For Young Archaeologists: Peter’s House and the Synagogue at Capernaum -- By: Gary A. Byers
BSP 13:1 (Winter 2000) p. 29
For Young Archaeologists: Peter’s House and the Synagogue at Capernaum
Jesus’ ministry centered in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. He regularly taught and performed miracles in its synagogue. Here He cast an evil spirit out of a man (Mk 1:23–26) and healed the man with a withered hand (Mk 3:1–5).
The ruins of a beautiful white limestone synagogue in Capernaum have been known for hundreds of years. It was built 300 years after Jesus. Recently, archaeologists excavated beneath
BSP 13:1 (Winter 2000) p. 30
this synagogue and found evidence of an earlier synagogue made of the same black basalt stones of which the houses of Capernaum were made. This was the synagogue that Jesus visited.
After casting the evil spirit out of the man, Jesus left the synagogue and entered Peter’s house, where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk 1:29–30). Visitors to Capernaum three centuries later mentioned visiting Peter’s house, which by then had been turned into a church. In modern times, archaeologists found many houses between the synagogue and Galilee’s shoreline dated to Jesus’ day. One house had been converted into a church about 50 years after Jesus, and two later churches were rebuilt over the same house during the next 400 years. While nothing found in the house proved this was Peter’s house, graffiti scratched on the church’s plaster wall by early Christian pilgrims suggests they believed it was Peter’s house! Just 30 m (100ft) from the synagogue, probably it was Peter’s house.
The archaeologists discovered that the synagogue and the church coexisted in Capernaum for hundreds of years. Christians and Jews apparently learned to live together in peace.
Yet, Jesus suggested the city would ultimately be destroyed and left desolate (Mt 11:23). Today, the site of ancient Capernaum is only a group of ruins, literally fulfilling Jesus’ words.
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