Capernaum

Wednesday 25th June 2014

Photos uploaded on 27th June at Ecce Homo in Jerusalem!

We spent today on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee. We travelled by bus from site to site, but were never more than a couple of kilometres from the Pilgerhaus where we are staying.

Our first stop was Capernaum. This was the ‘home’ base for Jesus for his ministry in Galilee;

He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali … (Mt 4:13)
It is where he called his disciples.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

It is where he taught the people. One spot which we had passed on our way along the shore of the Sea of Galilee is called “The Cove of the Parables”. I snapped a photo as we passed by in the bus on the road above the shore.

The Cove of the Parables, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee

The Cove of the Parables, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee


It is a natural amphitheatre, so has been selected as a likely spot where Jesus taught the crowds who had gathered to hear his words. We read of this in Mark Chapter 4ff.

1 Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables …..

Not only did he teach with words, but also in deeds, especially works of healing, thus showing his authority, as in Mark, Chapter Three:

The Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26 And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[m] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

It is where he worked many miracles, for example in Mark, Chapter Five:

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat[f] to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31 And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?”’ 32 He looked all round to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

It is the home of Peter and his brother Andrew, but more on that later.

It is claimed that the early church remembered significant places where Jesus had lived, taught and worked miracles. However, in the first centuries after his death and resurrection, the Christian community were a persecuted minority. Hence the stories were told in private gatherings. There was no church construction on those sites at that time. However, after the conversion of Constantine, Christianity became established and the Christians were able to “come out of the closet” so to speak. From that time on they were able to build churches. So while the oral tradition carried the memory and the stories for the first three centuries, from the fourth century onwards there were churches.

However, with the rise and fall of different empires, the waxing and waning of interests, with the passage of time over the subsequent centuries, some of these churches fell into ruin and became covered over. It was only archaeological excavations on these sites from the 19th century which uncovered some of the walls, stones, pillars and other bric a brac and are continuing to decipher the evidence.

The major site at Capernaum is the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. It was claimed that Peter was born and brought up in the nearby town of Baitsaida but moved here after his marriage. He and his wife lived with her mother/his mother-in-law. I thought the claim was odd. I know that in contemporary Pakistani and Middle Eastern society, it would be ‘shameful’ for a man to live with his mother-in-law. It would imply inability to support his wife!!! Even the guide agreed with me. However, that is the story she told us and insisted on, even though it is “unusual” and a bit of a mystery! The Gospel recounts a story about Jesus and Peter’s mother-in-law in Mk 1:29-31.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House
29 As soon as they[a] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Our guide further claimed that Jesus lived here as well and made the house his base of operations, even calling it “home” for the time of his ministry in the Galilee. She even claimed that he lived in the central room in the house. The house itself was very large with many rooms to accommodate the extended family of three or more generations.

Peter's (mother-in-law's) house in Capernaum, Galilee

Peter’s (mother-in-law’s) house in Capernaum, Galilee


Above the archaeological site of the house is a modern church. It is raised on pillars and looks over the Sea of Galilee.
St Peter's Church in Capernaum, Galilee, looking out over the Sea of Galilee

St Peter’s Church in Capernaum, Galilee, looking out over the Sea of Galilee


St Peter's Church in Galilee, the window at the back of the sanctuary looking out over the Sea of Galilee

St Peter’s Church in Galilee, the window at the back of the sanctuary looking out over the Sea of Galilee


As you can seen, the house is not far from the shore. Further back from the shore are the other houses and shops of the ancient town of Capernaum. The most significant building in the town was the synagogue. This is NOT the synagogue in which Jesus taught. It is a fourth century synagogue, built on the site of a previous synagogue, which in turn was built on the site of that first century synagogue.
View of the Synagogue in Capernaum, from St Peter's Church, Capernaum, Galilee

View of the Synagogue in Capernaum, from St Peter’s Church, Capernaum, Galilee


Synagogue in Capernaum, Galilee

Synagogue in Capernaum, Galilee


View of St Peter's Church, Capernaum, taken from the Synagogue, Capernaum, Galilee

View of St Peter’s Church, Capernaum, taken from the Synagogue, Capernaum, Galilee


The building was identified as a synagogue in part because of this column. It has a minora, the 7-branched candelabra that is particular to Jewish ritual. Also, carved beneath the minora are a couple of other items from Jewish ritual. On the right is the shofar (ram’s horn) which is blown on special occasions. On the left is a shovel used for incense.
Pillar from the ancient synagogue in Capernaum, Galilee

Pillar from the ancient synagogue in Capernaum, Galilee


Along the esplanade is a statue of the Apostle Peter, with the keys of the Kingdom in his hand, which is the traditional iconic symbol for Peter in art. It is based on Mt 16:18-20.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Statue of St Peter, on the foreshore of Capernaum, Galilee

Statue of St Peter, on the foreshore of Capernaum, Galilee


As mentioned above, Jesus worked many miracles in and around Capernaum. Another example from Mark, Chapter Two:

Jesus Heals a Paralytic
1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people[a] came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Some of these are presented in images in St Peter’s Church in Capernaum. Some of them also are commemorated at other sites (as you will see in other posts).

For further information and images of Capernaum see:
http://www.bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm
http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/capernaum.html
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capernaum

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!

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