Capernaum — Jesus’ Own City -- By: Stanislao Loffreda

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 10:1 (Winter 1981)
Article: Capernaum — Jesus’ Own City
Author: Stanislao Loffreda

Capernaum — Jesus’ Own City

Stanislao Loffreda

[Stanislao Loffreda, O.F.M., participated in the Franciscan excavations at Capernaum between 1968 and 1977. He has written a number of the final excavation reports.]

The identification of the old town of Capernaum is firmly based on the evidence of literary sources and archaeological data.

According to literary sources, Capernaum was near the lake (Matthew 4:13; Eusebius), two miles from Eptapegon (now called et-Tabgha: Theodosius), and not far from the Jordan river (Daniel). The town stretched from east to west, having the lake shore to the south and hills to the north (Arculfus).

Besides, literary sources make it clear that Capernaum was already a town at the time of Jesus (first century A.D.) and that it was inhabited during the Roman and Byzantine periods. From the seventh century on, sources are very rare, no doubt because the site had become unsecure for pilgrims. Only few houses of poor fishermen are recorded by visitors in the thirteenth century (Burchardus, Rabbi Ishak Chelo).

Two main buildings are mentioned by pilgrims, namely a synagogue approached by many steps and built with well-dressed stones, and the house of Saint Peter.

Archaeological excavations fully confirmed these data.

Capernaum the Town of Jesus

The town of Capernaum was chosen by Jesus as the center of His ministry in Galilee:

Leaving Nazareth, He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled (Matthew 4:13–14).

Jesus did not possess His own house here:

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have their nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head. (Matthew 8:20).

Most probably He dwelt in the House of St. Peter. His relatives and His mother Mary remained in Nazareth. One day these went to Capernaum to take Him back to Nazareth:

Then He went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when His friends heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they said: He is beside Himself... And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him... (Mark 3:20–35).

It was in Capernaum and in the vicinity that Jesus chose several of His apostles, namely Matthew, who was previously a tax collector (

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