One man told his brother, “The Sea of Galilee will give us a treasure one day.” Turns out, he was right. In 1986, Yuval and Moshe Lufan, two sons of a fisherman in Kibbutz Ginosar, were walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
(Photo: Yuval and Moshe Lufan beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Jesus Boat)
The drought that year dropped the level of the lake lower than the men had seen in years. One brother noticed something odd protruding from the mud.
It was an ancient nail. As he poked around with his finger, he found another one. Then another. More digging unearthed pieces of ancient wood.
While they didn’t realize it at the moment, they had discovered a fishing boat that dated to the time of Jesus.
The Ancient Boat’s Excavation
The necessary permits obtained, archaeologists set to work excavating the vessel. The manner of construction revealed a boat typical of the first century.
Assembled with mortise-and-tenon joinery, the boat was built from oak as well as the resilient cedars of Lebanon—wood highly impervious to rot.
The construction, the nearby pottery, and three independent carbon 14 dating examinations revealed that the boat dates from 100 BC to AD 70.
Apparently, the original owners of the boat salvaged what they needed before scuttling the boat beneath the waves.
(Photo: Excavating the ancient boat. Courtesy of the Jesus Boat)
A Race Against Time and Elements
Archaeologists dug a trench around the remains while keeping the wood moist by spraying it with water. If the soft, spongy timbers dried out, they would disintegrate. After bracing the boat with fiberglass, excavators sprayed on polyurethane foam that hardened around each crevice of the craft. Once dry, the foam served to support the fragile vessel as well as allow it to float.
Archaeologists flooded the trench, and the boat floated on the Sea of Galilee for the first time in two thousand years.
(Photo: Floating the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Jesus Boat)
The process of preserving the boat occurred over the course of several years. Scientists soaked a synthetic wax into the pores of the planks. The wax stopped any further deterioration that would occur as the wood contacted the air.
A Museum for the Boat
Visitors can see this amazing find today in a state-of-the-art museum named in honor of the late Yigal Allon—a minister for Israel’s government, a Palmach officer, and a founding member of Kibbutz Ginosar.
The museum tells the story of the boat’s discovery through a video presentation, photos and descriptions, as well as a scale model of how the boat would have appeared in its prime.
The ancient boat itself, along with the pottery and nails, sits on display, ready for visitors to enjoy at Nof Ginosar.
A small snack bar offers ice cream and sodas for visitors, and the gift shop sells art photos, Christian wall hangings, movies, music, audio books, Messianic gifts, and books. I purchased my copy of O Jerusalem! there.
Many people may not know that the museum also offers the Israeli Armed Forces important studies and analyses related to military strategies, including awareness of current and future threats to the security of Israel. In addition, the museum serves as the office and laboratory for the Bethsaida Excavations Project.
(Photo: Inside the Yigal Allon Museum at Nof Ginosar, home of the Jesus Boat. Courtesy of the Jesus Boat)
Is this the “Jesus Boat”?
Because the ancient boat dates from the time of Jesus, some have sensationally dubbed the vessel, “The Jesus Boat.” Indeed, the seven- by twenty-six foot vessel could have held up to fifteen individuals, and it offers visitors a firsthand look the kind of boat Jesus and His twelve disciples would have sailed.
The Bible refers to boats of this kind playing a major role in the ministry of Jesus, with more than a half-dozen references in Mark’s gospel alone (Mark 1:19; 3:9; 4:1; 4:36–37; 5:2; 5:18; 6:32; 6:45–51; 8:10–14).
The Jesus Boat Foundation is developing a 900-seat indoor theater at the museum that will feature a dramatic multimedia presentation of Jesus’ Galilean ministry.
One of the finest archaeological discoveries in Israel, the Nof Ginosar “Jesus Boat” remains a must-see for any visit to the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus used a boat like this in a violent storm to teach His disciples to apply the lesson they learned with the multiplication of the loaves (Mark 6:35-52). In our inadequacies—whether storms or a lack of bread or lack in ministry—Jesus is the resource we should draw from in order to have ample need.