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For Bible Study Nerds

Jesus was in Capernaum when the centurion approached to request a miracle for his ailing servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Here’s what we know about that ancient village:

  • Capernaum was the primary headquarters for Jesus’ ministry in Israel. After his baptism, Jesus moved to this village and likely lived with Simon Peter’s family while teaching, healing, and working miracles in this area.
  • Capernaum, which in Hebrew means, “Village of Nahum,” was about a day’s walk (20 miles) from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Located on the eastern border of Galilee, it wasn’t large. Its borders covered only about 15 acres in ancient times—or about the size of three football fields by two football fields (300 yards x 200 yards). During the time of Jesus, the population of Capernaum was likely around 1500 people.
  • Jesus performed a number of significant miracles in Capernaum, including the healing of a paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12), a miraculous catch of fish that convinced his first disciples to follow him (Luke 5:1-11), healing blind men (Matthew 9:27-31), exorcising demons (Matthew 9:32-34), raising the dead (Luke 8:40-56) and many more.
  • Located on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was known mostly as a fishing village. However, it also boasted a thriving farming community and a prosperous industry in the processing of olive oil. It’s no wonder, then, that many of Jesus’ illustrations involve these industries.
  • Capernaum was also a busy border town, despite its small size. It was located on a trade route byway that connected Egypt and Arabia in the south with all the countries located north of Israel. As such, a customs station was placed in Capernaum, collecting taxes from merchants going to and from Syria.
  • Jesus predicted the demise of Capernaum (Matthew 11:23-24) as punishment for their rejection of his miracle-working presence. This came to pass, at least in part, in the AD 600s when Muslim invaders came into Israel. Historians tell us that the residents of Capernaum fled, abandoning their homes to the elements. Over time, this ghost town was ruined by wind and earth until it was actually buried and forgotten—a striking image when compared to Jesus’ prophesy about Capernaum: “And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.” Or as the New Living Translation renders it, “to the place of the dead.”
  • Today, Capernaum exists only as a ruin, cared for by a community of watchful Franciscan monks who bought the property from Arabs in 1894.

 

Works Cited:

[WWA, 64-67]

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