David and I are once again in Israel, the “Beautiful Land,” as the prophet Daniel described it.

A Boat Ride

It all began with Dave and I hoping to go out on a boat on the Galilee.

Dave enjoying the Sea of Galilee

All our lives we had read stories of Jesus going out in the boat with His disciples, of crossing the Galilee time and again, of even getting into the boat and rowing out a little ways from the shore so as to speak to all the people crowding around him. The Gospels are full of boat stories, and stories that happen along the Sea of Galilee.

In fact, the first place Jesus wanted to go, after His resurrection, was to Galilee.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:10 (NRSV)

But just anywhere in the Galilee region? Not at all.

The last chapter of John’s Gospel describes their meeting by the Sea of Galilee in the beautiful misty morning, and how Jesus cooked breakfast on the lakeshore for them as they were coming in from a long night of fishing.

As Christians, we are drawn to this ancient boat because it reminds us of Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. But it also holds Jewish significance, as Josephus’s account shows.

Later, during one of his early evangelism meetings with Barnabas, Paul talked about Jesus spending time with His close students and followers during those weeks in Galilee.

God raised [Jesus] from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 

Acts 13:30-31 (NRSV)
Me sitting across from Dave

(We did not go that far out onto the lake. I think we will need to charter a tour boat next time we are here. The boat ride we found ended up being more about singing karaoke and hanging out—which was still fun, just not what we had imagined.)

The Sea of Galilee Boat

After our boat ride it just made sense to go a little way up the coast and visit the two-thousand-year-old “Jesus Boat,” or “Sea of Galilee Boat” as it is better known by here.

It all began when two avid amateur archaeologists, the brothers Moshe and Yuval found the boat.

It was 1986, and Israel was experiencing an extreme drought that caused the shoreline of Lake Galilee to recede by a great margin. It was a dream come true for them, as they had always hoped to find an ancient boat.

It was also rather fitting.

Their family had fished the Galilee for generations, and they were themselves fishermen, living in a nearby kibbutz.

The caption reads:

Judea Capta Coin

“Minted by the Romans to celebrate their victory over the Jews in a maritime battle, possibly in memory of Migdal. The coin shows Titus in a triumph pose, his foot resting on the prow of a ship.”

During the drought, they have had been walking farther and farther out into the lake, searching for hidden treasure. When they saw the ribs of the boat peeking through the stones and shallow water of the receding shore, they immediately called the Israel Antiquities Authority.

It is truly a sensational find.

The boat was carefully excavated, and the water-soaked wood covered in foam and fiberglass as it was floated to the place where it would be conserved and displayed. It took ten years to saturate the wood with a polymer that could preserve and protect it, and allow the boat to be in air without disintegrating.

The wood simply disintegrated after being submerged for two thousand years. The only way to preserve it was to suspend what was left of the wood in a polymer solution.

Dating And Construction.

Radiocarbon dating of the wood (40 BCE) and period dating of pottery found near it (50 BCE – 50 CE) as well as the nails used to construct the boat places it squarely during Jesus’s lifetime, which is also the basic timeframe of Judea’s last revolt against Rome.

In case the list is hard to read, the various types of wood used to make and repair the Sea of Galilee Boat are:

  • Christ Thorn
  • Carob
  • Aleppo Pine
  • Hawthorn
  • Cedar
  • Tabor Oak
  • Sycamore
  • Laurel
  • Willow
  • Judas Tree
  • Plane Tree
  • Atlantic Terebinth.

Cedar planks make up the basic body of the vessel, but repairs were made with at least eleven different kinds of wood (see the pictures below). Was there a wood shortage? Or were repairs made with whatever wood was available, or least expensive?

At twenty-seven feet long and seven-and-a-half feet wide, it is just right for the size of boat Peter and Andrew would have fished in, or James and John. It would have had one mast for a sail, and room for four people to row. Because the boat shows many repairs, it is thought it belonged to a family that passed their vessel down to each next generation.

Artifacts found with the boat: a lamp, a cooking bowl, and the nails used to hold the planks to the ribs.

When it finally got beyond repair, the mast and other still-useful parts of the boat were removed, and the hull allowed to sink to the bottom.

The Sea of Galilee in the Hebrew Scriptures

When we think of the Galilee, we tend to think of Jesus. This is where Jesus grew up, in Nazareth.

Lake Tiberias was the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee { By PeteCS – Image:Is-map.PNG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1833018

This is where Jesus called His first disciples, both men and women. Peter’s home in Capernaum became a regular meeting place for these early believers, with Jesus.

But the Galilee shows up first in a list of Joshua’s conquests, having defeated the king of Goiim in Galilee.

Later, Galilee became part of the tribe of Naphtali’s inheritance, and when the cities of refuge were appointed, one of them was apportioned from the Galilee.

Out of the tribe of Naphtali: Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands, the city of refuge.

Joshua 21:32 (NRSV)

When King Hiram of Tyre supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timbers, as well as heaps of gold, Solomon gave him twenty cities in the land of Galilee.

Centuries later, the prophet Isaiah delivered an intriguing oracle concerning the Galilee and the Messiah.

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

Isaiah 9:1 (NRSV)

Matthew’s Gospel explains the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
    on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 4:12-17 (NRSV)
Imagine this backdrop as you come to the shore to listen to the strangely compelling and powerful yet also warm and approachable young rabbi. There is just something about Him that draws you in, and the beauty of the Galilee seems a perfect frame behind Him.

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