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18. Gennesareth: Site of Anchorage and Healings

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr8XcAtS2b4

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesareth and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went – into villages, towns or countryside – they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed” (Mark 6:53-56, cf. Matthew 14:34).

Ancient Gennesareth was probably a fishing village.

It is identified by most scholars as Tell Kinnereth or Tell el-Oreimeh, a site about 9 km north of Tiberias, on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. The plains around the site were known in the Roman period as “The plains of Genessar”, and they were considered to be one of the most fertile areas in the Holy Land (Jos. War. 3.10.8/506-521). A few archaeological expeditions excavated the site, and they discovered traces of a walled city from the Early Bronze Age (30th-26th centuries BCE), which was re-inhabited in the Israelite period (11th-8th centuries BCE). The Israelite city is perhaps “Kinnereth”, one of the fortified towns of Naphtali (Jos. 19:35; “Kinnereth” is also the Hebrew name of the Sea of Galilee).

The Israelite city was probably destroyed in the 8th century BCE by the Assyrians. In the 3rd century BCE a small fishing village was situated on the remains of the Iron age acropolis walls, and it was inhabited until 70 CE. It is not proven beyond doubt that this site is ancient Gennesareth, but there is no evidence to disprove that possibility, nor is there a better candidate in the area.

A view of Gennesareth valley from the top of Tel Kinnereth

A view of Gennesareth valley from the top of Tel Kinnereth. Most scholars suggest ancient Gennesareth is at tel Kinnereth although so far excavations at the site yielded only scarce remains from the Classical periods.

Is Gennesareth at kh. Abu Shushe?

The lack of clear evidence to a Roman village at Tell kinnereth lead some scholars to suggest locating Gennesareth at a other locations. One of the alternatives is kh. Abu Shushe, a 50 dunam site 3 km NW of Kibbutz Ginosar. The site was never excavated, but a survey at the site by U. Leibner indicated that more then 50% of the documented pottery is from the Classical periods. The main problem is that the kh. Abu Shushe is not near the shore, and so does not fit the Gospels statements that one could dock at Gennesareth.

“The Boat of the Galilee”

A related find to this matter was made in January 1986, when the waters of the Sea of Galilee were at their lowest point after a severe drought. Two members of Kibbutz Ginosar, which is 3 km south of Tell Kinnereth, while walking on the newly uncovered part of the lake bottom, noticed an oval spot shaped like a boat. The IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) made a probe which proved it was indeed an ancient wooden vessel, and so an archaeological expedition revealed the fragile remains of the boat and moved them for safety and conservation. A cooking pot found outside the prow, an oil lamp, and a few coins, were all dated to the first century BCE-CE. Later C14 tests verified that this was indeed the age of the vessel. For nine years the boat was soaked in a saline which caused the water of the wood cells to be gradually replaced with synthetic wax, and once the preservation process was completed the boat was placed for permanent display in a museum at Kibbutz Ginosar.

The museum at Kibbutz Ginosar

The museum at Kibbutz Ginosar that is now home to the wooden boat found in the mud at the bottom of Lake Kinnereth. © Archaeological Diggings

A study of the wood proved that several different species of wood were represented in the construction of the boat, which is unusual. It seems that the boat had been repaired many times before being left to rot in the mud along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Some parts seem to have been deliberately removed, probably to be reused.

The preserved boat as it now sits in the museum at Kibbutz Ginosar.

The preserved boat as it now sits in the museum at Kibbutz Ginosar. © Archaeological Diggings

But the mud did exactly the opposite, and filled in all the air holes of the wooden parts, and so preserved the vessel.

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Could this be one of the vessels that was used by Jesus?, or the Disciples?

The artifacts and C14 tests proved the vessel is from the time of Jesus, and the size fits best for local fishing. Could this vessel have being used by one of the disciples?, and perhaps Jesus himself sailed in it??.

It is mind boggling, especially if adding the fact that vessels facing the storm (which Jesus calmed by walking on water) anchored at the end in Gennesareth (Mark 6:48-50).

Perhaps that storm damaged this old boat, and it was deserted at the shore?? There is no way of proving this, but that speculation is fascinating, and as I like saying to my students: “Can you prove that this boat was not of one of the disciples?”