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The Boat that Jesus Sailed

Courtesy of The Original Jesus Boat Store of the Jesus Boat Museum, Nof Ginosar

The Boat that Jesus Sailed

By Randall Murphee

This is the second in a series of his trip with Christian journalists

Randall Murphee, editor of  American Family Association Journal, travelled to Israel for the first time at age 53. A first hand description of the emotions he felt when sailing on the Sea of Galilee and visiting restored Jesus Boat. He writes of the insights he gained while visiting the Sea of Galilee and viewing the Jesus Boat.

(Agape Press) – Waves splash lightly against the hull, rocking our boat ever so gently on the placid waters. The only other sound is a hushed whisper as fellow pilgrims breathe quiet prayers. In the stillness, we realize that we are finally here, most of us for the first time, and probably most for the last. We concentrate, determined to create from this once-in-a-lifetime experience a memory that will be a part of us always.

It is the Sea of Galilee. For all the years I dreamed about traveling to Israel, this had been one of the experiences I most liked forward to, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. In reality, it’s only a huge lake, 13 miles long and seven wide. Jews may still call it by its ancient name, Kinneret, meaning “lyre,” which describes the shape of the lake. Before the Gospels dubbed it Sea of Galilee, it had been known as Lake Tiberias.

Tiberias is the Galilee’s only lake-side city. Almost 2000 years old, it is a city of some 40,000. One’s first glimpse of the Sea is breathtaking if approached from west of Tiberias, cresting a hill to discover a majestic panoramic view of the city scattered down steep slopes to water’s edge.

Elevation drops from 800 feet above sea level to about 700 feet below sea level at the sea.

Whatever one calls this body of water, its impact is overwhelming. On our morning journey, sun-washed faces turn heavenward, revealing emotions of peace, praise, prayer, petition. Tears flow. We are here, on the same lake where Jesus fished with his disciples, where he walked on water. In the distance are the shores where he fed the thousands, taught his followers and healed the sick. To be there was more than I had hoped for.

On a later tour, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism had arranged for our group of Christian journalists to visit the Galilee site where “The Ancient Boat” is being restored. Known also as “The Jesus Boat” and “The Galilee Boat,” this first-century fishing boat, 26.5 feet long and 7.5 feet wide, is a remarkable and rare archaeological find.

The outline of a boat was discovered immersed in mud on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in mid-January 1986. It was a time of severe drought when Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and members of Kibbutz Ginosar, made the discovery in an area that is almost always covered by water.

It is fortunate that the boat was buried in mud. “The mud had served as a protective agent, limiting decay and disintegration usually caused by the activity of bacteria and mold,” explained Dr. Orna Cohen, archaeologist in charge of preserving and restoring the boat. A two-day excavation process included forming a polyurethane foam shell in which to transport the small boat to a conservation pool of tiled reinforced concrete. Preservation continued there for several years, but today, the boat has a new permanent home at Yigal Allon Centre, adjacent to the grounds of Nof Ginosar, the Kibbutz hotel.

Data used to date the boat as early as the first centuryBC were gathered from carbon dating, analyzing the building techniques, and dating the other artifacts found at the same site. It is believed to have been the boat of poor fishermen, evidenced by the use of seven kinds of wood and the many obvious repairs.

It is important because it is one of the rare artifacts that actually date back to the time of Jesus. Most holy and historical sites in Israel cannot boast of original artifacts, or even of authentic location. Thus I stood in awe on the shore of Jesus’ lake, just realizing that I was looking at a boat that may have sailed the sea when Jesus was there.

Israel is again in drought, and the Sea is several feet below normal. The following morning, I rise early, sneak out alone and walk by the shoreline looking for my own discovery. “Wouldn’t that be something?” I think to myself. I can see the headline “American journalist finds boat that Jesus sailed.” Unfortunately, however, I find only an endless supply of sea shells.

Nonetheless, I will never forget the Sea of Galilee and the insights it gave me on Jesus, who calls us to become fishers of men.




Randall Murphee  The American Family Association Journal, August 30, 2000,

Randall Murphee, editor of American Family Association Journal (randall@afa.net) made his first trip to Israel in 1998 at the age 53. “I shouldn’t have waited so long,” he says. ….

King George, Virginia
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