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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Bethsaida, Israel

Geography: Table of Contents | Kfar Saba | Shilo

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BETHSAIDA (Heb. בֵּית צַיָּדָא, Bet Zayyada), fishing village that was situated on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee near the mouth of the Jordan River in the Second Temple period. Philip the son of Herod ( *Herod ) Phillipus renamed it Julias in 30 C.E. in honor of Livia-Julia, the wife of the emperor Augustus and mother of Tiberius. It was Philip's second capital and he was buried there in 34 C.E. (Jos., Ant., 18:28, 108; Wars, 2:168; 3:515; Life, 398; cf. Pliny, Historia Naturalis 5:15). *Nero later presented it to *Agrippa II . The city is mentioned several times in the New Testament (Matt. 11:21; John 1:44, Luke 10:13, etc.) in accounts of visits of *Jesus and his disciples to villages on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and as the birthplace of the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip. It was the place to which Jesus withdrew on hearing of John the Baptist's death (Luke 9:10). It is also mentioned by Eusebius (Onom. 58:11) and the sixth-century pilgrim Theodosius (ch. 2, ed. Geyer). In the 19th century scholars suggested identifying Bethsaida with the site of et-Tell, a large mound situated inland and not far from where the Jordan flows into Lake Kinneret. Sixteenth-century travelers reported a Jewish fishing village there. The explorer Schumacher suggested the alternative sites of el-Araj, not far from the mouth of the Jordan River, and el-Mesadiyeh, an additional ruin located to the southeast of el-Araj. New excavations were commenced by Rami Arav and his associates at the site of et-Tell, bringing to light significant remains of settlements from Early Bronze I and II, as well as the remains of a well-fortified Iron Age II city with a well preserved gate with a carved stele and a large public building of bit hilani type. Impressive remains of a Hellenistic period fishing village were uncovered at the site as well as poorly preserved remains dating from the time of Jesus, with some pottery and stone vessels. Stone looting occurred at the site during later periods.


Alt, in: PJB, 27 (1931), 40; Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (1907), 208; Avi-Yonah, Land, 105; Press Ereẓ, 1 (1951), 99; G. Schille, in: ZDPV, 73 (1957), 142. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C.C. McCowen, "The Problem of the Site of Bethsaida," in: Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, 10 (1930): 32–58; A. Kindler, "The Coins of the Tetrarch Phillipus, Son of Herod I, and the Renaming of Bethsaida/Julias," in: Cathedra, 53 (1989): 24–26; R. Arav, Bethsaida. A City by the Shore of the Sea of Galilee (1995).

[Michael Avi-Yonah / Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.


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