. . . your guide to visiting the holy places  
If you have found See the Holy Land helpful and would like to support our work, please make a secure donation.
The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Tiberias

Israel

The thriving resort of Tiberias, with its balmy climate, lakeside hotels and fish restaurants, is a popular base for Christian pilgrims exploring the Galilee that Jesus knew.

Tiberias

Modern Tiberias (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Its location on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias in John’s Gospel) is within easy reach of the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Magdala, Kursi, Cana, Mount Tabor, Nain and Nazareth.

Tiberias was a new city when Jesus began his public ministry. Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, founded it around AD 20 to replace Sepphoris as his capital.

Antipas — who would later behead Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist — chose a site just south of the present resort, taking advantage of 17 hot springs renowned since ancient times for their healing qualities. He named his new city after his patron, the emperor Tiberius Caesar.

Tiberias

Hot springs at Tiberias (David Q. Hall)

Because the site lay over ancient burial grounds, observant Jews refused to incur ritual impurity by living there. Antipas had to resort to compulsion and financial inducements to populate his city.

Though Jesus spent much of his ministry on and around the Sea of Tiberias, its inappropriate siting may explain why there is no record that he ever visited Tiberias.

 

Powerhouse of Jewish scholarship

Ritual purification of the city was carried out in the middle of the second century AD. The timing was opportune. The Second Jewish Revolt had failed, and the Romans had responded by banning Jews from Jerusalem.

Jews flocked to Tiberias, which became the major centre of Jewish culture and learning, with 13 synagogues. Even the Sanhedrin (the supreme court) moved from Sepphoris. “Preachers, poets, scholars and rabbis abounded,” wrote historian G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville.

Over the following centuries, it was this powerhouse of Jewish scholarship that compiled almost all of the Jerusalem Talmud — one of the two central texts of Jewish religious teaching and commentary that had previously been transmitted orally — and the fixed Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible.

Tiberias

Tomb of Maimonides (Bukvoed)

A Christian community was established in the 4th century, when Tiberias became a major destination for pilgrims visiting the Christian sites of the Galilee region.

In 1033 an earthquake destroyed Tiberias. The Crusaders rebuilt it about two kilometres further north, where the present city stands.

 

Rabbi’s body was carried from Egypt

Tiberias

St Peter in his boat, at St Peter’s Church, Tiberias (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Thanks to successive conquests, modern Tiberias has fewer monuments or ancient ruins than other localities in the Holy Land.

Historic sites include the graves of several distinguished rabbis. These include the celebrated philosopher Maimonides, leader of the Jewish community in Cairo in the 12th century. In accordance with his will, his body was carried overland on the route believed to have been taken by Moses and the Israelites to the Promised Land, for burial in Tiberias (his grave is on Ben Zakkai Street).

One of the few remaining Crusader buildings is the Church of St Peter, hidden down an alley from the lakeside promenade. Erected around 1100, this Catholic church was a mosque, a caravanserai and a stable for animals before being rebuilt in 1870 by the Franciscans.

Remains of an older church, from the 6th century, have been discovered in a commanding position on Mount Berenice, west of the city. It is called the Anchor Church, because a huge stone with a hole in its centre was found under the base of the altar.

 

Coins found with likeness of Jesus

South of the modern city, where steam from hot springs rises above the ground, are a national park and an archaeological park.

The highlight of the national park is a 4th-century synagogue with a spectacular mosaic floor. It was discovered in 1921 during the first major archaeological dig led by Zionist Jews in Israel.

Tiberias

Ark of the Torah flanked by menorah, in synagogue mosaic at Tiberias (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

In a curious mix of Jewish and pagan symbols, the Ark of the Torah is flanked by a pair of menorah, but immediately below is a Zodiac circle revolving around the figure of the pagan sun god Helios riding his celestial chariot.

The archaeological park contains the remains of the old city of Tiberias.

Excavations have uncovered part of the cardo (main street), a bathhouse, an unidentified colonnaded building, a reservoir, a tower and the south gate complex.

Tiberias

Bronze coin with likeness of Jesus discovered at Tiberias

A treasure trove of bronze coins was discovered in 1998, hidden in pottery jars under the floor of a building. They included 58 bearing the likeness of Jesus, with Greek inscriptions such as “Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings”, minted in Constantinople in the 11th century.

 

Hammat Tiberias National Park

Tel.: 972-4-6725287

Open: Apr-Sep 8am-5pm; Oct-Mar 8am-4pm (last entry one hour before closing time)

 

St Peter’s Church

Tel.: 972-4-6721059

Open: 8am-12.30pm, 2.30-5.30pm

 

References

Bourbon, Fabio, and Lavagno, Enrico: The Holy Land Archaeological Guide to Israel, Sinai and Jordan (White Star, 2009)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Dyer, Charles H., and Hatteberg, Gregory A.: The New Christian Traveler’s Guide to the Holy Land (Moody, 2006)
Rainey, Anson F., and Notley, R. Steven: The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Carta, 2006)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Heinsch, James: “Tiberias Church of St Peter”, Holy Land, Autumn 1999.
Kochav, Sarah: Israel: A Journey Through the Art and History of the Holy Land (Steimatzky, 2008)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Prag, Kay: Israel & the Palestinian Territories: Blue Guide (A. & C. Black, 2002)
Shahin, Mariam, and Azar, George: Palestine: A guide (Chastleton Travel, 2005)

 

External links

Hammat Tiberias (BibleWalks)
Tiberias (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Tiberias — The Anchor Church (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Chorazin

Israel

Chorazin

Ruins of Chorazin (David Niblack)

The ruins of Chorazin, one of the three Galilean cities cursed by Jesus, look down on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.

Residents of Chorazin lived within sight of Bethsaida and Capernaum, two of the other cities in what has become known as the “evangelical triangle”, because most of Jesus teachings and miracles occurred there.

All three — more likely villages than cities — incurred Jesus’ condemnation (“Woe to you, Chorazin!”) because their people did not accept his teachings and repent (Matthew 11:20-24).

Chorazin (also spelt Korazim) is 3.5 kilometres due north of the Mount of Beatitudes. Jewish writings say its wheat was of exceptional quality.

The town expanded considerably after Jews were expelled from Judea in AD 135, but Eusebius around 330 described it as being in ruins, apparently following an earthquake. Life returned over the next 100 years, when the synagogue was rebuilt, until the 8th century.

Settlement was resumed in the 13th century and a small population remained until the beginning of the 20th century, when the site was abandoned.

Synagogue with Seat of Moses

Chorazin

Richly adorned gable of synagogue at Chorazin (Seetheholyland.net)

The remains of an elaborate synagogue are a striking feature of the ruins of Chorazin. It was rebuilt in the 3rd or 4th centuries, when the town was thriving.

Constructed of local black basalt stone, the synagogue stood on an elevated area in the centre of the town. A broad staircase led to its façade, which faced south towards Jerusalem.

It had one large hall, with stone benches around the walls for the community to sit during services. The absence of an upper gallery for women suggests the sexes were not segregated at the time it was built.

An unusual find in the ruins of the synagogue was the Seat of Moses, carved out of a single basalt block, from which the Torah would have been read. On its back was an inscription in Aramaic. The original seat is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem but a copy remains in the ruins at Chorazim.

Decorations carved in the stone include Jewish motifs, geometric designs and patterns incorporating local flowers and animals. The construction methods showed that the builders were skilled in using the basalt stone, which was brittle and easily broken.

Near the synagogue is a ritual bath (mikveh). To the east of the synagogue are two large buildings, dating from the 4th century, which each probably housed an extended family. The rooms were entered from a large cobblestone courtyard.

 

In Scripture:

Jesus condemns Chorazin: Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 10:13-14

 

Administered by: Israel National Parks Authority

Tel.: 972-4-693-4982

Open: Apr-Sept 8am-5pm; Oct-Mar 8am-4pm; Fridays and eves of holidays, 8am-3pm. Last entry to site one hour before closing time.

 

 

References

Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Rainey, Anson F., and Notley, R. Steven: The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Carta, 2006)
Schaiek. Z.: The Sea of Galilee (Palphot, 1997?)

 

External links

Korazim (BibleWalks)

Bethsaida

Israel

Jesus criticised the Galilean fishing village of Bethsaida for its inhabitants’ lack of faith. In contrast, at least three of its native sons — Peter, Andrew and Philip — responded to his call and gave up everything to follow him.

Bethsaida

Path among the ruins of et-Tell/Bethsaida (Seetheholyland.net)

Jesus had performed several “deeds of power” in the area before his condemnation: “Woe to you, Bethsaida!” (Luke 10:13-14):

He gave sight to a blind man and, not far away, he taught and fed a crowd of 5000. And from the Bethsaida shore he was seen walking on the Sea of Galilee.

Despite the locals’ spiritual blindness, Bethsaida is one of the most frequently mentioned towns in the New Testament.

“Indeed Bethsaida, Chorazin and Tabgha — with Capernaum as the base’s midpoint — constituted the ‘evangelical triangle’, on the northwestern end of the Sea of Galilee, within which approximately 80% of Jesus’ public ministry was exercised, according to the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke!” writes biblical scholar Daniel W. Casey.

A fishing village far from the water?

The first-century Roman writer Pliny the Elder called Bethsaida “one of four lovely cities on the Sea of Galilee”. Yet, like Capernaum and Chorazim, Bethsaida was abandoned and forgotten for many centuries.

In fact scholars are uncertain over whether there might have been two towns called Bethsaida, one on the west of where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee, and the other on the east.

Bethsaida

Et-Tell/Bethsaida with the Sea of Galilee in the distance (Seetheholyland.net)

One site claimed by archaeologists to be Bethsaida is at et-Tell on the east of the Jordan, 2 kilometres north of the Sea of Galilee. Others favour the site of el-Araj, near the north-eastern shore of the lake.

The location of et-Tell — first suggested by the American scholar Edward Robinson in 1839 — presents a further puzzle:  How could a fishing village be so far from the water? The reason offered is that the landscape has changed since the time of Jesus.

The suggestion is that an earthquake has lifted et-Tell and the Sea of Galilee has shrunk in size. In Christ’s day, according to biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner, the Jordan River did not sweep in a large loop as it does today, but flowed straight into a shallow lagoon before reaching the lake, so a small part of Bethsaida lay on the west bank of the river.

At el-Araj, archaeologists in 2017 discovered a Roman-era (first- to third-century AD) bathhouse, which they suggested was evidence for a significant urban settlement at the site.

In 2019 they reported finding the remains of a large Byzantine-era church which they believed to be the Church of the Apostles, built over the house of the apostles Peter and Andrew. This church was described by a visiting bishop in 725.

City destroyed and never rebuilt

In AD 30 — about the time Jesus was crucified — the local ruler, Herod the Great’s son Philip, raised the fishing village of Bethsaida to the status of a city and named it Bethsaida Julias (in honour of the wife of the Emperor Augustus).

Bethsaida

Ancient city gate at et-Tell/Bethsaida (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Bethsaida Julias contained both Gentile (Syrian) and Jewish populations, and it apparently continued to exist after the Jewish Revolt in AD 66-74, but declined in the 3rd century and was probably destroyed by the Assyrian invasion in the 8th century.

The excavation site of et-Tell is located in a public recreation area known as Jordan Park, close to the Yahudia Junction at the intersection of Routes 87 and 92.

Excavators say they have found a much older Iron Age site beneath a Hellenistic-Roman village. They believe this city was the ancient capital of the kingdom of Geshur, fortified with a massive city wall and a monumental gateway.

Their identifications include a house belonging to a fisherman and an apparent wine cellar. They also found a gold Roman coin from the 2nd century AD.

The excavators believe that the fishing village on the site was also an important centre of fish processing — drying and salting — in the time of Jesus and his disciples.

In Scripture:

Jesus curses Bethsaida: Luke 10:13-14, Matthew 11:20-22

Jesus cures a blind man: Mark 8:22-26

 

Administered by: Bethsaida Excavations Project (et-Tell)

 

 

References

Bechtel, F.: “Bethsaida”, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1914)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Daniel W. Casey, Jr, “House of the Fishers”, Holy Land, autumn 1997
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel (Corazin Publishing, 1992)
Rainey, Anson F., and Notley, R. Steven: The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Carta, 2006)
Shpigel, Noa, and Schuster, Ruth: “The Lost Home of Jesus’ Apostles Has Just Been Found, Archaeologists Say”, Haaretz, August 8, 2017
Schuster, Ruth: “Archaeologists Claim to Have Found the Church of the Apostles by Sea of Galilee”, Haaretz, July 18, 2019

 

External links

Bethsaida (BiblePlaces)
Bethsaida (BibleWalks)
Bethsaida (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Bethsaida Excavations Project (University of Nebraska, Omaha)
All content © 2017, See the Holy Land | Site by Ravlich Consulting & Mustard Seed
You are welcome to promote site content and images through your own
website or blog, but please refer to our Terms of Service | Login