Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology

 

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"THEN HE ORDERED THE CROWDS TO SIT DOWN ON THE GRASS.  
TAKING THE FIVE LOAVES AND THE TWO FISH, HE LOOKED UP
TO HEAVEN AND BLESSED AND BROKE THE LOAVES...”
MATTHEW 14:19
              
                        

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's feed 5,000 at Tabgha

Over Christmas last year, while spending five nights at the Tabgha Pilgrims Guest House, I discovered the last rustic “undeveloped” spot along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Where you can almost hear the call to the fishermen and smell the two fish and five barley loaves.

Just south of the Tabgha church with the most-photographed mosaic in the country is a wooded area with overgrown pathways and huge distinctive basalt stones framed by tiny pebbles.  Perch yourself upon a flat rock and face the sea – it’s a perfect place to contemplate “the call” to the disciples, study the feeding of the 5,000, write poetry, or pray.

Tabgha area by the Sea of Galilee

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Along the Sea of Galilee south of the Benedictine Tabgha church

You are sitting at Tabgha, an Arabic corruption of the Greek name Heptapegon, which means seven springs.  The feeding of the 5,000 has been commemorated in this fertile valley since the fourth century when the Byzantines built the first small chapel. This was probably the shrine described by a Spanish (or French) pilgrim named Egeria who traveled solo throughout the Holy Land for three years in the 380s AD.  Egeria wrote to her network of female friends back home,

"In the same place (not far from Capernaum) facing the Sea of Galilee is a well watered land in which lush grasses grow, with numerous trees and palms.  Nearby are seven springs which provide abundant water.  In this fruitful garden Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  The stone upon which the Master placed the bread became an altar.  The many pilgrims to the site broke off pieces of it as a cure for their ailments."

Tabgha is named for 7 springs

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

5 of the springs at Tabgha are still active

The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels, yet each gospel places the event in a slightly different setting.  In Matthew there are no hints as to location.  Jesus is in a solitary place and the crowds leave the towns to come to him.  The disciples with him suggest that because of the late hour, he send the crowds to the villages to buy food. Then after the miracle, Jesus dismisses the crowds and goes up to the mountain by himself to pray. (Matthew 14)

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in a deserted place where the disciples and people from the towns hurried to him.  People sit down in groups on the green grass which tells us the event takes place before Passover when the rain ceases.  Afterwards Jesus orders his disciples to get into the boat and go ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, on the northern shore. (Mark 6)
Luke chapter 9 places the miracle by Bethsaida and in John chapter 6, Jesus turns to Philip, a native of Bethsaida, and asks, “Where shall we buy bread for such a large crowd?”  This suggests that the multitude may have gathered in an area close to Bethsaida.  After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus withdrew alone to the mountain and the disciples “crossed” the sea to Capernaum.
Although the geography is seemingly contradictory, the miracle itself is identical in each gospel: it’s a lonely place; the hour is late; the people are hungry; five barley loaves and two fish are offered up by the crowd; 5,000 men plus women and children eat; 12 baskets are filled with leftovers.

The quiet untouched wooded area of Tabgha with its bubbling springs creates an authentic setting where the pastor or teacher can give meaning and relevance to the calling of the disciples and the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
If you are Catholic and have a priest in your group, ask your tour leader to arrange a mass at the outdoor Benedictine site at Tabgha, right by the sea.  It will touch your spirit.

If not, there is another option.  If you enjoy a steamy hot shower, yet willing to forgo TV, the Tabgha Pilgerhaus offers simple, comfortable accommodations, and an atmosphere conducive to study, thought, prayer and fellowship.  Over three decades of guiding, I have stayed in every major and minor hotel in Tiberias, including those which have changed their names five times.  I’ve also lodged on the western, eastern and southern shores and slopes of the sea.  This is my favorite.

Copyright 2010, 2015 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Gila Yudkin, a Connecticut-born Yankee living in King David’s Court, is always on the lookout for authentic natural sites to celebrate gospel events and miracles.  Gila is also on the lookout for groups thirsty for biblical insight, archeological anecdotes and old-fashioned fun.  She wishes she could take a time journey back to Galilee in Egeria’s time in the fourth century, or better yet, to the Galilee of the first century.

Fish and loaves mosaic at Tabgha Benedictine church

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Basket of loaves and two fish:  most photographed mosaic in the holy land

Rainbow over the Sea of Galilee by the Primacy Church, Tabgha

Photo courtesy of Jane Ben Ari

Rainbow over the Sea of Galilee at Tabgha

Catholic Church of the Primacy, Tabgha

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Jesus says to Peter, "Feed my sheep," John 21

Read what archeology has revealed about Bethsaida in the time of Jesus.
 

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"Let's feed 5,000 at Tabgha" (as text without the photos) is one in the series of free quarterly e-letters sent on request to tour leaders, pastors, clergy, teachers, Bible students, colleagues and friends.  If you'd like to receive "Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights" please contact Gila. 

 

More on Jesus' public ministry:
 

Let's focus on Jesus' Ministry from Mount Arbel

Let's gather by Bethsaida's city gate

Let's orient ourselves to Jesus' Jerusalem

Mt Arbel / Galilean ministry

Walk 1st C AD Bethsaida

Model of 1st C AD Jerusalem

 

Let's imagine the Passover from Pilate' Praetorium

Let's ramble through Hippos, a Decapolis city

Let's consider whether Jesus ever visited Sepphoris

Pilate's Praetorium   

Hippos / Decapolis city

Sepphoris / hypocrites   

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin