Bethsaida [Julias]

Hebrew: "House of Fishing" 

A major settlement on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee situated on a 22 acre mound overlooking the influx of the Jordan river. Recent excavation shows that it was one of the largest towns on the lake. In 30 CE Herod's son Philip elevated it to the status of city [polis] & renamed it Julias in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius' mother Livia, who after her husband's death was called Julia Augusta. [Josephus mistakenly reports that the city was named for the daughter of Augustus who was banished in 2 CE]. From early Hellenistic times (4th c. BCE) the town was the center of a thriving fishing industry because of its natural harbor. John 1 identifies it as the hometown of Peter & other disciples of Jesus who were fishermen. After it was destroyed in the Jewish revolt (67 CE), the site was abandoned & the harbor silted up.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 18.28, 108.
                   _____, War 2.168; 3.57, 515; 4.454.
                   John 1:44, 12.21.
                   Mark 6:45 (cf. Luke 9:10)
                   Mark 8:22.
                   Matt 11:21 // Luke 10.13

For further recent information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:

  • Rousseau, John J. & Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) pp. 19-24.

  • "Bethsaida Rediscovered." Article by lead archaeologist Rami Arav in Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan/Feb 2000).

Other online resources:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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