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SITE STORIES

Northern Sites Stories
Capernaum - The Synagogue

No other site is called "his own town" as Mathew 9: 1
is doing and for a good reason – this was his second home!!!
 

It is in this ruins that you will better understand the nature of the first 
disciples, the first group of young people who chose to follow him!!!
 

It is in the place where he tells his critics "I'm here with customers and
sinners because it is the sick who needs the physician!!!"  - in my humbled 
opinion – the essence of his ministry !!!
 

"They went to Capernaum , and when the Sabbath came,
Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach" (Mark 1:21)
 

The ruins of a great synagogue were first identified in 1866 during a survey by the 
ritish cartographer Captain Charles W. Wilson . Partially reconstructed in 1926, the 
dating of the Capernaum synagogue continues to be a matter of debate. What is certain 
is that the imposing ruin is not the synagogue referred to in the Gospel of Mark, though 
it seems to have been built on the site of an earlier 1st century building.
 

Built of imported white limestone on basalt stone foundations, the floor plan is similar to the 4th-century synagogue at Chorazim and the 3rd-century synagogue at Bar'am, but 
the architectural ornamentation of the Capernaum building is far more elaborate, with 
Corinthian capitals and intricately carved stonework reliefs. 
One relief carving of a cart may depict a portable Ark of the Covenant. Visitors are 
sometimes disconcerted by the fact that the architectural decoration also includes 
swastikas; but this was a common geometrical design of the period.
 

A 4th-century Aramaic inscription on one of the broken columns records the name of the 
donor, "Halfu, son of Zebida". These names in the Greek form are mentioned in the 
New Testament.
 

The synagogue as it appeared in 381 was described by the Spanish pilgrim, the Lady 
Egeria , who reported that the way into the structure was up many steps, and that the 
building was made of dressed stone.
 

The very grandeur of the Capernaum synagogue has contributed to the controversy 
concerning the actual dating of the building. Various theories have been proposed. 
Evidence for a 4th-century date is based in part on coins and pottery found beneath the 
floor. Proponents of an earlier 2nd-century date say these may have been left during 
later repairs and reconstruction, possibly following the earthquake of 363. Another 
possibility is that the synagogue was built during the short reign (361-363) of the 
Emperor Julian "the Apostate", which would also correspond with the date of the 
earthquake.
 

The synagogue and the church at Capernaum were both destroyed in the early 7th 
century (sometime before the Arab conquest in 636). In light of the continuing tensions 
between the Christian and Jewish communities, it has been suggested that the church 
may have been destroyed during the Persian invasion of 614, and that the synagogue 
was destroyed 15 years later as an act of retaliation during the brief re-establishment 
of Byzantine rule. If so, it is appropriate that one of the first instances of modern "inter-
faith dialogue" between Christians and Jews took place in nearby Tiberias in 1942, in a 
series of discussions between the Rev. George L. B. Solan, a minister of the Church of 
Scotland in Tiberias, and the Jewish writer and lecturer Dr. Shalom Ben-Chorin.

Nitzan Travel Ltd.

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