Fishing in New Testament times (Luke 5)

Fishing was an important part of the Galilean economy, as reflected in place-names like Bethsaida (“House of Fish”) and Tarichea (“Preserved Fish Town”). The major types of fish in the Sea of Galilee would have been tilapia, carp and sardines. Much of that catch would have been dried for sale or manufactured into fish sauce and imported throughout the Mediterranean world. Fishing was thus embedded in the larger economy of the Roman Empire.

In 1986 a fishing boat from the time of Jesus was discovered on the Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Largely made of cedar and oak, the boat measured 8 m long, 2,3 m wide and 1,4 m deep. It could hold approximately one ton – either five crew members and the catch or the crew and ten passengers. The fishermen could have used a large dragnet, which might have been 30 m long, or a circular casting net approximately 5,7-8 m in diameter. A hook and line might also have been employed. Galilean fishermen were most often employees or partners in small, family-run business cooperatives. Storms were a real danger in that they could come in quickly off the Mediterranean through the wind tunnel formed by the Arbel Pass.

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