the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee,
Capernaum became a primary base for the ministry of Jesus following a
brief time in Nazareth (where He grew up).
4:13-16 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was
by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali- 14 to fulfill what
was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 "Land of Zebulun and
land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of
the Gentiles- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great
light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has
the tribal territory of Naphtali, close to the area of Zebulun (where
Nazareth was located), it certainly was a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-2
as quoted by Matthew. This city is not mentioned in Old Testament
times and was founded in inter-testament times. Based on coins dating
from the second century B.C. it was likely founded at the beginning
of the Hasmonean Dynasty. Large enough to be classed a city in New
Testament times, its' name means "village of Nahum". It had
become a city of both Jews and Gentiles, again making the term
"Galilee of the Gentiles" quite fitting.
frequently taught in Capernaum and it is the site of a number of His
miracles. Located on a major highway through the region (on a branch
of the Via Maris), it easily assisted in the spreading of news
concerning Jesus to the country north and south.
1:21-28 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went
into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at
his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as
the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who
was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 "What do you want
with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who
you are - the Holy One of God!" 25 "Be quiet!" said
Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" 26 The evil spirit shook
the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people
were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A
new teaching - and with authority! He even gives orders to evil
spirits and they obey him." 28 News about him spread quickly
over the whole region of Galilee. (NIV) [See also Luke 4:31-38]
It was at
Capernaum that Jesus taught one of his "hard" teachings,
that He was the bread of life, which resulted in a number of
followers abandoning Him.
6:43-69 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.
44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws
him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the
Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to
the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the
Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I
am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the
desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from
heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread
that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will
live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life
of the world." 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among
themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the
flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I
will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and
my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and
I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live
because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your
forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will
live forever." 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue
in Capernaum. 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This
is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" 61 Aware that his
disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 62 What if
you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit
gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to
you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do
not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of
them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say,
"This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the
Father has enabled him." 66 From this time many of his disciples
turned back and no longer followed him. 67 "You do not want to
leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter
answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of
eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of
not only had a garrison of soldiers at Capernaum but also used it as
a base for regional taxation. It appears from Scriptures that the
synagogue in Capernaum was built by Roman soldiers, either directly
through physical labor or indirectly through contributions.
7:1-10 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the
people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion's servant, whom his
master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion
heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to
come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded
earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5
because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." 6 So
Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the
centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble
yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That
is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say
the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man
under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and
he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do
this,' and he does it." 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed
at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell
you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then
the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant
well. (NIV) [See also Matthew 8:5-13]
room in the synagogue on a cold and rainy day. People for perspective.
in the synagogue on a bright and sunny day
presence of Roman soldiers would have safeguarded one of the most
hated activities in the land, namely the aforementioned tax
collectors. Yet, it was from among this despised profession that
Jesus chose one of His disciples.
9:9-13 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew
sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told
him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having
dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners"
came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw
this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with
tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But
go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I
have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (NIV) [See
also Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-32]
also at Capernaum that a group of itinerant tax collectors, from
Jerusalem, sought payment of the temple tax. The temple tax was an
annual "head tax" on all Jewish males, twenty years and
older, for the purpose of supporting the temple (... not the tithe,
as many erroneously presume). The didrachmas was equivalent to one
half shekel of sanctuary currency, the amount necessary for one
individual (based on Exodus 30:13-14). This tax was due before the
25th of Adar (equivalent to our February or March). The coin Jesus
assured Peter he would find in the fish's mouth was a double
didrachmas, which would have been enough for two persons.
17:24-27 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the
collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked,
"Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" 25 "Yes, he
does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the
first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked.
"From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes -
from their own sons or from others?" 26 "From others,"
Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to
him. 27 "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and
throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth
and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them
for my tax and yours." (NIV)
Matthew, the tax collector, it was at the Sea of Galilee near
Capernaum that Jesus called the fishermen James, John, Simon and
Andrew (Mark 1:16-21, 29). As the primary base of Jesus' ministry
Capernaum is actually referred to as Jesus' own town...
9:1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.
(NIV) [Compare with Matthew 9:9 and Mark 2:13-14 to establish location]
that Capernaum was now the location of Peter's house. Originally from Bethsaida,
and though Peter now followed Jesus wherever He went, his wife and mother-in-law
still kept house here.
8:5a, 14-15 When Jesus had entered Capernaum... 14 When Jesus came
into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a
fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up
and began to wait on him. (NIV)
house, turned into an ancient church. Now under the
showing how the original first century home was turned into a church.
though much of Jesus' ministry was centered around Capernaum, overall
the people of that town did not follow Him. Due to their unbelief,
Jesus pronounced a curse on this city along with nearby Korazin and Bethsaida.
11:23-24 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No,
you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed
in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this
day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the
day of judgment than for you." (NIV)
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will
go down to the depths. (NIV)
this prophecy was fulfilled completely with Capernaum being
subsequently destroyed and never re-inhabited.
An octagonal mid-fifth century ecclesiastical structure built around
an earlier one-room dwelling dated to the first century A.D. The
central octagonal shrine, enclosing a dry-wall basalt structure, was
surrounded by an octagonal ambulatory similar to the ambulatory in
the Rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This room contained
within the central octagonal shrine appears to have been part of an
insula (a complex of small single-storey residential rooms and
courtyards). Towards the end of the first century it was put to
public use, likely as a private home used as a church. The plastered
walls of the enshrined room were found covered with scratched
graffiti in Aramaic, Greek, Syriac and Latin, containing the words
"Jesus", "Lord", "Christ" and "Peter".
enshrined room is presumed to be the "House of Simon, called
Peter" reported by the Spanish pilgrim, the Lady Egeria, who
visited the town sometime between 381-384 during her pilgrimage to
the Holy Land. She described in some detail how the house of Peter
had been made into a church, with its original walls still standing.
In the mid-fifth century, this room was enshrined within an
octagonal-shaped building. This was the church later described by the
6th-century Piacenza Pilgrim who wrote, "The house of St. Peter
is now a basilica."
Like the nearby synagogue, the octagonal-shaped church was destroyed
early in the 7th century. The village, badly damaged by an earthquake
in 746, was rebuilt a short distance to the northeast (area of the
present Greek Orthodox Church), but little is known of its subsequent
history, decline and eventual abandonment sometime in the 11th century.
was "re-discovered" in 1838. In 1866, the ruins of the
synagogue were identified, and in 1894, a portion of the ancient site
was purchased by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The
principal Franciscan excavations took place in 1968-84. Excavations
at the adjoining Greek Orthodox site were carried out in 1978-82.