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Capernaum and the “Jesus Boat”

I am typing just now on the third floor of the Scots Hotel in Tiberias, in a room with a glorious view of the Sea of Galilee. In the distance, across are the sea, are clearly visible the Golan Heights, where we spent a day or so, having lunch yesterday just 40 miles from Damascus. All may not be quiet on the Western Front (well, in this case, the Eastern Front) but we are safe and sound, and feel more secure than typically we do even in New York City (!).

Yesterday there were two highlights to our trip, for me. Capernaum has always been one of my favorite spots in Israel. It is one of those few places where the archaeological record is interesting and the literary texts are important at one and the same time. In terms of literary texts: according to the Gospels, this is the home town of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the first disciples of Jesus; and it is the place that Jesus used more or less as his base of operation for his public preaching ministry.

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On to Jerusalem
Caesarea Maritima

19

Comments

  1. Avatar
    Wilusa  May 5, 2013

    Delightful to read all this! But I’m a trifle puzzled–why do you think the “Sermon on the Mount” never took place? If I remember rightly, two Gospels give different versions of the “Beatitudes,” and probably of when and where Jesus delivered that sermon. But didn’t he presumably say something like that, somewhere?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 6, 2013

      I think some of the sayings of the SOM certainly go back to Jesus; but I think the three-chapter version in Matthew is Matthew’s own creation out of Q and M material, mainly. (Luke has many of the sayings split up over his Gospel)

  2. Avatar
    RyanBrown  May 5, 2013

    It’s amusing to note how Christians accept carbon dating for that boat, but not for the Shroud of Turin.

  3. Avatar
    Yentyl  May 5, 2013

    Awesome. Love it. We stayed at that kibbutz in 2000, the first time we went. It is still my favorite kibbutz. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Avatar
    maxhirez  May 5, 2013

    “… I tend to be completely skeptical of these identifications of “authentic spots” by Helena…”

    I can’t recall which of the many documentaries I’ve collected over the years that this came from or who asserted it, but have you ever heard accounts of Helena getting her information by torturing the oldest/most learned Jewish citizens of a given place until they came up with an answer or location for whatever she was looking for? What do you make of an accusation like that?

  5. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 5, 2013

    You need to start writing a “fourth” type of book, namely travel guides. Seeing anything from the first century (synagogue or boat remains) is really amazing. Your excitement comes through loud and clear. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Avatar
    LP in PA  May 6, 2013

    With regard to the synagogue in Capernaum: When I was a student at the Institute for Holy Land Studies (Jerusalem) in 1977, we visited Capernaum and sat in the remains of the synagogue. Our professor told us that he was not a tour guide, and it was not his job to make us happy tourists by telling us what we wanted to hear. Instead, as our instructor, he would tell us what was known from archaeology.

    He told us that the tour guides would tell their groups that “Jesus preached here”–even though the synagogue we were in was definitely NOT first century. He also said that archaeologists had not detected any earlier synagogues under the one we were in.

    In your post, however, you mention a first century synagogue under the existing structure. Do I assume there has been a new discovery here since 1977? If so, this would not be surprising–but it would show how our knowledge continues to expand (and why we can’t stop learning!).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 8, 2013

      Yes, it is now clearly marked as a fourth-century synagogue, so tour guides no longer can say it was the one in which Jesus preached. But there is a corner where they excavated down and found remains of the one on which it was built, that would have been standing in Jesus’ time.

  7. Avatar
    samchahal  May 6, 2013

    thanks for discussing your sites tour, it brings back memories when i was there in 1995! I remember having a donner kebab on the street made by one of the locals in Jerusalem (Arab quarter I think!) I also recall buying first century Roman coins from a naerby dealer and looking at a green stone called the “Eilat stone”! have you dipped in the dead sea yet? cheers Sam

  8. Avatar
    Pat Ferguson  May 6, 2013

    Re: the “Jesus Boat”. You wrote: “They suspected it might be …. 2000 years old. (Established beyond any doubt with Carbon 14 dating.)”

    Since there seems to be a ±17.5% deviation between samples dated using carbon dating and the apparently more accurate UTD method, you might want to sprinkle a little salt on that date 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  May 10, 2013

    I wonder why Jesus and the Apostles even needed a boat. Given his abilities he could have made a carpet fly, right? 😀

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 12, 2013

      Maybe there weren’t any carpets around! 🙂

      • Avatar
        Xeronimo74  May 14, 2013

        Jesus could just have created one out of thin air! 😉

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 14, 2013

          Yeah, but why do you need a carpet if you can just fly yourself?

          • Avatar
            Xeronimo74  May 15, 2013

            True. Check mate.

  10. Avatar
    natashka  May 12, 2013

    BART!
    Be careful on that road to Damascus!
    Paul was a goner, and if they get you–we’re toast.

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