Mount of Olives panorama

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

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Holy Land Day 3: Capernaum, Magdala, the Sea of Galilee, and Bet She'an

Our group in the late fourth century "white synagogue" that may have been built over the earlier one that might have been visited by Jesus

כְּפַר נַחוּם, or the "Village of Nahum," was a prosperous fishing village founded in the Hasmonean Period that continued as a an important Jewish town through the Byzantine Period. In Jesus' time, Capernaum was the home of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Peter and Andrew, originally from Bethsaida, moved their fishing business there. Because it the headquarters of Jesus' Galilean Ministry, Matthew 9:1 calls it Jesus' "own city."

After Salah gave us some historical and archeological background, I based our devotional on Mark 1:16-45 and the miracles that Jesus performed there and in the surrounding territory, sometimes known as "the evangelical triangle."

Miracles do not always come how and when we want them to, nor do miracles alone save. However, so I then read from Matthew 11:20-24, noting how Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida lay under condemnation because they did not repent and come unto Christ.

Instead, the greatest miracles of all consist of those that can come unto all in the form of forgiveness, peace of consciousness, a chance of heart, strength in place of weakness, and resurrection.

I then read Matthew 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." We then sang "Come unto Jesus" and prayed.

After this we took some time to explore the ruins, including the later fourth century "white synagogue" (perhaps built above the site of the original first century synagogue), the dark basalt remains of homes (including the "House of Peter"), and the waterfront, where the first disciples were called to full-time ministry according to the Synoptics.

One theory (though it is increasingly questioned) is that the fourth century synagogue was built on top of the remains of a first century synagogue built of dark basalt blocks

With my friend Paul Jennings on the water front.
The remains of ancient millstones and other implements


An early overview of the Magdala synagogue, now covered by an archaeological shed
 Situated where the Via Maris exited the Valley of the Doves at the Sea of Galilee, Magdala was ideally situated to be a commercial center. Known in Greek as Tarichaea, it took its name from the word meaning "pickled fish," because this is where much of the fishing industry of the Sea of Galilee processed its fish by salting, drying, and pickling. It is best known, however, as the home of Mary Magdalene, ones of Jesus' closest female followers.

We had a tour of the site an Irish volunteer, Sister Selene, who showed us the archaeology of the site, especially the first century synagogue, where Jesus almost definitely visited and where he probably read, worship, and preached.

Sister Selene describing the site
The remains of the rich Magdala first century synagogue, which was almost certainly visited by Jesus

The site is operated by the Magdala Foundation, which was formed when plans for a Christian guesthouse uncovered first century remains. Now that important parts of the site have been scientifically excavated, the guesthouse is being completed on one side. On the other, near the sea, the foundation has built the impressive Duc in Altum spirituality center, which recounts Jesus' injunction to Peter to "launch out into the deep" (Luke 5:4) before the miraculous draught of fishes. This center has an impressive atruim, which consists of a rotunda featuring columns, each of which commemorates one of Jesus' early female followers.


After Sister Selene talked about the women in Jesus' ministry, I read Luke 8:1-3 and had the women in our group stand around the men and sing "As Sisters in Zion," a testimony of the service of modern women of Christ.

Father Tim (who I think is Sister Selene's sister in real life) then took over our tour, taking us into the Chapel of the Twelve Apostles, whose altar is designed to look like a ship floating on the Sea of Galilee that can be seen by a wall-sized window behind it.

He then took us downstairs to the "Enounter Chapel," which is designed to be reminiscent of the original first century Magdala Synagogue.


This chapel features a moving painting by Daniel Cariola that recalls the story of the woman with an issue of blood, who thought to herself, "'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.´ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering." (Mark 5, 28-29)

Daniel Cariola, "Encounter"

Galilee Boat Ride

We then took the traditional Galilee Boat ride, combining all three buses into one outing. 

After the boat had proceeded to the center of the lake, we held a devotional in which all three headliners spoke. I began by recountin “Our Galilee Miracle” story about Samuel, whose autism was seemingly suspended in July of 2012, allowing me to explain much of the Plan of Salvation to him.. The pictures below are from our 2012 experience on that Galilee boat ride. 

Tyler Griffin then spoke about the miracles that Jesus performed upon the Sea of Gailee, after which Scott and Maureen Proctor spoke and we all sang, "Master the Tempest is Raging."

The boat is operated by the `En Gev kibbutz on the eastern shore of the lake, which also operates a well-known restaurant where we had lunch.

The obligatory "kiss the fish" picture, a tradition that my daughter Rachel and I began in 2012.

Bet She'an

From 'En Gev we drove away from Galilee, stopping at Bet She'an. The modern Israeli town replaced an earlier Palestinian town called Beisan. Both recall the Old Testament city of Bet She'an that controlled the routes where the Jezreel Valley came down to meet the Jordan Valley under Mount Gilboa. In the intertestamental period Bet She'an was refounded as the Hellenistic city of Scythopolis. A member of the Decapolis, this city was increasingly Romanized, boasting a colonnaded street, a theater, baths, and other features of a Greco-Roman city.

The remains of the Greco-Roman with the Bronze and Iron Age tell behind

The hypocaust heating system of the calidarium (hot room) of the bathhouse

In the later afternoon we drove down the Jordan Valley, stopping in Jericho, where we checked into the Oasis Hotel.

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