1. The region of Decapolis not well placed by some.
We meet with frequent mention of Decapolis in the evangelists, as also in foreign authors; but no where in a more difficult sense than in those words of St. Mark, chapter 7, where it is thus spoken of Christ, "And again departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came to the sea of Galilee through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis." The difficulty lies in this; that supposing by the 'coasts of Tyre and Sidon,' a place near the gates of Sidon is to be understood, of which before, it can scarcely be conceived how Christ went through the middle of Decapolis to the sea of Galilee, unless it be supposed that Decapolis was within Galilee.
Hence Borchard certainly, and others that follow him, seem to be induced to number these towns of Galilee for Decapolitan towns; Tiberias, Sephet, Kedesh-Naphtali, Hazor, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Jotopata, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Scythopolis. Upon whose credit Baronius writes thus: "The province of Decapolis (saith he) was placed in the same Galilee; so called, because there were ten cities in it, among which one was reckoned Capernaum." Confidently enough indeed, but without any ground. Pliny much otherwise: "There is joined to it (saith he), on the side of Syria, the region of Decapolis, from the number of the towns, in which region all do not keep the same towns. Yet most do. Damascus and Opoto, watered with the river Chrysorrhoa, fruitful Philadelphia, Raphana, all lying backwards towards Arabia: Scythopolis (heretofore called Nysa, from father Bacchus' nurse being there buried), from Scythians drawn down [and planted] there: Gaddara, [the river] Hieromiax gliding by it, and that which is now called Hippon Dion, Pella rich in waters, Galasa, Canatha. The tetrarchies run between these cities, and compass them about, which are like to kingdoms, and are divided into kingdoms, namely, Trachonitis, Paneas, in which is Caesarea, with the fountain before spoke of, Abila, Arca, Ampeloessa."
Whom should we believe? Borchard and his followers place all Decapolis within Galilee, being extended the whole length of Galilee, and adjacent to Jordan, and on the shore of the sea of Gennesaret. Pliny and his followers place it all in the country beyond Jordan, except only Scythopolis.
In Scythopolis both parties agree, and I, in this, with both: but in others I agree with Borchardus hardly in any, and not with Pliny in all. In them, it is absurd to reckon the most famed cities of Galilee for cities of Decapolis, when, both in sacred and profane authors, Galilee is plainly distinguished from Decapolis. In Pliny, it seems an unequal match to join Damascus and Philadelphia, formerly the two metropoles of Syria and the kingdom of Ammon, with the small cities of Gadara and Hippo.
With Pliny and his followers Josephus also consents, in reckoning up some cities of Decapolis. For severely chiding Justus of Tiberias, he has these words: "You also and all the men of Tiberias have not only taken up arms, but have fought against the cities of Decapolis in Syria." Observe that: The cities of Decapolis in Syria, not in Galilee. "Thou hast set their cities on fire." And a little after, "After that Vespasian was come to Ptolemais, the chief men of Decapolis of Syria sharply accused Justus of Tiberias, that he had fired their towns." But what those towns of Decapolis were, he hints elsewhere in these words: "Then Justus persuading his fellow-citizens to take arms, and compelling those that would not, and going forth with all these, he fires the villages of the Gadarenes and the Hippens."
You see how, with Pliny, Josephus joins the region of Decapolis to the side of Syria, and how he reckons Gadara and Hippo for Decapolitan towns with him. And yet, as we said, Pliny doth not please us in all: but that which in him might seem most ridiculous and absurd, namely, that he reckons Scythopolis, which is beyond Jordan, with the other cities pleaseth me most of all. For from that very city we are certified what were the other cities, and why they were of such singular name and note: having first taken notice of the condition of Scythopolis, it will be more easy to judge of the rest.