Saw the beautiful modern church with the unique altar and an amazing dig showing. The church was established by a Franciscan congregation in Mexico. They liked the location because of its beauty but during the normal archeological assessment before building the church they found a significant archeological find of a Jewish synagogue. It could be the earliest synagogue ever found and was most likely constructed in the 1st century AD or earlier. So it was in existence at the same time as the Temple which refutes some peoples view that the synagogues were built only after the Temple was raised in 69-70 AD. They have only done maybe 15% of the excavation but there were some interesting finds including a rock that depicted the wheels that would be used to carry the Ark of the Covenant. There were reliefs on the wall that may be a representation of the Temple. It will be very interesting to come back in a few years and see how this site has changed.
Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, was a prosperous fishing village at the time Jesus was active in this region. The ruins of this Roman village is now enclosed within a wall. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of the village dating from the time of Jesus, and a Byzantine monastery. A mosaic floor featuring a fisherman's boat was found at the place.
Ancient boat at the museum in Gennasar.
They had an interesting video of the finding, protecting, transporting, and restoring of a boat found in recent years When? during a drought in the Sea of Galilee. They went to a lot of trouble to protect this boat that was so soft it would crumble in your hands but by keeping it wet and filling it will polyurethane foam, they were able to get the boat restored. It was probably sunk around AD 66-68 check the date? when the Jews rebelled against Rome and the Romans came and systematically wiped out Israel. It fit the description of boats during Jesus time and could fit around 13 men, hence they are calling it the “Jesus boat”. It could have been a boat Jesus used, but there is no evidence that it was one he used.
Sea of Galilee Cruise
We went on a wonderful but short cruise on the Sea of Galilee on a boat owned by Daniel Carmel, a completed Jew who was converted as he was working on the Sea of Galilee as a boatman on a trip with Christians. He now leads singing and runs the boat for various tour groups. He has two boats, Faith and Hope and wants to get Love. Daniel has some CD’s of his music that often has both English and Hebrew versions. It was a very moving time to meditate on the boat looking at the beautiful sea and reflecting on all the biblical passages based in the area.
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River, rainfall and springs on the northern side. More properly designated a lake, the Kinneret (the OT and modern name) is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. The rabbis said of it, “Although God has created seven seas, yet He has chosen this one as His special delight.”
Capernaum and Peter’s home
We saw a Franciscan church that was over an old home that was most likely Peter’s and if so, it was probably where Jesus lived during his 2+ year ministry in the Galilean area. The old home is surrounded by octagonal walls which was very unusual for a church. The octagonal walls in those times mean that something special was in the center, which would have been Peter’s home and then later Christians built the octagonal walls for a church on the site. There were other finds in the small home indicating that they had to keep a very low profile for fear of persecution by the Jews. Also in that same area is an inscription naming the family of Zebede, an obscure name in Judea and likely a relative of James and John.
Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).
Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.
Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.
Feeding of the 5,000.
This is the only miracle that is in all four gospel accounts. Our guide Daniel told us of the 7 springs that empty into the Sea of Galilee and the water is warmer and more salty (but not as salty as sea water) than the Sea. Some fish, especially tilapia (they are eurohelllenic fish = fish that can live in fresh or salt water and were originally from Africa) love the warm and saltier waters even today, although the Israelis have diverted six of the springs around the Sea of Galilee to the Jordan so that the Sea of Galilee water is fresh enough for human drinking. The Sea is the primary source of fresh water for Israel. The church is a Byzantine church built above an older church with mosaics showing two fish and four pieces of bread (the fifth was to be on the altar) which makes people think this was the area where Christ fed the 5,000. The mosaics in the church Egyptian influence and outside there is a drawing of the first 10 letters of the Greek alphabet, from alpha to iota, in the form of a meter stick, like was used in Egypt to alert them when the Nile would flood every year.
Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
The account of a young French nun , Igeria, who, starting in 391 AD walked from France to Egypt and the chronicles from her journey helped confirm the church as the place where Jesus told Peter to feed my sheep in John 21. Her diary says that there was a place along the coast where there is a staircase cut into the stone with a table where Jesus ate breakfast with his disciples. The Catholic church revers the site as it supports their reasoning for the papacy. There is a beautiful mosaic that shows the basket of bread and two fishes reflecting the feeding of the 5,000. There are 7 springs in the area that feed into the Sea of Galilee and they are warmer and more saltier (but not as salty as sea water)
Church of the Beatitudes
This is a beautiful setting with flora and various passages of the beatitudes written throughout a vibrant garden. We were treated to a beautiful concert by a girls choir from a large Protestant church in Denmark. The acoustics were excellent and the girls sounded like angels. The church was designed by Antonio Berlucci, the famous Italian architect of the 20th century that designed many churches but this one is the only one that did not face east because he wanted it facing the Sea of Galilee. It is octagonal in design to reflect the 8 beatitudes in Matthew 5.
Olive oil in Galilee reaches as low as 0.3% acidity which is highly prized. There were many ancient olive presses in the area and probably the area was filled with olive trees in the time of Christ and there are many olive trees there today.
All in all, it was a very moving day to see where so much of the biblical account of Christ (78% of what was written of Christ was in the northern area of the Sea of Galilee bounded by Magdalena on the west and Decapolis on the east). Occurred and it really made a number of the stories in the gospel come to life!
Mount of Beatitudes
The so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. The alleged discrepancy between Matthew’s version being on a hill and Luke’s being on a level place is easily reconciled with observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides. Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of this event, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill. Some of Napoleon’s men placed it on the nearby Arbel mountain.