The Sea of Galilee

Trip Start Nov 10, 2011
Trip End Dec 03, 2011

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Flag of Israel  , Galilee,
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A busy day along the Sea of Galilee visiting several sites.  Some of us felt as if we were rushed and did not have enough time to experience the "energy" of these sites so important to Jesus' ministry. Capernaum was an important Roman town and one of the focal points of Jesus' ministry.  Having a population of about 1,500, Capernaum was the home to several of Jesus' Disciples, including Simon Peter.  A modern-day octagonal church has been built over the multi-layered site that tradition says was the home of St. Peter where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law.  The first layer was of private houses dating to the 1st century B.C.E.; the second layer dates to the 4th century C.E. when the private homes were transformed into a larger structure which was later dismantled; the third layer is an octagonal Byzantine church built in the 5th century C.E.  Upon constructing the new church, the central octagon was placed directly on top of the walls of Peter's house with the intent of preserving its exact location, although none of the original house was still visible.
  • Mark 1:21-22 -- They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (NRSV).
  • Mark 1:28 -- At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee (NRSV).
  • Mark 1:29-30 -- As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once (NRSV).
The octagonal Church of St.Peter was built over the ruins of his house.  Because a Catholic Mass was being held, and our Jewish tour guide was in a hurry  :`-(  we were unable to see the inside of this church.  David, our guide, got an earful, especially from the Catholics in our group, about not spending enough time at the Christian sites.
According to the NRSV study notes: "The Synagogue is the village assembly, here gather on the sabbath; at this time village assemblies apparently did not yet construct public buildings in which to gather."  The synagogue at the site dates to the 4th century C. E.


A short distance from Capernaum, Tabgha (Ein Sheva) is one of the most important sites of Jesus' ministry in Galilee.  Built in the 1980s, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, contains the remains of a 5th century Byzantine basilica and fragments of splendid mosaics. The original church was built over the supposed spot from which Jesus is said to have fed 5,000 followers with wive loaves of bread and two fish.

Mount of the Beatitudes
  • "When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain . . . . (Matthew 5:1).  
  • "He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples, and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon (Luke 6:17).
  • "Blessed are the . . . . (Matthew 5:3-11)
The discrepancy between Matthew's "hill" and Luke's "level place" can be reconciled with the observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides.  Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of the Sermon on the Mount, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill.  Many current Biblical scholars believe it is more likely that there was not a large group in one place.  The people who followed Jesus were poor peasants, for the most part.  They would not have been able to afford to leave their homes and their jobs to travel a great distance to listen to Jesus preach.  These scholars believe it is more likely that Jesus gave the same sermon, with some possible variations, in several different locations to smaller groups of people -- which may have totaled to "a great crowd."    

The Sea of Galilee & the "Jesus Boat"
Okay, so this was the one place that really did it for me.  I cried.  I sailed on the lake where Jesus sailed.  From the boat, I looked across the lake to the Mount of the Beatitudes where we had been earlier.  I hopped a fence, with permission from our guide, to pick up stones that had been washed ashore and I washed them in the lake -- the water that Jesus walked on I touched with my hands.  This is where I felt the "energy" of Jesus.  The area, although dotted with churches, still remains somewhat pristine, unlike so many holy sites where Christians have completely ruined them with their iconography.  Christian crap, I have come to call it.  None of that here. 
  • Luke 5:1-3 -- Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore (NRSV).
  • Mark 6:53 -- When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat (NRSV).

If you watch the same Biblical history shows I watch, you have seen this film.  A first century boat was discovered in 1986 because the level of the lake had receded.  Archaeologists were called to save the boat before it disintegrated in their hands because it was the first time it had been exposed to air since the 1st century C.E.  Did Jesus actually sail in this boat? -- my logical mind says it is unlikely.  But, archaeologists, scholars, and scientists have carbon dated it to the 1st century.  Maybe this boat did carry Jesus across the lake.  Only God knows for sure! 




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