1986 during a drought that caused the waters of the Sea of Galilee to significantly recede, a wooden vessel, dating from the first century when Christ walked those same shores, was discovered near Nof Ginosar on the Sea of Galilee’s northwestern shore. Studies have determined the type of wood as cedar and oak, the style of construction as mortise and tenon joints, and the size as 26 by 7 feet – big enough for 15 men.
1st Century Life
Boats such as this played an important role in Jesus’ ministry and the life of His disciples and these boats are referenced at least 50 times in the Gospels. While this particular boat may have functioned as a ferry boat or a fishing boat, its measurements fit the Gospel description of boats used by first century Galilean fisherman employing a seine, or dragnet “cast into the sea;” i.e. Matthew 13: 47 – 48 and Mark 6: 45 – 56. Although there is no evidence connecting Jesus or His disciples to the boat, it is appealing to think that Jesus could have seen this boat sailing or being used by fishermen on the lake even if He didn’t actually step foot in it!
Two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, discovered what has become known as “The Jesus Boat” in the muddy shores of the Sea of Galilee between the towns of Ginosar and Migdal. The brothers, second generation fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar, grew up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and were constantly looking for reminders of the past on the water’s edge. Members of Kibbutz Ginosar, the Antiquities Authority and many volunteers took part in the archaeological dig which lasted 12 days and nights and raised the boat from its muddy resting place.
Everyone involved with this incredible Galilee Boat knew that a great treasure had been found and that she needed to be excavated and preserved immediately. Adding to the urgency was the fact that the boat, conclusively dated to the first century AD, had been underwater for 2000 years and there would need to be special precautions taken in order to bring the “Jesus Boat” out of the mud and into the light of day. When they had uncovered the boat enough to take a good look at it, it was clear that the timbers were extremely waterlogged. The hull of the boat looked, at first glance, to be in fairly decent shape, but the wood had a soggy, spongy and crumbly texture to it. If one were to touch the wood, it would feel like wet cardboard, barely holding together. The condition of the boat made this work more of a rescue than an excavation, and the seemingly impossible race against the clock was won even though there were major political, personal and scientific conflicts in addition to shortages of money and manpower. Workable rescue solutions were put into place as cooperation and assistance was rendered continuously from kibbutz members, workers, sponsors, and government agencies.
As you visit the Kibbutz Ginosar and the museum that holds the “Jesus Boat,” and see exactly how the boat was preserved and saved, one thing stands out: If this boat had been discovered even thirty years earlier than 1986, the basic scientific knowledge necessary to rescue and permanently preserve this boat would not have existed. Once again we can see God’s timing and provision in everything, for despite the odds, this 2,000 year-old boat, that had laid waiting for so long in the mud, was preserved for us to see today and that is a miracle.