Putting Bethsaida-Julias On The Map -- By: Bargil (Virgil) Pixner

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 11:2 (Spring 1982)
Article: Putting Bethsaida-Julias On The Map
Author: Bargil (Virgil) Pixner

Putting Bethsaida-Julias On The Map

Bargil (Virgil) Pixner, OSB

[Father Pixner is a member of the Benedictine community in Israel, located at the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion and at Tabgha. He lectures at the Abbey’s Theological Faculty on Christian archaeology and the topography of Jerusalem.]

Next to Jerusalem and Capharnaum, the town most frequently mentioned in the Gospels is Bethsaida, birthplace of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, and home of the Apostle Philip (John 1:44; 12:21). As part of the so-called ‘Evangelical Triangle’ (Tabgha, Chorazin and Bethsaida, with Capharnaum the mid-point of the triangle’s base), Bethsaida was in that area bordering the Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached and worked more than in any other (Cf. Matthew 11:21). It was there that a blind man was healed (Mark 8:22–26), and in its vicinity that the second feeding of the multitudes took place (Matthew 15:32–39; Mark 8:1–10, Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–13). In the episode of the latter miracle, it is to Philip and Andrew, who knew the bakeries of nearby Bethsaida, that Jesus at first addresses the request to buy bread for the people (John 6:5–9). These two Apostles with Greek names must have been familiar with the Greek language spoken by many in their partly hellenized hometown. It is to them, therefore, that the Hellenes presented their request to see Jesus (John 12:20–22). In

the opinion of some, Bethsaida was also the home-base of the fishermen Zebedee and his two sons James and John.

But despite Bethsaida’s importance as a biblical site, it has remained almost unknown to the general public and is seldom visited by pilgrims or tourists. This is somewhat surprising in view of the fact that, since 1967, the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee has been made accessible to visitors by the construction of new bridges over the Jordan River, as well as new approach roads. The reason for the neglect of so prominent a biblical site may be sought in the hesitancy of scholars regarding its precise location. In ancient times, the site of Bethsaida, though difficult to reach, was a recognized place of pilgrimage. In the year 725, for example, the Benedictine pilgrim Willibald, later...

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