Capernaum, which is on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was a death-defying trip through a storm that could have killed everyone who crossed the lake on that day. And even with all of His disciples present, Jesus only stayed here a few hours. This place is called Kursi, and it was here that Jesus performed what we call the miracle of the swine.


Jesus calming the storm on the way to Kursi (The Merged Gospels, story 93).

Ancient Jewish writings tell us that in the first century this area of the world was called Decapolis. It was a very large and almost exclusively Gentile area of the country. The fact that there were herdsmen who raised pigs in this region indicates that these people were not Jews, since pigs were unclean animals to the Jews.


The Harbor

In the first century, the harbor at Kursi had a 10-foot-high breakwater of stones extending into the lake from the shore and curving around the harbor. This was to protect moored boats from sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee. The archeological discovery of this protective breakwater validates the Biblical story of the disciples’ boat filling up with water as they sailed the treacherous lake to this harbor.


Immediately after disembarking from their boat, Jesus was approached by two demon-possessed men who had been living in the caves in the mountains.

Here I am in one of the cave/tombs of the demoniacs.

A shot from inside the cave. If you are ever exploring the Kursi site, DON’T GO HERE! There is barbed wire, stinging nettles around the caves, landmines, and wild boar which live there.

Those caves are still there, and wild boars still live on this mountain, often seeking refuge inside those caves. When I went into this cave I noticed some fresh hog droppings, and I wasn’t too excited about meeting up with a 200-pound boar. Needless to say, my time in this cave was brief.

Wild boars like this one still roam the countryside

One of these afflicted men revealed that he was possessed by a legion of demons.  And it was from that moment that Jesus dedicated all of His attention to this one man.


The Hillside Chapel.


According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus cast these demons into a herd of pigs that were grazing on the plateau right above this chapel. They then rushed down the mountainside into the sea. This event terrified the local area residents, who asked Jesus to depart from them, and He complied.


This hillside chapel was discovered in 1980, but it was actually the first ancient religious building on this site. According to tradition, this chapel marks the spot where Jesus healed the demoniacs. Their caves are nearby on the north side of this hill. This small hillside chapel, which was built in the fourth century, indicates that for many years prior Christians must have believed that this was the location of the Miracle of the Swine. 


The Crosses on the Floor.


There are crosses on the floor of this chapel, which is interesting, since, in the year 427 AD, the Christian emperor Theodosius II prohibited crosses from decorating the floor of any religious building. He felt that such a design was demeaning, and degraded the majesty of the cross. This suggests that the hillside chapel was the first structure built on the site of the Miracle of the Swine.


Saint Sabbas.

In the year 491 AD, a great and well-respected man came and prayed on this spot. His name was Saint Sabbas, and he was considered to be the father of all monks in the Holy Land. His prayer likely inspired either the building or the inauguration of this great monastery.


How were these ruins discovered? 

This monastery was irreparably damaged by an earthquake in the middle of the 8th century. By then the prosperous Byzantine empire had lost control of the land of Israel, and this area was occupied by the Muslims. There wasn’t any way for this monastery to be rebuilt, so pilgrimage to this place ended, and the Church soon abandoned the site. Nature then took its toll. The sands of time, and silt from a nearby creek, completely covered the town, and all memory of this monastery’s existence was erased.


About eleven hundred years later, in the year 1970, workers started building a new road on this very spot. Almost immediately their bulldozers made contact with the tops of the monastery’s walls. Construction was halted. The monastery was soon excavated, and what tourists now see here was completed in 1974.


The Mosaic Floor.


On the floor throughout this church are colorful tile mosaics showing many different plants and animals. However, most of the animal illustrations were destroyed, leaving many holes in the mosaic. This vandalization may have been caused by certain Orthodox Christians called iconoclasts; or it could have been done by the Muslims. Both groups believed that icons of living creatures were too much like idols, and should be destroyed.


The Crypt.


There is a hole on the south side of the church that leads to a crypt down below, which contained the tombs of 30 monks who had lived in this monastery.  In this crypt they even discovered the skeleton of a child. 


The Baptistry.


A room in the southeastern part of the church contains a baptistery on the floor.


The Olive Press.


We know how the monks raised money for this monastery. On the north side of the church there is a set of olive oil presses. Olive oil was very valuable in the ancient world, and extracting this oil required a two-step process. First, you had to crush the olives with one press, and then you had to press them again with another press to extract the oil.  That second step was done with a screw-type press. 


What does it all mean?


Why did Jesus come to Kursi, and for such a short period? It’s obvious that His sole purpose for coming here was to heal one particular man. But why? Every other demoniac that Jesus healed during His ministry was already in the area where Jesus was at that time. Healing this man required a special trip – and a very dangerous one at that.

What was so special about this demoniac was who he was and where he lived. First, we must understand that this journey was a fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah 49:6, which said, “I will make You a light to the Gentiles.” 


Consider what Jesus told this man after healing him, as recorded in Luke 8:39. He said, “Go to your house, and declare what great things the Lord God has done for you.” But this man made two slight revisions to Jesus’ commandment. Mark 5:20 says that he didn’t just go to his own house; he, in fact, went out to the region of Decapolis. This was Gentile country, and this Gentile man became the first person commissioned by Jesus to spread the Gospel to non-Jews. 


That was the reason for the trip.  Jesus used an indigenous man, a man from that area, to evangelize his own people.

But there’s something else. Listen again to what Jesus said. He told the man to “declare what great things the Lord God has done for you.” However, the evangelists Mark and Luke both tell us that this man went out and declared what great things Jesus had done for him. In other words, he replaced the name “Lord God” with the name “Jesus”. This is the first time in Scripture that we notice what appears to be a mysteriously and deliberate connection between the Lord God and Jesus - a subtle indication recorded by both Mark and Luke that God and Jesus are the same.

Table of Contents Next Page

bottom of page