The Gennesaret Valley/Ancient Boat
Did Jesus Use This Boat Dock?
This is a must-see for all of our live Octagon Tour visitors.
Location – Galilee West Shore
Map Coordinates - 32.844419, 35.525070
The Gennesaret Valley is on the northwest shore of Lake Galilee, and Jesus walked through this valley many times, both along the shore as He circled the lake, and directly through it, hiking through the Valley of the Doves on His way to and from Nazareth.
The Biblical Story.
There is one story where Jesus healed people in this valley. From The Merged Gospels, story 105 we read the following:
And passing over, they came upon the land to Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. And when they had come out of the boat, immediately the people of that place recognized Him. Running about, they sent (word) through all that entire surrounding region, and they began to carry to Him on their pallets all who were sick, to the place they heard He was. And wherever He was going, to villages, or into cities, into fields, or in the marketplaces, they were laying the sick. And they were calling on Him, that they might only touch, as it were, the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched Him were saved.
The Boat Pier.
The grassy area on the shoreline at times is filled with lake water. Any drop in the water level exposes an ancient boat pier, made from black basalt stones. It appears that this is the only pier in the area, and it must have been the one that the people in this valley used to dock their boats. If this is true, it is likely that Jesus also used this pier when He embarked and disembarked during the scene described in the Gospel passage above.
The Ancient Boat Museum.
A harsh summer in 1985, and a lack of rainfall in the fall of that year, created a drought in Israel. Water was pumped from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate parched fields. As the water flowed south down the Jordan valley, the level of the lake receded, creating vast expanses of mud flats. While this was of great concern to Israel's residents for whom the lake serves as a primary source of freshwater, the disaster proved a boon for archaeologists.
Late in January 1986, between the ancient harbors of Ginosar and Magdala, two brothers discovered the faint oval outline of a boat in the muddy lake bed. As one brother later explained: "It was little more than a curving arc of wood, flush with the surface of the ground, but we immediately realized that this was the uppermost plank of a boat that was entirely buried by the mud." Amazingly, it was almost intact after nearly 2000 years, but its timbers were extremely fragile and soaked like wet cardboard.
Archeologists soon descended on the scene. The boat was extracted, reinforced with fiberglass frames, encased in polyurethane foam, and floated across the Sea of Galilee, to be placed in a special conservation pool at the kibbutz's Yigal Allon Museum. For 9 1/2 years, it was submerged in a hot polyethylene glycol bath to preserve the waterlogged timbers. In 1995, the pool was drained, and the boat was revealed.
According to Carbon 14 dating, this ancient boat was constructed in about 40 BC and was in use into the 1st century AD.
The boat was 26 1/2 feet long, 7 1/2 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet high. It was probably one of the Sea of Galilee's largest class of ships. It was made with different kinds of wood (mainly cedar and oak) salvaged from other boats, as well as inferior woods, such as pine, jujube and willow available locally. Its fore and aft sections were most likely decked, and it probably had a mast, meaning it could be both sailed and rowed. Studies of ancient ships suggest this vessel had a crew of five (four rowers and a helmsman). The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius referred to such ships holding 15 people. Skeletal remains from Galilee during this period indicate that adult males averaged 5 feet 5 inches tall and about 140 pounds. Therefore, it would have been large enough to accommodate Jesus and His twelve disciples.
Although there is no proof that this boat was ever actually used by Jesus or any of the disciples, it helps us visualize several incidents related to the Gospels; for example, Jesus traveling by boat to various places around the lake.
The ancient boat is on permanent display at the Ancient Boat Museum on the northwest shore of Lake Galilee. It is quite fitting that a first-century boat would be displayed at the very spot where Jesus actually arrived by boat.