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The miracle of the “Jesus boat” (1998)

The New Testament records Jesus’ activities along the shores of the Sea of Galilee during the first century CE.  He stayed with Peter; crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat; aided fishermen and rescued them from storms; and at his request they became “fishers of people”. The references to boats and fishing villages along the coast of the Sea of Galilee has provoked interest in the archaeology of the area and many sites from the Roman period have been excavated including Capernaum and Tabgha (traditional place of the miracle of the multiplication of bread and fish).

But nobody believed a wooden boat from that period could be preserved. Yet, as in antiquity, apparently miracles can still occur along the coast of the Sea of Galilee, as happened in January 1986.

That year Israel suffered a severe drought and the coastline of the lake receded. Two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lopan, from Kibbutz Genosar, went “coin hunting” as they do occasionally when the sea level is low. A bit south of the kibbutz they noticed a boat shape outlined in the mud. The shape could not be a modern boat since it was not built in the common pattern. The excited brothers reported the discovery to the IAA.

Over the next few days the marine archaeologists S. Wachsman and K. Raveh, with the IAA, revealed the upper part of the boat and pottery abutting it – a lamp and a cooking pot, both dating to the 1st century CE! Prof. R. Stem, a specialist in ancient boats from the USA, checked the newly discovered boat and confirmed its date to the Roman period as well.

But the excavation had to be done quickly, before the sea level will rise again and cover the boat. As well, the boat needed to be protected from sabotage by antiquity looters.

Volunteers from the kibbutz aided the expedition and after 8 days and nights of continuous effort the boat was fully revealed, then covered with PVC and polyester and taken to the local museum in the kibbutz. Now the effort was to preserve the wood, and for that a special tank was built, containing 35 tons of polyethylene glycol that will replace all the water in the swollen wood. Eight years later the boat was opened to public view, though still sunk in the preservation material.

Recently I visited the site. The preservation process is almost complete. The boat is amazingly intact and is a subject of much excitement, mostly because it comes from the days of Jesus. Although there is no direct connection between the boat and Jesus, it is from his time and reflects a unique aspect of the material culture from his time. Tourists even nickname it “Jesus’ boat”. Indeed can any one DISS prove the possibility Jesus used that boat?

The "Jesus' boat" when first exposed, in 1986.
The “Jesus’ boat” when first exposed, in 1986.