BAKER OF CAPERNAUM
The baker of Capernaum meets the
carpenter of Nazareth.
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NASA Photo. Markers and names inserted by author.
feeding of the 5000
is the only miracle of Jesus described by all four gospels (Matt. 14, Mark
6, Luke 9, and John 6). It
signaled the end of Jesus'
Galilean ministry that
lasted about two years. When he refused to be their earthly king, they lost
interest and deserted him (John 6:66). After the feeding of the 5000 Jesus
visited Phoenicia, Decapolis, Caesarea-Philippi, Judea and Perea.
For centuries, the locality of
the miraculous feeding of 5000 has been clouded in uncertainty.
Great scholars have disagreed.
decided on a spot near Bethsaida Julias, but conceded that according to Mark 6:45 there
must have been a second Bethsaida on the western shore of the lake.
thought that a place near Bethsaida Galilee (John 12:21) was more acceptable. This spot,
known as Tabgha, was already accepted in the Byzantine era as locality for
Sea of Galilee, Western Shore (photo by Jacob
M. Van Zyl)
Tabgha, Byzantine Church (photo by Jacob M.
Tabgha, mosaic of bread and fish (photo by
Jacob M. Van Zyl)
of this event does not affect its meaning and importance in the ministry
of Jesus. However, for historical and geographical purposes it is always
a plus if the location of an important event can be pinpointed. Tourists
like to know they stand on the very spot where something great happened.
The apostle John
grew up in that region. He knew the name of every small place. He wrote his gospel about twenty years after Mark,
Matthew, and Luke had completed theirs. John sometimes gives extra
information to eliminate uncertainties. His remark in John 6:23 may hold the
key to the Bethsaida controversy.
Tiberias, Sea of Galilee (photo by Jacob M.
Sea of Galilee, western shore, looking south (photo by H. Isahar).
Sea of Galilee, north-west shore, looking north
It was already
evening (John 6:16, Mark 6:45-47) when Jesus sent the disciples by boat to
the nearby Bethsaida Galilee, south-west of Tabgha (they later landed at
Gennesaret, still farther south in the direction of Tiberias).
If Jesus had fed the 5000 near Bethsaida Julias, the news about the
miracle could not have reached Tiberias overnight.
Because of the strong
wind the disciples exerted themselves to row a few kilometers from sunset to
daybreak. It is highly unlikely that people would have rowed the
15 km from Bethsaida Julias to Tiberias in the dark and in that kind of
weather. However, going on foot from Tabgha or Gennesaret to Tiberias overnight would be easier.
wanted to return to Capernaum (John 6:16) but the strong wind against them
(Mark 6:48) drove them to Gennesaret. When the wind died down they returned
was close to Tiberias, people
in Tiberias learned the next morning about the miracle and decided to
investigate. John says, "they came in SMALL boats (ploiaria) from
Tiberias near the place where they ate the bread"
It is doubtful if they
would have dared to row (after a stormy night) with small boats for 15 km
over the open lake to Bethsaida Julias. It is much more feasible that they
would have kept close to the western shore, first reaching the spot of the
miracle, and then proceeding to Capernaum where Jesus later addressed them
in the synagogue (John 6:24, 59).
A few other
practical considerations argue against Bethsaida Julias as the site of the