The Sea Of Galilee: An Overview -- By: David G. Hansen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 23:3 (Summer 2010)
Article: The Sea Of Galilee: An Overview
Author: David G. Hansen


The Sea Of Galilee: An Overview

David G. Hansen

The Geography Of The Lake

Known to most Christians as the Sea of Galilee, this lovely body of water is called by several names in the Bible: Sea of Galilee (Mk 1:16, 7:31 and Jn 6:1), Lake Gennesaret (Mt 14:34, Mk 6:53 and Lk 5:1), Sea of Tiberias (Jn 6:1 and 21:1), Sea of Kinnereth (Nu 34:11; Dt 3:17; Jo 11:2, 12:3, 13:27), or simply “the lake” 31 other times in the NT. Interestingly, it is mentioned only five times in the OT where it is referred to as Kinnereth. or the Sea of Kinnereth, a name that tradition holds comes from the harp-like shape of the lake. However, geographer Carl Rasmussen wrote, “the lake probably derived its name [in the OT] from the city of Kinnereth located at its northwestern corner” (1989: 35), a position supported by Aharoni (1979: 33). The lake and its surroundings were the geographical focus of much of Jesus’ ministry, and today it is the must-see destination for those who travel to Israel on Christian pilgrimages.

What many visitors to the Sea of Galilee do not realize is the lake is about 695 ft (209 m) below sea level, although it was as low as 705 ft (215 m) below sea level in 2001. That makes it the lowest body of fresh water on the surface of the earth. The Dead Sea, approximately 60 mi (97 km) south, is the lowest body of water in the world at about 1,200 ft (366 m) below sea level, but it, as most know, is salt water, not fresh (Rasmussen 1989: 235; Beitzel 1985: 39). We must write “about” when speaking of levels of these two bodies, because the surface levels of both lakes fluctuate depending on use and weather conditions. For the past few years, Israel has been experiencing drought conditions that have put the levels of both seas at their lowest points in recent memory.1

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 13 mi north/south, 7.5 mi east/west at its widest point (21 by 12 km) and 140 to 200 ft (44 to 60 m) in depth. It sits in the crater of an extinct volcano that, along with others, erupted in times past and spread lava over the adjacent region. The hardened lava has created a distinctive black rock, basalt, that can be seen everywhere in the area. The basaltic rock has provided stone for building construction and, in the t...

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