Dispatch #3 Capernaum
Dispatch # 3
Today we will sail from Tiberias to Capernaum. This is about 6 ½ land miles or 5 ½ nautical miles. Some of you salty dogs know that a nautical mile equals 1.15 of a land or statue mile. To simplify the math, I will be speaking in land miles during this tour. You will not have to calculate cables, fathoms or knots!
I hope you are happy with your rooms at the Gai Beach Hotel in Tiberias! As you awakened this morning… you probably forgot for the moment exactly where you are. Then you looked out the window and gazed at the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee!
After a wonderful breakfast, we met just outside the hotel for our short walk to the docks. Here is a snapshot of the front of our hotel.
This is the dock adjacent to the Merkaz HaMaim sailing club. This dock will be our departure point for our journeys. To the left is the Sea of Galilee.
Remember this is a full scale model of the boat found not far from here along the shore. This model is right here in Tiberias on the grounds of Kibbutz Ginosaur. A museum was established at Kibbutz Ginosaur that tells the story of the boat. Our boats are based on this model. Each one being about 25 feet long, 7 feet wide and 4 feet high. The original First Century fishing boats had a crew of 4 rowers and one helmsman… and in a pinch could carry up to 15 more people. Our boats each have a crew of 4 rowers and one helmsman… and comfortable seating for 8 Flint Travellers. Some of you might be given the chance to put your hands to the oars! So watch your step as we climb aboard!
This type of boat is well known on these waters. Shown is a fishing boat putting out to the sea at sunrise sometime in the early 1900’s.
After casting off we leave the dock and are on the Sea of Galilee! The rowers pull on the oars to move us away from the dock into open water.
Then we unfurl the sail. Here is an image of the boat with sail.
In the First Century, this would have been the largest class of boat on Galilee. Either rowed or sailed it could be used for fishing or transporting cargo or passengers. When rowed four crew could man the oars and the helmsman manned two steering oars. With sail unfurled the crew manned the lines that kept the sail tight and handled the fish nets.
Turning north by northeast we catch the breeze and pass one of the other many tourist boats. Behind the boat you can see a beautiful view of Tiberias.
Looking to the right you will see the southern area of the Golan Heights. The Sea of Galilee serves as part of the border for the Golan Heights. The size of the area called Golan Heights is larger than most people realize being 716 square miles, with over 500 square miles belonging to Israel.
Golan Heights seen in the distance.
Drawing of Capernaum in Jesus time. Capernaum was a small but thriving city between the 2nd Century B.C. to the 7th Century A.D. There are no archaeological findings from the entire Israelite period here. (1200 to 587 B.C.). This is because during that entire time there were NO BRIDGES in the area. If you were traveling to Damascus on The Great Trunk Road you went north to Hazor where you could ford the Jordan, bypassing the northern shore of Galilee.
Above is a picture of Capernaum today. In the center is the white building of the Late Roman synagogue built around the 4th Century A.D.
The grey octagonal building is the modern covering for what many believe to be the house of Peter. Peter’ s house was the place Jesus called home in Capernaum. This home had over 100 graffiti phrases on the walls from the first century many mentioning Jesus. This and other clues have led many to believe this was the home of Peter, but we may never be completely sure of this.
Matthew 4:12, 13 says that when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, He withdrew to Galilee and leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea. This has led some people to think that Jesus moved to Capernaum for strategic reasons. Capernaum was on the northern shore of Galilee, a comfortable distance from King Herod’s city of Tiberias on the western shore of Galilee. Jesus would have time to escape before he suffered the fate of John the Baptist.
But if you keep on reading Matthew 4: from verse 14, Matthew tells us the Biblical reason that Jesus moved to Capernaum. I am not going to give it away but leave it to you to find the answer!
While walking along by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calls two sets of brothers to follow him: Peter and Andrew, and James and John. The four were fishermen. The next day Jesus decides to go to Galilee where he adds Phillip and Nathanael as disciples
According to John 1:44 Peter and Andrew were from Bethsaida, only about 5 miles away. We know that Peter was married because Jesus healed his mother-in-law- as we read in Mark 1:29-35.
Why had they all moved from Bethsaida to Capernaum? Some believe because of taxes! Bethsaida was east of the Jordan River and in the authority of Phillip the Tetrarch. Capernaum was in the authority of Herod Antipas. To sell their fish great distances, they had to be processed by drying or salting. The only local fish processing was in Magdala, a town that was in the same territory as Capernaum. Peter and Andrew may have moved across the Jordan into the authority of Herod Antipas to avoid paying the import tax on their fish!
The painting by William Hole depicts the calling of Matthew.
And we know there was a counting house in Capernaum because Jesus called one of the tax collectors there to be a disciple: Matthew! (Matthew 9:9-13).
The old synagogue in Capernaum is an interesting site. Jesus cast an unclean spirit out of someone here (Mark 1:21-28). Jesus healed a servant of the centurion who is credited for building the synagogue (Luke 7:1-10).
The white blocks on top are from the later 4th Century synagogue
The black basalt blocks on the bottom are believed to be from the synagogue that Jesus frequented.
As the time closes on our brief visit to Capernaum and we prepare for our trip back to Tiberias, we are reminded of the time some other people made the same boat trip from Tiberias to here. You can read about their trip in John 6:22-35.
Now our day in Capernaum has finally ended. It is time to make our way down to the shore and board our boats for the evening return sail to Tiberias. I sincerely hope you enjoyed our trip today and I am already looking forward to our next adventure Sailing Galilee...