Today was a very full day. By noon it had felt as though a full days exploration had occurred. The bus left the hotel at 8am to visit various sites around the Sea of Galilee. Highlights of the day include Capernaum, Bethsaida, The Mount of the Beatitudes, Tabgah, Magdala, and a boat ride. Interestingly, the Sea is actually a lake—the lowest elevation freshwater lake in the world.
Capernaum was our first stop today. Jesus moved to this harbor town sometime before his official ministry began. Peter likely lived here as well at his mother-in-law’s house. Today there are ruins depicting Peter’s Mother-in-law’s home, which later was used as a foundation for a Byzantine church fixed above these ruins today is a modern church. Very close by are ruins of a synagogue from the 1st century. Built over this is another synagogue. While I cannot remember the date (4th cent?) it was not a building in which Jesus would have taught. However, the first century synagogue was certainly a space in which Jesus worked. Today, the Franciscans cans continue to excavate the area and care for the facilities.
Bethsaida was our next stop. At this tel (both Hebrew and Aramaic for a man-made hill) archaeologists have uncovered multiple levels of ancient city structures. Tradition may say that this landmass was the biblical Bethsaida, but there is varied evidence to suggest the biblical Bethsaida was actually so we here else, likely close to the Water. This tel is now almost an a m ole and a half from the water. Still, there is some evidence supporting it was the historical location. Of course, nearly researchers in an attempt to force the location to fit exaggerated or read to much into some of the artifacts found there. Examples include using the fish hooks found to prove it was a fishing village or naming the street where they found primitive medical equipment “St. Luke’s”. In contrast, this site is almost certainly the Old Testament city of Geshur. Many structures depicting the beliefs of the city suggest a bull or similar animal deity. An interesting fact about this site is that our professor, Mark Vitalis Hoffman, participated in part of this active dig in 2012. Also, the Bethsaida Archaeological Dig Project is actually housed at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Many local institutions like Doane, Hastings, and the late Dana and Grace contributed in the beginning.
The Mount of the Beatitudes was just up the will from Capernaum. This site is also run by the Franciscans, this time a convent. The actual sermon on the mount could have happened in any of the hills around this site, likely in one of the naturally amphitheaters. We finished with a hike down the hill, stoping by a cave in which Jesus may have prayed.
Tabgha was the next site of the day. This location is attributed to two biblical events: the miracle of feeding the fish and Peter’s primacy as the leader of Christ’s church. A small chapel is built here housed over the rock which is claimed to be THE rock peter was on. Here was also the first chance we had to actually touch the Sea of Galilee and meditate close to its presence.
Magdala is one of the newer sites we will visit on this trip. It was discovered by accident about a decade ago while a hotel was developing the area. After the diggers hit ruins, the project was adjusted to incorporate the ruins into its plan. Surprisingly, these ruins are very well preserved and give a good picture of what the wealthy town looked like. My favorite part of this site was the discovery of an interesting table on which the teachers would place the Torah. There were also very well preserved purification pools which still hold water today. There is also a beautiful chapel built in the area. Overall. While much of this site is wonderful, it seemed terrible” commercialized. I did not much like this compared to other sites we visited.
Boat Rides on the Sea of Galilee are a neat experience, but made me feel like a tourist more than any other activity thus far. It began with the raising of Old Glory and the playing of the National Anthem. It was an awkward predicate to be in as both ambassadors for our faith but also the United States. The ride itself gave some wonderful views of the area. Being able to see the sites we visited earlier in the day was also quite exciting.
Overall today was good, but travel and exploration is catching up with me, and I look forward to rest.