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Historical Overview

Capernaum is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, about two miles west of the Jordan River. Kfar Nahum, the original name of small town, means “Naham’s village” in Hebrew, but there seems to be no concrete connection to the prophet named Nahum, although some people say that traditions indicate that this was Nahum’s birthplace.


From archeological evidence that has been found, it appears as if the town of Capernaum was established in the 2nd century BC during the Hasmonean period, which was after the Babylonian exile and the Jewish return from captivity. This town had up to 1500 residents, and is not mentioned by name in the Old Testament.


Capernaum is known as the Lord’s “Own City” since Jesus spent quite a bit of time ministering there. His ministry in the city actually fulfilled prophecy (Matt. 4:13-16...he came and dwelt in Capernaum...in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esais the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim...the people which sat in darkness saw a great light...)


Capernaum is second only to Jerusalem, as one of the places most frequently mentioned in the Gospels. There Jesus found his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Matthew 4:18–22). He taught there in the synagogue (John 6:24–59) and directed Peter to find a coin in the mouth of a fish with which to pay the tax-gatherers (Matthew 17:24–7). He also lodged there in Peter’s house, teaching and healing the sick (Mark 1:29–34; 2:1–12; Luke 4:38–44), such as raising Jarias’s daughter from the dead, healing the demonic, Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman with the issue of blood, the two blind men, the centurion’s servant, and the paralytic that was lowered through the roof.


Nevertheless, as Jesus left Capernaum, he condemned it—along with other cities (Chorazim & Bethsaidia)—for its spiritual indifference. They could take Him or leave Him; they were “ho hum” about Jesus. They didn’t listen to His calls for repentance (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15).


This was Peter’s hometown..In 1990, the Franciscans built an unusually-shaped modern church called “The Church of St. Peter” over the site of Peter’s house. The church has a hexagonal shape, and it is elevated on pillars and has a glass floor, so that visitors can still see the original church below.


The ruins of a great synagogue in Capernaum were first identified in 1866 during a survey by the British cartographer Captain Charles W. Wilson. It has been difficult to date, but most likely it was built around the beginning of the 3rd century AD. This was not the original synagogue that Jesus would have taught in, but most likely was built upon the same site as the first century synagogue.


The town’s prosperity was badly affected by an earthquake in 746 and never recovered. In the Crusader period, Capernaum was all but abandoned.

The site remained virtually abandoned until the Franciscans bought the land in the late 19th century. They raised a fence to protect the site, planted palms and eucalyptus trees from Australia to create an oasis for pilgrims, and built a small harbor. Most of the early excavations (1905-26) and restorations were conducted by Franciscans.


Biblical References

Matthew 4:13

Matthew 8:5

Matthew 11:23

Matthew 17:24

Mark 1:21

Mark 2:1

Mark 9:33



Luke 4:23

Luke 4:31

Luke 7:1

Luke 10:15

John 2:12

John 4:46

John 6:17

John 6:24

Location Detail

Discussion Points



North District, Israel



Sea of Galilee



32°52′52″N 35°34′30″E

-Why was this town destroyed

-This was Jesus hometown for his ministry

-It was a major Pharisaic center of learning

-The center of the Messiahs ministry


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