Capernaum - Israel

Sermon on the Mount Capernaum Tabgha
Capernaum Israel

Capernaum - Israel

Capernaum was a fishing town on the shores of Israel's Lake of Gennesaret. The Bible says that during Jesus' 3-year ministry in Israel, Capernaum served as his base: "Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea..." (Matthew 4:12-13)

Even though the Roman army spared Capernaum while punishing Israel for its AD 67-70 revolt against Rome, the town declined after Jesus' era and eventually died out, as he had said it would for not believing in him despite the many miracles he did there: "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." (Matthew 11:23)

After lying buried for centuries, the ruins of Capernaum were discovered in 1838. Excavation started shortly thereafter and still continues today. Already excavated is Peter's house, which apparently served as the base for Christians in or visiting Capernaum. You can actually peer into the ruins of Peter's house, identified by the markings on the stone wall.

Capernaum Synagogue

Discovered in 1866 and already excavated as well is the synagogue of Capernaum (left), where Jesus taught: "Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught." (Mark 1:21)

The "white" synagogue was built in the 4th century on top of the original "black" synagogue (bottom) that had been built by the Roman centurion: "And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue." (Luke 7:2-5).

Capernaum School of JudaismAny idea why Jesus based His ministry in this backwater town?

Mishna, the record of the Jewish oral code written during the first century AD to protect it from Roman persecution, quotes more rabbis from Capernaum than from the rest of the world combined.

Moreover, the school of Judaism (right) that was adjacent to the synagogue was four times larger than the world's second biggest school of Judaism. From a spiritual perspective, Capernaum wasn't a backwater town. While Jerusalem was the political capital of Judaism, Capernaum was its prideful educational capital. That was why Jesus had said, "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven..." in Matthew 11:23 quote above.

As archaeology, physics, astronomy, microbiology and other sciences advance, what I've learned is that more and more of the Bible actually has been getting confirmed, not vice versa. For example, prior to the telescope was invented, people could count the ~5000 stars visible to the naked eye and dismissed as exaggeration the statement in Jeremiah 33:22 that stars "cannot be numbered." The Hubble telescope has shown that even with today's technology, the stars in our galaxy, let alone the universe, indeed cannot be numbered. Molecular vibrations and resonance now explain how sound waves collapsed the wall of Jericho in Joshua 6:20, and while medical breakthroughs let more people to live to be 100 years old, we can't live beyond the 120 years limit prescribed in Genesis 6:3.

What about Darwin's theory of evolution, which claims that we are simply the result of random mutations over a very long time?

Imagine finding ten stones laid out in the shape of the letter "S" on the ground. You may look at those stones and wonder if they'd been laid like that by someone or if something random like draining rain water may have arranged the stones in that shape.

But imagine finding ten trillion stones that spell out the entire collection of Shakespeare's plays. You couldn't attribute that to some random cause, could you? You'd have to conclude that somebody laid out those stones.

What's the point? Charles Darwin didn't have the electron microscope and assumed the cell - the basic building block of life and the starting point for his theory of evolution - to be just some uniform blob. But today's electron microscope shows the cell actually to be an incredibly complex organic machine made of about ten trillion atoms that are organized into highly specific, interdependent parts, all of which are needed for the cell to exist in the first place.

The number of atoms in a cell exceed the number of cells in a newborn baby, so building a theory for the human body without knowing the cell is like building an air force without knowing what is an airplane.*

The courses on evolution, including one at the Master's level whose teachings I believed unquestioningly until hearing the other side of the argument, now stand out for the major issues skirted than the minute details focused on.

* For more scientific evidences on this, please watch and listen.

Travel Tip
While visiting Israel during tense times may be a bit more precarious, there are benefits too. The hotels are empty (the one I stayed in Tiberias had 15 of 180 rooms occupied), as are the sites. The synagogue above was so deserted that I actually stretched out and took a nap in the balmy weather. To get to Capernaum without a car, you need to take a bus from Tiberias, get off at a junction, and then walk the last 3km along the Lake of Gennesaret. Be advised that the locals, including the bus driver, won't understand you if you ask for "Capernaum". You need to say, "Kfer Nahum", the Hebrew name for the place that literally means the "Village of Nahum."

Sermon on the Mount Tabgha