Ginosar “Galilee Boat”

Thursday 26th June 2014

This morning I was the main celebrant for an early morning Mass along the shore of Lake Galilee, at the same altar where we celebrated two evenings ago. For the Gospel reading for the Mass, I chose the appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples along that same shore. I used only Jesus’ dialogue with Peter, the threefold confession of love, cancelling out the earlier threefold denial. I invited everyone to listen to the words “Do you love me?” as addressed to them personally by Jesus and make a response in their hearts. But to put that exchange in context, here’s the whole story as recounted in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel:

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

The setting along the shore was ideal for that particular reading, and was in effect a homily in itself, so my job was made very much easier. I hardly had to say anything at all, but simply to repeat Jesus’ question three times!!!

Facing the congregation, I had my back to the Sea, but a number of people commented on how beautiful the setting was, with the fish jumping out of the water in the background. I showed the altar and the Sea in a previous post, but here’s another view of the Sea from the Pilgerhaus, the German Pilgrim Hostel, where we are staying in 4-star accommodation. You can see how near we are to the Sea.

The Sea of Galilee from the Pilgerhaus

The Sea of Galilee from the Pilgerhaus

After breakfast we boarded the bus and headed for Nof Ginosar. This is a tourist attraction which houses the “Galilee Boat”. In 1986 when the Sea was low due to little winter rain, two brothers were prospecting along the shore when they came across some wood. They dug with their hands and found planking. They called in an expert who identified the wood as part of an ancient wooden boat. With help from expert conservationists from overseas and local enthusiasts, the boat was carefully uncovered. It was largely intact, nearly a whole boat, 8.2 metres long, 2.3 metres wide and 1.2 metres deep. It was a delicate operation as the ancient wood was waterlogged from long submersion in the Sea and likely to collapse. But they managed to clear it of mud, coddle it in a cocoon of fibreglass and polyurethane foam and float it to the nearby Kibbutz. There it was placed in a specially-built chemical pool and treated for seven years, replacing the water with synthetic wax and then allowed to dry. It is now on display in the museum in the Yigal Allon Centre.

The Galilee Boat

The Galilee Boat

The excitement about this ancient boat is that it has been definitively dated to the to the first centuries BC/AD. So it is the type of boat that was plying the Sea of Galilee for fishing and for transport at the time of Jesus. Of course, there is no actual link to Jesus and his disciples, but it is the type of boat that they would have been using, in, for example, the following episodes recorded in the Gospels:

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. (Mt 4:18-19)

There is another version of the call in Luke 5:1-9.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

5 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

P.S. Lake Genneseret, the Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberias are all different names for the same body of water.

For more information and photos of the Galilee Boat see: (N.B. This site contains a clip from the movie we were shown in the Museum.)

For Christians, the Jesus Boat is one of the most precious and meaningful archaeological treasures in the world.

On a drought-dried shore of the Sea of Galilee in January 1986, two brothers who were fishermen from Ginosar—called Gennesaret in Jesus’ day (Matt. 14:34, Mark 6:53)—spied a mysterious object poking up out of the mud. Twelve days later, an ancient vessel saw the light of day for the first time since it sank nearly 2,000 years ago.

Scholars say it was a combined ferry and fishing boat, and might have even served in a sea battle against the Romans, but for more than a million Christians who have seen it over the years, and for those looking forward to doing so, it will always be “the Jesus boat.” While no one knows exactly who rode in the boat or what its purpose was, it serves as a powerful visual reminder of the Gospel stories of Jesus and his disciples, many of whom were fishermen themselves.

After complex restoration, the Galilee Boat now sits above a calm blue-green sea at the Yigal Alon Center at Kibbutz Ginosar. At this superb indoor display, visitors learn that this mainly oak-and-cedar craft was patched repeatedly and lovingly with 12 different kinds of wood, and that these very trees still grow along the walk to the museum.

Sculptor and kibbutz gardener Yuvi Lufan, who along with his brother Moshe discovered the boat, is now part of the living history of the Galilee Boat. “Our parents taught us to love the Sea of Galilee,” Lufan says, “and I always knew it would give us a gift. And it did—a legacy that brought something special to the whole world.”


3 thoughts on “Ginosar “Galilee Boat”

  1. ami tamir

    Dear friend

    In these days I completed a book that deals with the “Flower of the Holy Land”. The book intended to serve as a “Plants of Israel” guide, in the “Christianity mirror”, for Christian pilgrims. The Book included botanical aspects of the plants, along with the religious context of Christian tradition, the New Testament and Jesus in Proverbs. During the collection of materials, I was exposed to your website and found an appropriate picture of the Galilee Boat, to the book content. I would be grateful if you allow me to use the picture in my book, of course while maintaining the credit, as required by law, in order not to violate the rights holder.

    Sincerely yours,

    Ami Tamir


  2. Josie

    Hi Patrick,
    The Sea of Galilee is called Kinnereth in the Tanakh and in Israel . My daughter ( you met her ) lives underneath Safed and overlooking The Kinnereth. My son in law owns a smallish motor boat which he keeps on Ein Gev and takes out on days off. By the way the seven branched candlestick is called a Menorah.
    When do you get back to Sydney?
    Regards, Josie


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