Tiberias (John 6)

Illustration: Modern day Tiberias

Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and the tetrarch of Galilee (Matthew 14:1, Luke 3:19), founded founded the city of Tiberias around A.D. 20. The city was named in honour of the Roman emperor Tiberius, who ruled from A.D. 14-37. Ancient Tiberias was located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee 3,2 km south of Magdala and 1,6 km north of the hot springs at Hammath. The site is commonly identified with a place called Khirbet Qunaytirah, which is actually north of modern Tiberias.

A lage number of tombs discovered there during the initial stages of its construction were cleared away and new buildings erected over them, but this act rendered the city unclean for pious Jews (cf. Numbers 19:16). As a result Herod was forced to populate the town with a mixture of Galileans, foreigners and freed slaves. According to Josephus, a continual settlement of the city was ensured through land and housing grants, as well as through the emancipation of great numbers of slaves who were freed with the obligation to live there (Josephus, Antiquities 18.2.3). Antipas built the city according to the Hellenistic-Roman conventions of his time, including within it a stadium, forum, public baths and a lavish royal palace adorned with animal statuary, which was offensive to Jews. Tiberias was thus a city that was thoroughly Gentile in atmosphere. But Antipas also constructed a large synagogue to accommodate its Jewish inhabitants. As Tiberias grew in importance as both an urban and an administrative centre, the Sea of Galilee became known as the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1, 21:1).

%d bloggers like this: