The "Sea of Galilee Boat"
(Matthew 8:23-27, 14:22-25; Luke 5:3; John 6:17)
The finding of the “Sea of Galilee Boat” is an amazing tale of vigilance, ingenuity, and persistence that led to the discovery of one of most significant finds for the Christian world. The story began with the dramatic recession of the Sea of Galilee in the nineteen-eighties. The recession exposed an ancient wooden boat lying at the bottom of the lake. Age tests found that it sailed in the Sea of Galilee in a period of special historical importance: between 50 BC. and 70 AD, the period in which Jesus was active in this region and in which the New Testament stories regarding his deeds and miracles in the Sea of Galilee took place. If so, then it was possible that this ancient wooden boat could be the “Jesus boat.” The discovery aroused great interest, not only because it was a historic artifact that fired the imagination, but also among botanists interested in the type of wood from which the boat was made.
The dramatic importance of the find made a number of agencies, led by the Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, combine forces to extract it from the water. Upon its removal to the beach, a lengthy preservation operation began, after which it was transferred to its permanent abode in the “Yigal Allon Center" in Kibbutz Ginossar, close to the place where it was found. It should be pointed out that despite the interest the boat has aroused in connection with Jesus' activities in the northern Galilee, the place has not become a “holy site” in the religious sense.
A Jesus boat is mentioned in the New Testament dozens of times to illustrate the deeds of Jesus in the northern Galilee and the miracles that took place there, described in the Gospel of Matthew:
“…And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him: And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep: And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save, Lord; we are perishing.': And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm: And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?'”
Questions were asked about the kind of trees from which the fishermen of the Sea of Galilee built their boats in the first century AD. Botanical scientists who examined the remains of the boat made the discovery that the boat builders were highly skilled. They learned that the construction was carefully planned, and twelve different types of wood were used for different parts of the boat. Most of the planks for the shell were made from Lebanese cedar. The ribs of the boat were made from oak, and ten other types of wood were used in its construction, including pine, carob, the Judas tree, the plane tree, the sycamore, the willow, the hawthorn, the jujube, the laurel, and the Atlantic pistacia (or terebinth). Today these trees, with their names inscribed, line a boulevard leading to the museum.
The planks that make up the skeleton of the boat and which are the strongest and most durable component of the boat, are from the trunks of the tree considered the sturdiest of the trees in the land of Israel, the oak. It has a special significance for Christian believers as a symbol of Jesus' strength, and in Ginossar this tree gained additional importance as a building material for a boat in which Jesus sailed and from which he performed miracles. The gall oak is the largest kind of oak in Israel. It is an impressive tree with a wide treetop, and it can reach a height of forty feet or more. Because of this characteristic, in comparison to other types of oak trees, and although there is no clear indication of the type of oak from which the boat was fashioned, it can be assumed that the oak in question is the ”gall oak."