The ancient ruins of Capernaum lay on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. From the 2nd century BC to the 11th century AD, Capernaum was a vibrant village on the Via Maris highway—the main trade route connecting Damascus and Egypt. Its population was about 1,500, many of which were fisherman. Capernaum was a hub for much of Jesus’ life and ministry, which correlates with archeological findings onsite.
Jesus at Capernaum
In Matthew 4:19, Jesus moves from Nazareth to Capernaum; He intentionally makes this village His home, even though He was raised in Nazareth. This fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, which states that the land of Zebulun and Naphtali will see a great light (Isaiah 9:1-2)—Capernaum is within Naphtali’s boarders. In Matthew 9:1, Capernaum is called Jesus’ “own town,” reinforcing His connection to this village.
The disciples Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen who lived in Capernaum; here, Jesus calls them to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22). Jesus’ disciple Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum before Jesus called him in Matthew 9:9.
Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-22), and “healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mark 1:34). It was at Capernaum that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), as well as the paralytic who was let down through the roof (Mark 2:1-12).
Nonetheless, Jesus curses Capernaum in Matthew 11:23-24; He states that “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” This is because the people there did not accept Him as the Messiah nor recognize His miracles as the work of God.
A 4th-century AD synagogue, built of white limestone, was discovered at Capernaum. This synagogue is significant to Christians, since it is built on the black basalt foundations of a former synagogue from the time of Jesus. The white synagogue is in the exact airspace of the synagogue in which Jesus would have preached powerful sermons. It is open to visitors today.
House of Peter
Among the village ruins, archeologists discovered a home that was distinct from the others. This home is believed to be the home of Simon Peter, Jesus’ disciple. It is thought that, following Jesus’ death, this home became a place of worship; the walls were carved on in several different languages, and multiple architectural changes were made, making it unlike the other homes around. In the 5th century AD, a church was built over this home, commemorating it as a holy site. Today, there is a hexagonal Franciscan church over the site with a glass floor so visitors can see the original church and the traditional location of Peter’s home.