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Ancient Tiberias

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Exploring the Secrets of Ancient Tiberias

If time permits, we like our live Octagon Tour groups to gaze up close at this site.

Location - Tiberias

Map Coordinates - 32.776534, 35.544624

History and Geography.

Tiberias is a town of about 40,000 on the western shore of Lake Galilee. It is the largest Jewish city in Galilee, named in honor of Tiberius, who was the Roman emperor during the ministry of Jesus (14-37 AD). The city was established around AD 20 by Herod Antipas (the tetrarch who met Jesus on the day of the crucifixion), the son of Herod the Great (the king who killed the boys [two years and younger] in Bethlehem), and it became the capital of his realm in Galilee.


Despite the efforts of Antipas to build the town, the Jews refused to settle there, since the presence of a cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean. Therefore, Antipas settled predominantly non-Jews in Tiberias from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains in order to populate his new capital.

The prestige of Tiberias was so great that the sea of Galilee soon came to be called the Sea of Tiberias. 


The Jewish Sanhedrin, which fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, eventually settled in Tiberias in about 150 AD.  It was to be its final meeting place before disbanding in the early Byzantine period. The Mishnah, along with the Jerusalem Talmud (the written discussions of generations of rabbis in the land of Israel), was probably compiled in Tiberias around 200 AD. 

Because Tiberias was a major city on the edge of the Jordan Rift Valley, where two plates of the earth’s crust often collide, Tiberias has been severely damaged by earthquakes since antiquity. Earthquakes are known to have occurred sixteen times since the time of Christ. The last quake was in 1943 AD.

Was Jesus ever here?

Tiberias plays only a small part in the Biblical narrative. It is mentioned only once in the Gospel of John: "Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks" (John 6:23). Two other times, in John 21:1 and John 6:1, the lake is called the Sea of Tiberias, reflecting the city's prestige. However, there is no record that Jesus ever visited the city, and none of His miracles or sermons there, if any, were written down. 

The Ruins.

At the southern entrance to modern Tiberias is Berko Archaeological Park which is a reconstruction of Tiberias from its establishment in the first to the eleventh century. The remains include the city's Roman-era southern gate, cardo (main street), marketplace, aqueduct and water reservoir. The area also includes the main bathhouse, an amphitheater, and a Byzantine church believed to contain the remains of the palace of Herod Antipas.

Here I am squeezing my way through the pillars underneath the Roman bathhouse. The boulders above my head weigh about one ton each. One false shove and this whole thing comes down on top of me. If you ever go here, DON’T DO THIS!

The Underground Mystery Room.

There is also an underground mystery room that was excavated in 2008. The intriguing thing about this room is that the ceilings are about 12 feet high, and there are no doors in or out – just a small hole in the roof of the northeast corner of this vaulted room. I have conjectured that this room is where Herod Antipas kept his jewels, gold, coinage, and other valuable things. For you see, once a person entered this room, there was no way out, except with the aid of a ladder. If I am correct, this room was probably always guarded.

Here I am climbing down into the Tiberias Mystery Room.

What Gospel events took place in Tiberias?


1. This is probably where Herod Antipas had his birthday party. This is likely where John the Baptist was imprisoned, and where he was beheaded. My justification for believing this is found in Addendum 18I (The Merged GospelsTM, story 100).

2. Herod Antipas was in his Tiberias palace when he was wondering if Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated ((The Merged GospelsTM, story 106).

3. Herod Antipas liked to listen to John (Mark 6:20). 

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