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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Tiberias

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TIBERIAS . A town built by Herod (a.d. 16 22) on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (called the ‘Sea of Tiberias’ in John 6:1; John 21:1 , and in modern Arabic), and named in honour of the Roman Emperor. That it was erected over the site of an ancient graveyard (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant. XVIII. ii. 3) in itself proves that no city had previously existed here. This circumstance made it an unclean place to the Jews, and Herod was obliged to use force in order to people it with any but the lowest of the nation. It was designed entirely on Greek models, and the fact that it was in spirit and civilization entirely foreign is perhaps the reason why it is hardly alluded to in the Gospels the sole reference being John 6:23 . There is no evidence that it was ever visited by Christ. The city surrendered to Vespasian and by him was restored to Agrippa. After the fall of Jerusalem many of the Jews took up their abode in Tiberias, and by a strange reversal of fate this unclean city became a most important centre of Rabbinic teaching. Here lived Judah the Holy, editor of the Mishna. Here the ‘Jerusalem Talmud’ was compiled. In the neighbourhood are the tombs of ‘Aqiba and of Maimonides.

Constantine built a church and established a bishopric at Tiberias, but Christianity never flourished there. The Arabs seized it in a.d. 637; the Crusaders lost it to Saladin in 1187. The city was almost destroyed by a great earthquake in 1837. The principal objects of interest are the ruins of a large castle (possibly Herodian), a very ancient synagogue, and half an hour’s journey to the south the hot springs of Emmaus (the Hammath of Joshua 19:35 ), mentioned by Josephus and Pliny. The city is dirty, and proverbial for its vermin. There is a population of about 4000, more than half of whom are Jews, principally refugees from Poland. There is here an important mission of the United Free Church of Scotland.

For the ‘ Sea of Tiberias ,’ see Galilee [Sea of].

R. A. S. Macalister.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tiberias'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/t/tiberias.html. 1909.

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