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How the Jesus Boat Was Found

For believers, the Jesus Boat is one of the most beloved and significant archaeological finds in the world.

On a drought-dried shore of the Sea of Galilee in January 1986, two brothers—Moshe and Yuval Lufan—who were fishermen from Ginosar—called Gennesaret in Jesus’ day (Matt. 14:34, Mark 6:53)—caught sight of something mystifying sticking through the mud. Twelve days later, an ancient vessel saw the light of day for the first time since it sank nearly 2,000 years before.

The Sea's water level was drastically lowered at that time, the result of a severe drought. When the water was stopped overflowing on to the shoreline, the two found the remains along the northwest shore near the city of Tiberias.

The brothers notified authorities about their findings. A team of archaeologists was dispatched to investigate. Understanding the boat’s remains were of significant historical importance to Jews and believers, a covert dig was launched by members of Kibbutz Ginosar, the Israel Antiquities Authority and numerous volunteers.

Rumor quickly spread that the boat was full of gold and the dig had to be guarded night and day. Excavating it from the mud without damaging it, fast enough to extract it before the water rose again, was a difficult. It took 12 days and nights. The boat was then immersed in a chemical bath for 7 years before being displayed at the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.

A one-of-a-kind artifact, the Boat of Jesus (also referred to as the Sea of Galilee Boat) was identified as an ancient fishermen boat that dated back to 1st Century AD—the time of Jesus and His disciples. While the boat bears the name of Jesus, there doesn't seem to be a connection between the two.

The boat's construction conforms to other boats built in that part of the Mediterranean between 100 BC and AD 200. Constructed mostly of cedar planks linked together by pegged mortise and tenon joints and nails, the boat is shallow drafted with a flat bottom. This allowed it to get in close proximity to the shore while fishing. It was made up of ten different woods. This suggested that there was a shortage of wood or the boat was constructed of scrap wood and had withstood extensive and repeated fixes.

The boat could be used with sails or oars, had room for four oarsmen, a helmsman and about ten passengers. Some believe such a boat could easily have transported Jesus and His twelve disciples across the Sea of Galilee. The remains measured 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 4.3 feet high. That size would have been able to hold 15 people. The boat would have transported  passengers and supplies around and across the lake by using used a square sail affixed amidships and could have been rowed or sailed.

There was evidence of numerous repairs, which indicated the boat had been used for a few decades, maybe close to a century. When the fishermen who owned the boat believed it was beyond repair, they took out all the useful parts, including the last, stem and sternposts. Then they pushed it into the lake where it sank in the silt.

The discovery of the boat rocked the archeological and spiritual worlds. No other ancient vessel had been found so intact. Scholars believed it was a combination ferry and fishing boat that could have been part of a sea battle with the Romans.

The boat remains on display in the Yigal Allon Center on the grounds of Kibbutz Ginosar. To date, over one million believers who have viewed it. Although no one knows exactly who rode in the Jesus Boat or what its purpose was, it is still a powerful reminder of the Gospel’s stories of Jesus and His disciples, many of whom were also fishermen.


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