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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
Sea of Galilee
A lake in Palestine consisting of an expansion of the Jordan, on the latitude of Mt. Carmel. It is 13 m. long, 8 m. broad, 64 sq. m. in area, 680 ft. below the level of the Mediterranean, and, according to Merrill and Barrois (who have corrected the excessive depth said to have been found by Lortet at the northern end), 150 ft. in maximum depth. It is pear-shaped, the narrow end pointing southward. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is called the Sea of Chinnereth or Chinneroth (probably derived from a town of the same name mentioned in Joshua xi. 2 and elsewhere; the etymology that connects it with ?i??, "a harp," is very doubtful.) In Josephus and the book of Maccabees it is named Gennesar; while in the Gospels it is usually called Sea of Galilee, though once it is called Lake of Gennesaret (Luke v. i) and twice Sea of Tiberias (John vi. 1, xxi. 1). The modern Arabic name is Bahr Tubariya, which is often rendered "Lake of Tiberias." Pliny refers to it as the Lake of Taricheae.
Like the Dead Sea it is a "rift" lake, being part of the great fault that formed the Jordan-Araba depression. Deposits show that originally it formed part of the great inland sea that filled this depression in Pleistocene times. The district on each side of the lake has a number of hot springs, at least one of which is beneath the sea itself, and has always shown indications of volcanic and other subterranean disturbances. It is especially liable to earthquakes. The water of the sea, though slightly brackish and not very clear, is generally used for drinking. The shores are for the greater part formed of fine gravel; some yards from the shore the bed is uniformly covered with fine greyish mud. The temperature in summer is tropical, but after noon falls about to F. owing to strong north-west winds. This range of temperature affects the water to a depth. of about 49 ft.; below that depth the water is uniformly about 59Â° F. The sea is set deep in hills which rise on the east side to a height of about 2000 ft. Sudden and violent storms (such as are described in Matt. viii. 23, xiv. 22, and the parallel passages) are often produced by the changes of temperature in the air resulting from these great differences of level.
The Sea of Galilee is best seen from the top of the western precipices. It presents a desolate appearance. On the north the hills rise gradually from the shore, which is fringed with oleander bushes and indented with small bays. The ground is here covered with black basalt. On the west the plateau known as Sahel el-Ahma terminates in precipices 1700 ft. above the lake, and over these the black rocky tops called "the Horns of Hattin" are conspicuous objects. On the south is a broad valley through which the Jordan flows. On the east are furrowed and rugged slopes, rising to the great plateau of the Jaulan (Gaulonitis). The Jordan enters the lake through a narrow gorge between lower hills. A marshy plain, 22 m. long and i z broad, called el-Batihah, exists immediately east of the Jordan inlet. There is also on the west side of the lake a small plain called el-Ghuweir, formed by the junction of three large valleys. It measures 31 m. along the shore, and is i m. wide. This plain, naturally fertile, but now almost uncultivated, is supposed to be the plain of Gennesareth, described by Josephus (B. J. iii. 10, 8). On the east the hills approach in one place within 40 ft. of the water, but there is generally a width of about 4 of a mile from the hills to the beach. On the west the flat ground at the foot of the hills has an average width of about 200 yds. A few scattered palms dot the western shores, and a palm grove is to be found near Kefr Harib on the south-east. The hot baths south of Tiberias include seven springs, the largest of which has a temperature of 137Â° F. In these springs a distinct rise in temperature was observed in 1837, when Tiberias and Safed were destroyed by an earthquake. The plain of Gennesareth, with its environs, is the best-watered part of the lakebasin. North of this plain are the five springs of et-Tabighah, the largest of which was enclosed about a century ago in an octagonal reservoir by `Ali, son of Dhahr el-Amir, and the water led off by an aqueduct 52 ft. above the lake. The Tabighah springs, though abundant, are warm and brackish. At the north end of the plain is `Ain et-Tineh ("spring of the fig-tree"), also a brackish spring with a good stream; south of the plain is `Ain el-Bardeh ("the cold spring"), which is sweet, but scarcely lower in temperature than the others. One of the most important springs is `Ain el-Madawwera ("the round spring"), situated 1 m. from the south end of the plain and half a mile from the shore. The water rises in a circular well 32 ft. in diameter, and is clear and sweet, with a temperature of 73 Â° F. The bottom is of loose sand, and the fish called coracinus by Josephus (B.J. iii. 10, 8) is here found (see below). Dr Tristram was the first explorer to identify this fish, and on account of its presence suggested the identification of the "round spring" with the fountain of Capharnaum, which, according to Josephus, watered the plain of Gennesareth. There is, however, a difficulty in this identification; there are no ruins at `Ain el-Madawwera.
Fauna and Flora
For half the year the hillsides are bare and steppe-like, but in spring are clothed with a subtropical vegetation. Oleanders flourish round the lake, and the large papyrus grows at `Ain et-Tin as well as at the mouth of the Jordan. The lake swarms with fish, which are caught with nets by a gild of fishermen, whose boats are the only representatives of the many ships and boats which plied on the lake as late as the 10th century. Fishing was a lucrative industry at an early date, and the Jews ascribed the laws regulating it to Joshua. The fish, which were classed as clean and unclean, the good and bad of the parable (Matt. xiii. 47, 48), belong to the genera Chromis, Barbus, Capoeta, Discognathus, Nemachilus, Blennius and Clarias; and there is a great affinity between them and the fish of the East African lakes and streams. There are eight species of Chromis, most of which hatch their eggs and raise their young in the buccal cavities of the males. The Chromis simonis is popularly supposed to be the fish from which Peter took the piece of money (Matt. xvii. 27). Clarias macracanthus (Arab. Burbur ) is the coracinus of Josephus. It was found by Lortet in the springs of `Ain el-Madawwera, `Ain et-Tineh and `Ain et-Tabighah, on the lake shore where muddy, and in Lake Huleh. It is a scaleless, snake-like fish, often nearly 5 ft. long, which resembles the C. anguillaris of Egypt. From the absence of scales it was held by the Jews to be unclean, and some commentators suppose it to be the serpent of Matt. vii. 10 and Luke xi. i 1. Large numbers of grebes - great crested, eared, and little, - gulls and pelicans frequent the lake. On its shores are tortoises, mud-turtles, crayfish and innumerable sand-hoppers; and at varying depths in the lake several species of Melania, Melanopsis, Neritina, Corbicula and Unio have been found.
The principal sites of interest round the lake may be enumerated from north to west and from south to east. Kerazeh, the undoubted site of Chorazin, stands on a rocky spur 900 ft. above the lake, 2 m. north of the shore. Foundations and scattered stones cover the slopes and the flat valley below. On the west is a rugged gorge. In the middle of the ruins are the scattered remains of a synagogue of richly ornamental style built of black basalt. A small spring occurs on the north. Tell Hum (as the name is generally spelt, though Talliam would probably be preferable for several reasons) is an important ruin on the shore, south of the last-mentioned site. The remains consist of foundations and piles of stones (in spring concealed by gigantic thistles) extending about half a mile along the shore. The foundations of a fine synagogue, measuring 75 ft. by 57, and built in white limestone, have been excavated. A conspicuous building has been erected close to the water, from the fragments of the Tell Hum synagogue. Since the 4th century Tell Hum has been pointed out by all the Christian writers of importance as the site of Capernaum. Some modern geographers question this identification, but without sufficient reason (see Capernaum). Minyeh is a ruined site at the north end of the plain of Gennesareth, 22 m. from the last, and close to the shore. There are extensive ruins on flat ground, consisting of mounds and foundations. Masonry of well-dressed stones has also been here discovered in course of excavation. Near the ruins are remains of an old khan, which appears to have been built in the middle ages. This is another suggested identification for Capernaum; but all the remains belong to the Arab period. Between Tell Hum and Minyeh is Tell `Oreimeh, the site of a forgotten Amorite city.
South of the supposed plain of Gennesareth is Mejdel, commonly supposed to represent the New Testament town of Magdala. A few lotus trees and some rock-cut tombs are here found beside a miserable mud hamlet on the hill slope, with a modern tombhouse (kubbeh). Passing beneath rugged cliffs a recess in the hills is next reached, where stands Tubariya, the ancient Tiberias or Rakkath, containing 3000 inhabitants, more than half of whorl: are Jews. The walls, flanked with round towers, but partly destroyed by the earthquake of 1837, were built by Dhahr el-Amir, as was the court-house. The two mosques, now partly ruinous, were erected by his sons. There are remains of a Crusaders' church, and the tomb of the celebrated Maimonides is shown in the town, while Rabbi Agiba and Rabbi Meir lie buried outside. The ruins of the ancient city, including granite columns and traces of a sea-wall with towers, stretch southwards a mile beyond the modern town. An aqueduct in the cliff once brought water a distance of 9 m. from the south.
Kerak, at the south end of the lake, is an important site on a peninsula surrounded by the water of the lake, by the Jordan, and by a broad water ditch, while on the north-west a narrow neck of land remains. The plateau thus enclosed is partly artificial, and banked up 50 or 60 ft. above the water. A ruined citadel remains on the north-west, and on the east was a bridge over the Jordan; broken pottery and fragments of sculptured stone strew the site. The ruin of Kerak answers to the description given by Josephus of the city of Taricheae, which lay 30 stadia from Tiberias, the hot baths being between the two cities. Taricheae was situated, as is Kerak, on the shore below the cliffs, and partly surrounded by water, while before the city was a plain (the Ghor). Pliny further informs us that Taricheae was at the south end of the Sea of Galilee. Sinn en-Nabreh, a ruin on a spur of the hills close to the last-mentioned site, represents the ancient Sennabris, where Vespasian (Josephus, B.J. iii. 9, 7) fixed his camp, advancing from Scythopolis (Beisen) on Taricheae and Tiberias. Sennabris was 30 stadia from Tiberias, or about the distance of the ruin now existing.
The eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee have been less fully explored than the western, and the sites are not so perfectly recovered. The site of Hippos, one of the cities of Decapolis, is fixed by Clermont-Ganneau at Khurbet Susieh. Kalat el-Hosn ("castle of the stronghold") is a ruin on a rocky spur opposite Tiberias. Two large ruined buildings remain, with traces of an old street and fallen columns and capitals. A strong wall once surrounded the town; a narrow neck of land exists on the east where the rock has been scarped. Rugged valleys enclose the site on the north and south; broken sarcophagi and rock-cut tombs are found beneath the ruin. This site is not identified; the suggestion that it is Gamala is doubtful, and not borne out by Josephus (War, iv. 1, 1), who says Gamala was over against Taricheae. Kersa, an insignificant ruin north of the last, is thought to represent the Gerasa or Gergesa of the 4th century, situated east of the lake; and the projecting spur of hill south of this ruin is conjectured to be the place where the swine "ran violently down a steep place" (Matt. viii. 32).
(C. R. C.; C. W. W.; R. A. S. M.)
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sea of Galilee'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/s/sea-of-galilee.html. 1910.