Ruins of Capernaum
This aerial view shows the remains of Capernaum, a small village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (“Capernaum” comes from the Hebrew Kfar Nahum, which means “Nahum’s Village”). Jesus chose this place as the hub of his ministry, being on the main international road, sometimes called the Way of the Sea (Via Maris). Roman milestones still mark the road. Jesus called Capernaum his hometown. Several of his disciples Peter, Andrew, James, and John, were called to ministry here. To the side of the synagogue, there was a small Roman garrison (see Luke 7:1-10), probably the home of the centurion whose faith Jesus commended. Capernaum was a small village (some estimate 1,200 people) of fisherman, farmers, and merchants all religious and devoted to serving God.
The villager’s devotion to God is evidenced by the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum, which date from three to four centuries after Jesus; but archaeologists believe the one from Jesus’ time is beneath these ruins.
The large hall on the right side is the main hall. It is approximately 60 by 50 feet and faces Jerusalem. Benches have been reconstructed as they would have appeared in Galilean synagogues. Ordinary people sat on the stone floor.
The large hall to the left side may be a community center and probably contained the school. The size of this room helps us appreciate the importance the Capernaum citizens placed on their devotion to God and the study of the Torah. It seems only fitting that Jesus came here to proclaim his message of the fulfillment of the Torah.
Although there is no definite evidence as to which house was his, we know that Simon Peter did live in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:38-41), and it is clear that the early Christian community attached special significance to this location. The modern building is a church built over the traditional site.
It was this town that first heard Jesus’ message. The central location of the synagogue gives evidence to the deep religious convictions of the people to whom he ministered; many became followers.
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