Farms, Shepherds, and the Cycle of Life

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My favorite image of Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). I’ve never come close to laying down my life to save our sheep from wolves or coyotes. I don’t camp outside with them in a desert, or lead them for miles to find food and water. But I do care deeply for these gentle creatures. In their quiet acceptance of God’s Will—just being what they are—they teach me to trust that “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23), no matter what.

Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi: An Urban Legend?

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Some months ago, pastor-blogger Trevin Wax posted an article called “Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition.” There he lists several “urban legends” that he’s heard floating around lately in sermons. Like Internet rumors that people forward on ad infinitum, these preaching illustrations don’t have much grounding in fact.

The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century

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The prevailing opinion among New Testament scholars is that first-century Galilee was culturally and spiritually deprived, and that, therefore, Jesus came from an underdeveloped and backward Jewish region of the land of Israel. Professor Safrai here presents massive evidence against this view.

Let the One Who Has Ears to Hear, “Hear!”

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Gospel parables are probably the most widely identifiable teaching form of Jesus. However, readers seldom recognize Jesus’ sophisticated skill as a first-century Jewish parabolist. Indeed, many Christians are unaware that his use of story parables is one of the strongest links between Jesus and contemporary Jewish piety. His parables also demonstrate that Jesus taught in Hebrew.

Gergesa: Site of the Demoniac’s Healing

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The recent discovery of many of the ancient harbors that ringed the Sea of Galilee is an exciting chapter in Sea of Galilee research. One of these harbors is located at Kursi, ancient Gergesa. In this article, Mendel Nun contends that the demoniac’s healing and the miracle of the swine took place at Gergesa, not Gadara or Gerasa.

Sea of Galilee Museum Opens Its Doors

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Kibbutz Ein Gev member Mendel Nun (1918-2010) devoted most of his adult life to studying ancient fishing on the Sea of Galilee, and was the foremost authority on this subject. With the opening of Beit Ha-Oganim, Nun realized his dream of establishing a museum that not only would house his collection of antiquities, but also instill in others his love for the Sea of Galilee and its history.

The Appearance of Jesus: Hairstyles and Beards in Bible Times

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No one knows for sure how Jesus looked in the eyes of his contemporaries. However, there is evidence that suggests the hair of Jesus may have been rather short—black or dark in color—and his beard closely trimmed.

A Friend of Tax Collectors

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Rabbinic literature in general, both early and late, has little good to say about tax collectors, and considers them to be blatant sinners. The tax collectors spoken of in the gospels served a foreign government that did not have the manpower to execute the enormous task of gathering taxes in all the provinces of their far-flung empire. Their fellow Jews in the province of Judea saw tax collectors as collaborators who enabled the Romans to continue to impose their conquest over the land of Israel.

Fish, Storms and a Boat

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Adam gave names only to animals and birds, apparently avoiding fish entirely. The names of about fifty fish are mentioned in rabbinic literature, but the Torah merely makes a general distinction between clean fish, which Jews are permitted to eat (vertebrate), and unclean (without bones). Clean fish are generally recognized by the presence of fins and scales.

“Let Down Your Nets”

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In this article Sea of Galilee fishing expert, Mendel Nun, discusses the different types of fishing nets that were used in the first century by fishermen. Nun’s knowledge of ancient fishing techniques illuminates the stories of Jesus and his followers, many of whom were fishermen.

A Life on the Kinneret

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For the last four decades, Mendel Nun has produced a steady stream of articles, monographs and books about the Sea of Galilee. Ancient harbors, water levels and fishing techniques are just a few of the subjects detailed in Nun’s work. His research has focused largely on the lake in late antiquity, and his 1964 book, “Ancient Jewish Fisheries” [in Hebrew], won the prestigious Ben-Zvi Prize.

The Traveling Teacher

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Jewish teachers of first-century Israel lacked the sophisticated methods of mass communication we have today. Consequently, the sages of Jesus’ day spent much of their time traveling throughout the country, much like the biblical prophets, to communicate their teachings and interpretations of Scripture.