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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

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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)

Cana

Israel

Cana

View of modern Cana (© Welcometohosanna.com)

Cana in Galilee is celebrated as the scene of Jesus’ first miracle. It is actually the place of his first two public miracles in Galilee — the changing of water into wine and the remote healing of an official’s son 32km away in Capernaum.

On the first occasion, Jesus and his first disciples turned up at a wedding feast, possibly that of a close relative of his mother Mary. The wine ran out — perhaps because those additional guests had not been catered for — and Mary turned to her Son to overcome the embarrassment (John 2: 1-11).

“Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” he responded. “My hour has not yet come.” But she persisted and her Son turned six jars holding more than 550 litres of water (equivalent to more than 730 bottles) into fine wine.

This miracle is significant for Christian pastoral theology. Christ’s attendance at the wedding feast, and his divine intervention to rescue the hosts from embarrassment, are taken as setting his seal on the sanctity of marriage and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, “on the propriety of humble rejoicing on such occasions”. The incident is also seen as an argument against teetotalism.

Jesus’ newest disciple at the time of the wedding was Nathaniel, who actually came from Cana of Galilee.

Location remains uncertain

Cana’s actual location is uncertain, with at least three possible candidates. But the commemoration of the miracle of the wine is traditionally fixed at Kefer-Kenna (also known as Kefr Kana and Kfar-Cana), about 5km north-east of Nazareth on the road to Tiberias.

Here the Franciscans, relying on the testimony of early pilgrims including St Jerome, established themselves in 1641. And here streetside vendors sell Cana wine.

Cana

Franciscan Church at Cana (Tom Callinan/Seetheholyland.net)

The Franciscans believe excavations beneath their present church, dating from the early 1900s, confirm the existence of an early place of worship, perhaps a Jewish-Christian synagogue, on the site.

Beneath the sacristy of the present Franciscan church were found remains of dwellings dated back to the 1st century and an ancient basilica with three apses in cross-like form. In a crypt a small stone cistern was found fitted into a flagstone floor.

Not far from the Franciscan church is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Marriage Feast, with two large stone jars claimed to be two of the original water pots. But archaeologist Rivka Gonen says “they seem to be old baptismal fonts”.

The town also has a chapel dedicated to St Bartholomew, who some scholars identify with Nathanael of Cana.

 

Second miracle brought healing

Cana

Cana wine on sale (David Poe)

The second time Jesus visited Cana, he was met by a distressed official of the court of Herod Antipas (John 4:46-49). The official lived at Capernaum — which Jesus was soon to make his home town — and he had come to plead for his son, who was dying.

Jesus, who had earlier proved he could make good wine from water, now showed he could heal from 30km away. “Go; your son will live,” he told the official.

One of the early pilgrims to Cana, the Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza, confessed in 570 to an act of religious graffiti. “Our Lord was at the wedding,” he wrote, “and we reclined upon his very couch upon which I, unworthy that I am, wrote the names of my parents.”

Another possible site for Cana, preferred by many modern scholars, is the ruined village of Khirbet Kana (Khirbet Qana), 12km northwest of Nazareth.

In Scripture

The miracle at the wedding feast: John 2:1-11

Jesus heals the official’s son: John 4:46-54

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel: 972-4-6517011

Open: Apr-SepMon-Sat 8am-noon, 2-5.30pm, Sun 8am-noon; Oct-Mar Mon-Sat 8am-noon, 2-5pm, Sun 8am-noon

 

References

Alliata, Eugenio, OFM: “Archaeological Excavations at Cana of Galilee”, Holy Land, summer 2004
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Mancini, Ignatius: “New Archaeological Discoveries at Cana of Galilee”, Holy Land, autumn 1998
Rainey, Anson F., and Notley, R. Steven: The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Carta, 2006)
Ward, Bernard:  “Cana”, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1908)

 

External links

Cana (Wikipedia)
Archaeological Excavations at Cana of Galilee (Studium Biblicam Franciscanum)
Khirbet Cana (BibleWalks)

 

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