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.
And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee,
Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the
time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of
many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying,
If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into
the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently
down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and
told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw
him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts. And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into
his own city.
St.John Chrysostom in his Homily XXVIII on Matthew VIII said:
"But what can be the reason that they love to dwell in the tombs? This would easily suggest to the multitude a pernicious opinion, as though the souls of the dead became demons, which God forbid we should ever admit into our conception…It does not stand to reason that the injured soul should cooperate with the wrongdoer, or that a man should be able to change to an incorporeal power away from the body, to wander here some more. For 'the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God' (Wisdom 3:1)…and the souls of sinners too are immediately led away from here. This is evident from Lazarus and the rich man, and elsewhere too Christ says,'This day they require your soul of you'…How should the soul, being rent away from the body, and having gone out from all her accustomed region, know where to walk without one to show her the way?…Why did Christ fulfill the devil's request?…One, to teach those who are delivered from the wicked tyrants how great is the malice…another, that all might learn how not even against swine are they bold, unless He should so allow them."
Tertullian in De Fuga in Persecutione writes:
"…in the prayer prescribed to us, when we say to the Father, 'Lead us not into temptation'…, we acknowledge that that comes to pass by His will whom we beseech to exempt us from it. For this is what follows,'But deliver us from the wicked one,' that is, do not lead us into temptation by giving us up to the wicked one, for then are we delivered from the power of the devil, when we are not handed over to him to be tempted. Now would the devil's legions have had power over the herd of swine unless they had got it from God; so far are they from having power over the sheep of God. I may say that the bristles of the swine, too, were then counted by God, not to speak of the hairs of holy men. The devil, it must be owned, seems indeed to have power – in this case really his own – over those who do not belong to God, the nations being once for all counted by God as a drop of the bucket, and as the dust of the threshing-floor, and as the spittle of the mouth, and so thrown open to the devil as, in a sense, a free possession. But against those who belong to the household of God he may not do ought as by any right of his own, because the cases marked out in Scripture show when – that is, for what reasons – he may touch them."
Tertullian was a second century Christian writer, apologist, and activist against heresies.
Chrysostom again referred to this passage in his Homily 6 on Philippians:
"See now what scorn is it, yea, what misery, to see him standing over our
heads, who has been given to us to tread down. And whence is this? It
is of ourselves. If we choose, he becomes great; and if we choose, he
becomes of small power. If we take heed to ourselves, and take up our
stand with Him who is our King, he draws himself in, and will be no
better than a little child in his warfare against us. Whenever we stand
apart from Him, he puffs himself up greatly, he utters terrible sounds,
he grinds his teeth, because he finds us without our
greatest help. For he will not approach to us, except God
permit him; for if he dared not to enter into the herd of swine, except
by God's permission, how much less into men's. But
God does permit him, either chastening or punishing
us, or making us more approved, as in the case of Job.
Do you see that he came not to him, neither dared to be near him, but
trembled and quaked? Why speak I of Job? When he
leaped upon Judas, he dared not to seize on him
wholly, and to enter into him, until Christ had
severed him from the sacred band. He attacked him
indeed from without, but he dared not enter in, but when he saw him cut
off from that holy flock, he leaped upon him with more than wolfish
vehemence, and left him not till he had slain him
with a double death."