Monday, November 26 2018
This is Capernaum
After leaving Caesarea Philippi, we are to pass by the proposed site in Bethsaida where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the multitude. We will also go by the Mount of Beatitudes on our way to Tiberias for a St. Peter’s fish lunch. Afterwards, we will take a cruise on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, and from there we will journey on to the north towards Capernaum.
After departing from the wilderness (40 days and nights), Jesus receives word that John the Baptist has been taken into custody. Jesus leaves Nazareth to set His home in Capernaum. It will later be referred to as “His own city” (Matthew 9:1). At least 3 of His disciples were from this city. Though Peter and Andrew were originally from Bethsaida, Scripture tells us that they moved to Capernaum (Mark 1:29). Here, Christ cleanses the leper, cures a centurion’s servant, calls Matthew from his tax collection table, heals a royal officer’s son, heals a man let down through a roof by his friends and cures Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever.
The people that we read of being present in Capernaum give us some indication as to the importance of the city. A Roman centurion with a detachment of soldiers, a taxing station, and a royal official are ample evidence of the governing attention given. Nevertheless, Jesus chastises them in Matthew 11:23 for the way they willingly ignored the signs and wonders given to them. Yet faithful people lived there during the time of Christ. The Roman centurion with a sick servant had previously built the synagogue there (Luke 7:5).
From the middle of the 2ndC AD, Capernaum became a central point for rabbinical Judaism. Christians were roundly rejected, and little was done to change their perception. Debate still exists about whether archaeologists have discovered the actual ruins of Simon Peter’s house there. Regardless, by the 4thC AD, a church was built at the site and a new one (the Octagonal Church) replaced it in the 5thC AD. By the 11thC AD, the city is abandoned due to the Islamic invasion of the land.
There is some dispute amongst modern scholarship as to whether the name “Capernaum” means “Nahum’s Village.” During the time of Christ, it had a population of approximately 1,500 people. In the scope of local antiquity, the city is relatively “young,” considering it is dated as being established in the 2ndC BC during the Hasmonean (Judean) dynasty. During that time, several new villages were planted in and about good water sources and fertile grounds. The ruins of two central synagogues are evident in the ancient city. However, the greatest traditional attraction remains to be the proposed residence of Simon Peter. The general construction of the homes confirms that when the paralytic man was let down through the roof by his friends to Jesus, it would have been entirely possible by simply removing a section large enough to fit the bed through.