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SITE OF CAPERNAUM.
of the surface below the sea level. Gusts of wind rush down from the mountains into the rarefied air below, and raise storms of extraordinary suddenness and fury. One of these I experienced which illustrated many of the details of New Testament history. I had taken a boat on bright, cloudless morning, to explore the eastern shores and the point where the Jordan enters the lake. There was not a ripple on the water, not a perceptible current in the air. Almost without warning the wind rose, the waves, crested with foam, began to break over the sides of the boat. I was sitting on a cushion or “pillow" on the flat, raised stern “in the hinder part of the ship” and watched the crew “toiling in rowing.” But all their efforts were vain. They were unable to make any way for “the wind was contrary.” At length one of them jumped overboard, and partly swimming, partly wading, towed the vessel ashore close to the site of Capernaum.' Walking thence to our camp at Khan Minyeh we passed the probable site of Bethsaida (the house of fish). Here we found the fishermen washing, drying, and mending their nets.”
At the end of a glen which ran westward from our camp is the mountain which tradition asserts with some probability to be that of the Beatitudes, and high above it, visible from every point for miles around, is the city of Safed—"a city which is set on a hill and cannot be hid.”3
The hills do not rise direct from the lake but stand at a little distance from it, leaving a strip of shore, of varying breadth, at their feet. But there is one striking exception to this rule. On the eastern bank, near to Khersa, the ancient Gergesa, is a steep, almost precipitous descent coming down into the lake itself with no intervening space between. It was here, in the very place which the narrative indicates, that the “herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea."
Into the disputed questions as to the topography of the northern and north-western shore we have not space to enter. A volume might be written summing up the various arguments adduced as to the sites of Capernaum, Chorazin, and the Bethsaidas, without arriving at a conclusive and final result. The balance of probability seems to me to incline in favour of the identification of the fountain of Tabigah with that of Capharnaum described by Josephus. Capernaum as the chief town of the district would stretch for some distance along the shore. The ruins of Tell Hum are not so far distant from the fountain but that they might have formed part of the city or its suburbs. And nowhere else have remains been found the character and extent of which would indicate the site of a commercial centre and great military station which we know Capernaum to have been. The similarity of name is likewise an important point. Tell is a mound of ruins; Kefr, or
Matt. viii. 23-25. Mark iv. 35-39. Luke viii. 22-25. John xxi. 7, 8. ? Matt. iv. 18-22. Mark i. 16-21. * Matt. viii. 28-32. Mark v. 1-13. Luke viii. 26-33.
3 Matt. v. 14.
Capher, is a village. Tell Hum would thus be the ruined mound of the ancient Capher Nahum, or village of Nahum. Without presuming to dogmatize on the subject, the balance of probabilities seems to favour the view that it was here that our Lord took up His abode on leaving Nazareth, so that it was called “His own country.”
Amongst the ruins of Tell Hum, the most interesting and important are those of a synagogue apparently of the Roman period. It was built of white marble, with finely carved Corinthian columns, and sculptures of the sevenbranched candlestick, the paschal lamb, and the pot of manna. If Tell Hum
be indeed the site of Capernaum this ruined synagogue becomes invested with an interest absolutely unique, for it is the only edifice now remaining which we can, with any probability, associate with the personal history of our Lord. It was here that “He taught on the sabbath days.
And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power.'
Here, too, He cast out the unclean spirit who acknowledged Him as "the Holy One of God,” and, amid the murmurs of the Pharisees, healed the man with a withered hand. Whilst the ruins are unmistakably those of a Jewish synagogue, the Corinthian columns seem to indicate a Roman element and
1 Mark i. 21-27; iii. 1-5. Luke iv. 31-36.
SITE OF CAPERNAUM.
feeling at work in the construction. It is thus, at least, a plausible conjecture that this is the very edifice referred to by “the elders of the Jews” when pleading on behalf of the centurion they said, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us the (Thu) synagogue.?” Captain Wilson, cautious and careful almost to excess as he is, says, “If Tell Hum be Capernaum,
this is without doubt the synagogue built by the Roman centurion, and one of the most sacred places on earth. It was in this building that our Lord gave the well-known discourse in John vi.; and it was not without a certain strange feeling, that on turning over a large block, we found the pot of
* Luke vii. 1-5. The definite article is omitted in our version.
manna engraved on its face, and remembered the words, “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead."':
But we must leave, though reluctantly, this hallowed spot with its inexhaustible treasures of sacred associations. As we do so the words of McCheyne rise to our lips :
“How pleasant to me thy deep blue wave,
O Sea of Galilee;
Hath often stood by thee.
“It is not that the wild gazelle
Comes down to drink thy tide;
Oft wandered by thy side.
“ Graceful around thee the mountains meet,
Thou calm, reposing sea;
Of Jesus walked o'er thee.
“O Saviour, gone to God's right hand,
But the same Saviour still ;
And every fragrant hill."
* The Recovery of Jerusalem,' p. 345. Published by the Palestine Exploration Fund.