The Galilee Boat is a first century fishing vessel discovered on the shoreline of Genesar, a few miles south of Capernaum. This artifact, also known as the “Jesus Boat,” puts the Gospel accounts on the Sea of Galilee into better context.
In 1986, during a major drought on the Sea of Galilee, two brothers noticed a large oval shape in the muddy shoreline. Representatives of Israel’s Department of Antiquities checked it out and confirmed that it was the remains of an ancient fishing vessel.
What happened next was remarkable. Working around the clock, the Galilee Boat was exhumed from the mud over an eleven-day-period in a painstaking process that preserved the fragile remains. The boat was wrapped in a polyurethane shell and then immersed in a special tank of water. Over a period of years, the rotten wood was replaced with a special wax, underwater. Ultimately, through a process of gradually raising the water temperature over a period of many months, the wax-filled shell was removed from the tank and placed on display at the Galilee Boat Museum in Genesar.
Multiple studies have dated the Galilee Boat – or “Jesus Boat” — in the range of 100 BC to 100 AD. The structure and features of the Galilee Boat are consistent with the fishing boats mentioned throughout the Gospel accounts and depicted in ancient artwork of the period. A famous first-century mosaic corroborates the first-century design of the Galilee Boat, including the four oars, a rudder, and a small mast. A crew of six or more was common.
Storms can form very quickly and unexpectedly from the higher elevations on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Within minutes, the lake can produce 6-foot waves that could easily swamp a first century Galilean boat. In the Gospel of Mark, we read about Jesus and some of his followers that got caught in one of these storms.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”