Jesus and the Sea of Galilee -- By: Todd Bolen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 16:4 (Fall 2003)
Article: Jesus and the Sea of Galilee
Author: Todd Bolen

Jesus and the Sea of Galilee

Todd Bolen

Tabgha shoreline from boat.

According to the gospels, Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee. While important events occurred in Jerusalem, the Lord spent most of the three years of His ministry along the shore of this freshwater lake. Here He gave more than half of His parables and here He performed most of his miracles.

Capernaum, on the northwestern shore, became Jesus’ “hometown” throughout His ministry. Three of His disciples hailed from Bethsaida, a few miles distant from Capernaum. These two cities, together with Chorazin 3 km (2 mi) inland from Capernaum, were condemned by Jesus for receiving much but believing little. A famous follower of Christ was Mary of Magdala, a town on the lake’s western shore. Early Christians hallowed the lakeside, building churches commemorating the feeding of the five thousand, the Sermon on the Mount, the primacy of Peter, and the house of Peter.

Preceding page: Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee (Plain of Gennesar) from Mt. Arbel. The town of Magdela is to the left and Gennesar is on the shore.


Known in the Hebrew Bible as Chinnereth, Josephus used the Hellenized form of this name, Gennesar or Gennesaritis, most frequently in his writings. Luke uses this term, but the more common New Testament designation is the familiar “Sea of Galilee.” John twice refers to it as the “Sea of Tiberias.” Pliny notes that some called it Tarichaeae after the name of another town along its shore.


The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake on earth at approximately 210 m (700 ft) below sea level. At its widest points, the lake measures 21 km (13 mi) from north to south and 12 km (7.5 mi) from east to west. The lake’s total area is 170 sq km) (64 sq. mi) and its circumference is about 51 km (32 mi). Its deepest point has been variously estimated between 44 and 60 m (140-200 ft) and its capacity is approximately three billion cubic meters (one hundred billion cubic ft).

Today Yam Kinneret, as Israelis know it, is the primary source of water for the nation and as such the government carefully regulates its outward flow to the Jordan River. The Degania dam was built in 1932 to control the water level and when the lake fills after good winter rainfalls, the Sea of Galilee is about 1 m (3.3 ft.) higher than it was in the time of Christ. This is apparent from the level of the harbors that have...

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