Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, March 26, 2012

Galilee Day 8: Bethsaida and Orthodox Capernaum

The first half of our eighth day in Galilee was spent in class.  During those  three hours we finished our discussion of Luke (up to the Passion Narrative), focusing on the Perean Ministry (much of it unique Lucan material as Jesus moved towards Jerusalem for his final week).

The students had the afternoon off, and during that time Elaine took the children to the beach. I went with Kent Jackson a quick outing to the north end of the lake, first to look at the site of Bethsaida and then to visit the lovely Orthodox compound next to Capernaum.


With Capernaum and Chorazin, Bethsaida formed the so-called "evangelical triangle" where Jesus spent much of this Galilean ministry.  Jesus later rebuked these three towns, noting that nowhere else had he done more miracles and mighty works, yet they had not repented.  All three of these cities are now nothing but heaps of ruins.

The gospel of John tells us that Andrew, Peter, and Philip came from here. It is an advantageous site, near where the Jordan River enters the Sea of Galilee.  Settlements had existed here since the iron age, but in A.D. 30, Herod's son Philiip, who was tetrarch of the northeast, refounded it as a Greek city named Julia after the empress Livia (who was, incidentally, my dissertation topic).

Andrew and Peter, fisherman, were from Bethsaida

Sketch of the house found that contained many fishing implements

In an area short on wood, stone beams were often used in construction, giving a new sense to "a beam in your eye"

Mustard flowers and, against the backdrop of my hand, the pods that contain tiny mustard seeds
The gate of the Iron Age settlement

Idol and ritual basin by the Iron Age gate

Orthodox Capernaum

Just west and a little north of the archaeological site of Capernaum run by the Franciscans is the lovely little Monastery of the Holy Apostles.  The Orthodox Church obtained this property in the late nineteenth century, but this sliver of territory found itself in the "no man's land" in between Israel and Syria after 1948.  Following the 1967 War, the Orthodox regained access to their property, finished the beautiful church, expanded the monastery, and developed the grounds. 

The site, as all the Orthodox sites in the Holy Land, is administered by "The Gaurdians of the Sepulchre" (literally "guards of the Tomb," phylakes taphou, and often rendered "The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre").  This is the order that governs the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, electing the Orthodox Patriarch and caring for its churches (in the latter function being much like the Franciscan Custos Terrae Sanctae).

Monogram of the Phylakes Taphou, the custodians of the Sepulchre
The waterfront at Orthodox Capernaum

The Church of the Holy Apostles contained a fine examples of Orthodox religious art.  It gives a real feel for what a Byzantine church in its heyday would have looked like.  In the main dome, the apse, and the two side half domes are images that follow the usual Orthodox program: Christ Pantocrator in the Apse, Mary as Theotokos (Mother of God) in the apse, and representations of the Crucifixion (staurosis) and the Resurrections (Anastasis).  Elsewhere throughout the church are paintings representing the call of the apostles and Jesus' ministry with them here in Galilee, such as calming the sea and various miracles.  There is also, on the back wall, an unusual and interesting representation of the Last Judgment.

Calming the Sea

Washing feet.  Look at Judas' beady eyes (he is the only one without a halo)

Christ Pantocrator

He Staurosis

He Anastasis

Peter swimming to meet the Risen Lord

Maria Theotokos

Christ as "The Ancient of Days" in the dome of the nave

1 comment: