➡ Average Reading Time: 2 minutes The above link Kingdom Introduction is a popup created with Popup Builder. It does not have any Bible references in it.   The text below has three Bible references at the end of the paragraph. Place your cursor over any of them and a popup will occur. These popops are generated by RefTagger. 

This is a popup click This is a popup hover

In history, the kingdom of God has been interpreted many ways. Here are a few examples:

  • C. H. Dodd held that the kingdom of God was realized fully in the ministry of Jesus. The kingdom of God is an earthly place where there is righteousness, peace, and joy. These are the benefits for those who live yielded lives to the rule of the Spirit. The kingdom as a present reality is based on such passages as Matthew 12.28; Romans 14.17; and Isa. 2.4.
  • A second way the kingdom is viewed is that it is a place of future blessing, which occurs at the Second Coming, for the people of God (1 Cor. 15.50; Matt. 8.11; 2 Pet. 1.11; Matt. 25.34). The followers of Jesus enter the kingdom when he returns. The coming kingdom would bring about an end to the old order of humanity and begin a new existence in a heavenly order. Thus, the kingdom is altogether future and supernatural. Its basic proponent was Albert Schweitzer.
  • Adolph Von Harnack suggested another theory. For him, the kingdom was reduced to a subjective realm. It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Rom. 14.17). The kingdom is expressed by the new birth (John 3.3) and is an inward power which enters into the human spirit and takes hold of it.
  • Another view of the kingdom of God was created by St. Augustine. He believed that the kingdom and the church were the same things. This view is still common as suggested by our current language. We talk about bringing people into the kingdom, which is a synonym for church. He believed that as the church grew, so the kingdom grew. As the church takes the gospel into the world, the kingdom is extended.
  • Still other views emphasize: that the kingdom of God should be likened to the governments and nations of the world (Rev. 11.15); that the kingdom is a realm into which one must enter now (Matt. 21.31); the kingdom is a realm into which one must enter tomorrow (Matt. 8.11); the kingdom is at the same time a gift of God given in the future (Luke 12.32), and a gift which must be received in the present (Mark 10.15).
  • Finally, a disturbing view of the kingdom, was created by the Latter Rain movement. This belief system can be described by a Kingdom Now mindset or Dominion Theology. This theological belief about the kingdom is dangerous in the mind of the writer and should be avoided.

Popups generated by PopupBuilder

 The popups below have blue text with no underline indicating a link. Clicking the link will presently take you to the page where the underlined text is located. I understand from your communication this should be fixed with the additional of your upgrades (Silver/Gold/Platinum. The code for these popups is in ticket_97o84B5N6qR61Kt2. 

Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.

Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)



Guide Yourself into a Kingdom of God Mindset in 13 Readings, which covers a matrix through which you can view the writings of the New Testament about the subject matter of the kingdom of God. You can enjoy this material completely in just 13 readings. Of course, you can take all the time you want, say 13 Days or 13 Weeks. It's up to you. To get the most from your reading, it is important that you read the biblical text along with it. The New International Version (NIV: Electronic Version 2011) is the text on which the studies are built.

The first section of each reading is called Observing the Text, which is an introduction to the section that is being read. Next, you will encounter Interpreting the Text, which suggests an interpretation of the section your are reading. Then, there is Living into the Text, which suggests questions, which may help you live into the text. This final section BibleInfoResources!, provides you with some articles that may interest you. After all, the text of Scripture was originally written for a community of Yahweh or Jesus followers to help them in their pursuit of God. The text was never meant to be for the accumulation of personal knowledge. Of course, the Holy Spirit is the final word for living your life and for the life of a community of Jesus followers. Listen to what he may be saying to your community of faith and personally about what you are reading. But, on a personal level, don’t get a personal application for you mixed up with the meaning of the text in Scripture. Remember this easy rule of thumb: one meaning, many applications. NOTE: Throughout the text, you will see words that have a thin dashed underline. When you place your cursor over the word(s) a small tooltip box will appear with more information about the word(s).

Each reading may include some of the following icons and sections:

Observing the Text! What does the text say? Provides you with a quick overview of the passage.
Interpreting the Text! What does the text mean? Helps you gain an understanding of the meaning of the text as those who first heard or read it may have understood it.
Living into the Text! What does the text mean to my community of faith and to me? Some reflections to help assist your community of faith and you to live into the Story of God.
WordTreasures: Defining the Text! Definitions of key words and phrases.
Behind the Scenes: Historical Background of the Text! A look at the historical background of the text
BibleInfoResources! Helpful resources for further readings. The Resource Information appears at the end of each of the studies. Reading this material in the noted reference popup will enrich your comprehension of the material under consideration.




Latter Rain Movement

The Latter Rain Movement as currently constituted grew out of events at Sharon Orphanage and Schools at North Battleford, Saskatchewan between 1947 and 1948.

Religious observers marked the start of a new movement within the Pentecostal family of churches around the world because of new, some would say radical, ideas about certain Scriptures expressed at this point by those who were to become the movement's leaders. Believers in this theology think that this "new wave" of the Spirit was the "latter rain" referred to in such Bible passages as Jeremiah 3:3 and 5:2, Joel 2:23, Hosea 6:3, Zechariah 10:1, and James 5:7. To some of its followers, these events marked the most important developments in Pentecostal Christianity since the Azusa Street Revival.


The latter rain. Central to the Latter Rain movement was an expectation of the imminent return of Jesus. Based on an allegorical interpretation of scriptures such as Joel 2:23, the movement held that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had been the "former rain" that established the Church, and that the current "move" of the Spirit was the "latter rain" that would bring the Church's work to completion, and culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The baptism of the holy spirit. Unlike mainstream Pentecostalism, which holds that the baptism of the Holy Spirit usually comes after prolonged "tarrying" or waiting for the Spirit, the Latter Rain movement taught that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be imparted on one believer by another through the "laying on of hands."

The fivefold ministry. The Latter Rain taught that of the five ministerial roles mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 ( apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher), the foundational roles of apostle and prophet had been stolen from the Church by Satan, but that God was restoring these ministries in the present day.

Christian ecumenism. The Latter Rain taught that God saw the church organized not into denominational camps, but along geographical lines. They expected that in the coming last days, the various Christian denominations would dissolve, and the true church would coalesce into citywide churches under the leadership of the newly-restored apostles and prophets./p>

The Manifest(ed) Sons of God. Some leaders of the Latter Rain movement taught that as the end of the age approached, a select group of "overcomers" would arise within the Church. These Manifest Sons of God would receive the "spiritual bodies" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. They would become immortal, and receive a number of divine gifts, including the ability to change their physical appearance, to speak any language, to teleport from place to place, and to perform divine healings and other miracles. They would complete the Great Commission, spreading the gospel throughout the world, and at last usher in the millennial reign of Christ.


The Charismatic and Pentecostal movements in the US, and throughout the world, have been influenced by this movement. However, this belief is not held by a majority within either movement. In fact, some of the most ardent critics of the Manifest Sons of God and Latter Rain movements come from within the Pentecostal movement itself, especially concerning the more "supernatural" aspects to the theology.

The Latter Rain Movement had its beginnings in the years following World War II. When its proponents tried to mainline it into the Pentecostal Churches and in particular the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada where it started (Saskatchewan), it almost split the church. Nearly half of the assemblies within that province became part of the Latter Rain Movement and broke from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. It was an extremely controversial issue at the time, and many felt that this was a false movement insinuating its way into the church which glorified men of charisma. There was also concern that it espoused a post-millennial rather than pre-millennial scenario of the " End times." In 1949 the Assemblies of God condemned the doctrine of the 'Latter Rain Movement' as heresy.

Theopedia | An encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity. Licsence by Creative Commons:




Maccabean Revolt: The Lexham Bible Dictionary

MACCABEAN REVOLT (167–160 BC). Jewish uprising against the Seleucid Empire; established the Hasmonean Dynasty.

According to 1 Maccabees, the revolt occurred in response to a decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes compelling Jews to abandon their religious traditions and adopt pagan forms of worship (1 Macc 1:41–50). In zealous resistance to the king’s order, Mattathias, a Jewish priest in Modein, killed a royal officer and a Jew who was offering a pagan sacrifice (1 Macc 2:23–25). Mattathias’ actions sparked a widespread rebellion which, after his death, was led by his son Judas (who was nicknamed Maccabeus, meaning “the Hammer”).

Under Judas, the rebels cleansed and rededicated the Jerusalem temple with an eight-day celebration (now called Hanukkah; 1 Macc 4:36–59). After Judas was killed in battle in 160 BC, the revolt continued for a short time under the leadership of his brother Jonathan, who (with help from a third brother, Simon) drove out the Seleucid governor Bacchides and ended the war (1 Macc 9:62–73). Jonathan eventually was appointed high priest, thus beginning the Hasmonean line of Judaean rulers (1 Macc 10:15–20).

Although the Seleucids maintained political control over Judaea, the new king, Demetrius, exempted the Jews from taxation, allowed them to practice their religion, and even provided funds to repair the temple (1 Macc 10:29–45).

The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 2016.

Shared from Logos Bible Software


Maccabean Revolt: Easton Bible Dictionary

This word does not occur in Scripture. It was the name given to the leaders of the national party among the Jews who suffered in the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, who succeeded to the Syrian throne 175 B.C. It is supposed to have been derived from the Hebrew word (makkabah) meaning “hammer,” as suggestive of the heroism and power of this Jewish family, who are, however, more properly called Asmoneans or Hasmonaeans, the origin of which is much disputed.

After the expulsion of Antiochus Epiphanes from Egypt by the Romans, he gave vent to his indignation on the Jews, great numbers of whom he mercilessly put to death in Jerusalem. He oppressed them in every way and tried to abolish altogether the Jewish worship. Mattathias, and aged priest, then residing at Modin, a city to the west of Jerusalem, became now the courageous leader of the national party; and having fled to the mountains, rallied round him a large band of men prepared to fight and die for their country and for their religion, which was now violently suppressed. In 1 Macc. 2:60 is recorded his dying counsels to his sons with reference to the war they were now to carry on. His son Judas, “the Maccabee,” succeeded him (166 B.C.) as the leader in directing the war of independence, which was carried on with great heroism on the part of the Jews, and was terminated in the defeat of the Syrians.

Easton Bible Dictionary (Public Domain)




God's EPIC Adventure: Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels are called Synoptic Gospels. The word synoptic means to see together. These three Gospels are similar in order, subject, and language. The Gospels were created with an interchange of materials between their authors. About ninety percent of Mark appears in Matthew and fifty-one percent in Luke. New Testament specialists suggest that Mark was the first of the Gospels written and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as an outline for the writing of their Gospels. There are three reasons for this conclusion:

  1. When the order of the material varies, Luke agrees with Mark, if Matthew and Mark differ. Matthew agrees with Mark when Luke and Mark differ.
  2. Matthew and Luke never depart from the outline of Mark's presentation.
  3. From the 661 verses in Mark, 606 appear in Matthew and 380 appear in Luke without change. There are only thirty-one verses that are found in Mark, which do not appear in Matthew or Luke.

Materials that are common in Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark, are believed to originate from a document called "Q" (from the German word Quelle, which means source). The "Q" document has never been discovered in a manuscript. It is a convenient way of indicating a common source for this information and there is disagreement among New Testament specialists about its existence.

There is a third kind of material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. The material in Matthew does not appear in Luke nor does the Luke material appear in Matthew. This set of material is unique to each author and book. Matthew and Luke selected this material to tell their stories for their specific audiences.70 The Synoptic Gospels show the redemptive history of God. They have sometimes been called lopsided biographies, spending most of their time telling the story of the last week of the life of Jesus. Each has a different purpose. Matthew tells his audience of new believers that Jesus is the New Moses for the New Israel, the church. Mark demonstrates how the power of Jesus is stronger than the power of Satan in an evangelistic tract form. Luke portrays the universal appeal of Jesus, a man for all times and places. With the propensity of the Enlightenment to reductionism, the Gospels have found their way into harmonies where they are combined as one written piece. The real difficulty with this approach is that it takes away from the author's intent to write his story to a specific audience for a specific reason, for telling a combined story of the life of Jesus. I often wonder why God didn't think of presenting us with a harmony in the canon of Scripture instead of three Synoptic Gospels plus the Gospel of John and their different stories about Jesus.

Winn Griffin. God's EPIC Adventure. The Reader's Edition. 2007-2014. 298-299




ZERUBBABEL, SON OF SHEALTIEL (זְרֻבָּבֶל, zerubbavel; Ζοροβαβέλ, Zorobabel). Governor of Judah following the Babylonian exile; rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (ca. 516 BC; Zech 4:6–10). Zerubbabel is identified as a descendant of David (Hag 1:1), grandson of King Jehoiachin, and listed in Matthew and Luke’s genealogies of Jesus (Matt 1:12–13; Luke 3:27).


In response to tensions between Ezra 3:8 and 5:16, Zerubbabel has often been equated with Sheshbazzar. Ezra 3:8 credits Zerubbabel with beginning reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Cyrus. However, Ezra 5:16 credits Sheshbazzar with initiating this effort. The identification of Zerubbabel with Sheshbazzar is thus a harmonization of these texts. The effort to harmonize Ezra 3:8 and 5:16 by identifying Zerubbabel with Sheshbazzar dates back to the rabbinic exegesis of the Middle Ages and has a small amount of support in certain manuscript traditions (compare discussion in Japhet, “Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel”). However, today, few scholars adhere to the position that Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar are the same person (Albertz, Israel in Exile, 120–21; Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1–8, 9–12). For example, Albertz and Japhet argue that efforts to identify Zerubbabel with Sheshbazzar are ineffective because both names are Babylonian in origin (Albertz, Israel in Exile, 120; Japhet, “Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel,” 91). Japhet considers the various sources with their theological tendencies in relationship to one another and argues, “Sheshbazzar is the least of the people and the governor in the days of Cyrus, who lays the foundations of the Temple and brings the Temple vessels to Jerusalem; Zerubbabel is the leader and governor in the days of Darius, whose journey to Jerusalem brings in its wake waves of hope for redemption. Under his direction … the building is resumed and even completed” (Japhet, “Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel”). Shealtiel is listed as the father of Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:2, 8; 5:2; Neh 12:1; Hag 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 23) in all but one case, where instead Zerubbabel is called the “son of Pedaiah” (1 Chr 3:19). This latter discrepancy may be the result of a scribal error, a reference to a different Zerubbabel, or the case of a biological father in a levirate marriage (if Shealtiel died childless and Pedaiah was his brother; see Deut 25:5–10).

The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 2016.
Shared from Logos Bible Software





Galilee: The Lexham Bible Dictionary

Galilee (גְּלִיל, gelil). A region in the northern part of Israel. The site of many biblical events, especially in the life of Christ. Jesus grew up in Galilee.

Galilee in the Bible

The region of Galilee is referred to 69 times in the Bible. Joshua brought the region of Galilee under Israelite domination when he defeated the Canaanite league led by Jabin (Josh 11:1–11). Four of the Israelite tribes were assigned to this area (Asher, Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali; Josh 19). The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III invaded Galilee in 733 bc and captured a number of the major cities (2 Kgs 15:29). Israelite dominion over Galilee ended in 722 bc when Sargon II captured the capital city (2 Kings 17) and exiled the inhabitants of the region to Assyria. Galilee is prominent in the Gospels as the scene of Jesus’ childhood and much of His public ministry (Matt 2:22–23; 4:12, 23). Most of the 12 apostles were from the region of Galilee (John 1:44; Matt 4:18–21).

Name and Location

The name “Galilee” literally means “circle” or “district,” the fuller expression of which is “district of the Gentiles” (Isa 9:1; Matt 4:15).

Galilee is located in the northern part of the land of Israel between the Jezreel Valley the Litani (Leontes) River. The region is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Sea of Galilee and Upper Jordan Valley. The political boundaries of the region of Galilee were vague and variable until defined by Roman administration after the death of Herod (4 bc), when Galilee became a part of the tetrarchy of Antipas (Hoehner, Herod Antipas, 43).


Galilee is the highest region of Israel, with elevations ranging from 3,962 feet at Mount Meron to 680 feet below sea level at the Sea of Galilee. Because of its altitude and proximity to the sea, it is also the coolest and most well-watered part of Israel. Josephus praised the fertility of Galilee, stating that no part of the land was left uncultivated (Josephus, Jewish War 3.42–43). The region was fertile in part because of its springs, heavy dew, and rainfall. The terrain is quite diverse and includes volcanic cones, limestone hills, and fertile alluvial plains.


Josephus indicated that Galilee was divided into two regions: Upper and Lower Galilee (Jewish War 3.35–40). The border between the two regions is marked by a slope which rises almost 1,500–2,000 feet vertically, the fault of Esh Shaghur, which cuts across the region between Acco and Ptolemais, and the north end of the Sea of Galilee.

Upper Galilee is a mountainous plateau which reaches elevations of more than 3,000 feet. Mount Meron, Upper Galilee’s highest peak, reaches an altitude of 3,962 feet. From the Litani River in the north, the mountains of Galilee rise to their highest point and then drop into the fault of Esh Shaghur, the border between the two Galilees. Upper Galilee is composed primarily of hard ridges of Cenomanian limestone and plateaus of softer Senonian (chalk) limestone. This windswept mountainous region is believed to have been densely forested in antiquity (Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 25).

Because of its isolated and mountainous terrain, Upper Galilee was not a focal point of biblical history, although small villages and fortresses were located there in Roman times. Baly suggests that rugged Upper Galilee offered the northern Israelites a “region of escape” when resisting political domination by a foreign power (Baly, The Geography of the Bible, 152). The key characteristics of Upper Galilee are its mountainous terrain and isolation from surrounding regions.

Lower Galilee is less uniformly mountainous than Upper Galilee and is characterized by low mountain ranges (under 2,000 feet) with a series of small valleys and basins between them. The shallow valleys and basins bisect the mountains longitudinally from east to west and give the region a staircase-like topography descending from Upper to Lower Galilee. The valleys and basins of Lower Galilee provided a number of easy travel routes from Israel’s northern coast and the Jezreel Valley across the region to the Sea of Galilee, where the routes converge.


Because of its elevation and proximity to the sea, Galilee has the wettest (and coldest) winter weather in the land of Israel. During the rainy season (November—April), Lower Galilee receives between 15–20 inches of precipitation while Upper Galilee receives between 30–40 inches (May, Oxford Bible Atlas, 51).

Temperatures in Galilee vary considerably depending on elevation and distance from the Mediterranean Sea. The higher elevations of Upper Galilee make it cooler and more pleasant during the summer months, but it is also colder during the winter months when occasional freezing temperatures bring ice and snow. Lower Galilee is affected by the westerly Mediterranean Sea breeze which sweeps through the east-west valleys and basins during the afternoon. The valleys tend to funnel the winds down onto the Sea of Galilee causing violent storms (see Matt 8:24; Mark 4:37; Luke 8:23). Winter storm winds reaching velocities of 75 mph have been measured in the hills of Galilee.

While all of Israel is known for its copious dew, it is most plentiful in the region of Galilee (see Psa 133:3). Western Galilee is extremely rich in dew, with 200 to 250 dew nights annually (Orni and Efrat, Geography of Israel, 153). The dew precipitates from the moisture-laden Mediterranean air, which settles on the cool Galilean hills and valleys after sunset. Dew was important for Galilean agriculture during the long dry season between May and September. Condensation on rocks would seep into the soil and lightly irrigate thirsty plants.


The region of Galilee received its abundant water supply from the Jordan River and contained wide and fertile valleys covered with deep, rich soil. Additional agricultural characteristics included forests, rich soil, plentiful water, and an abundance of fish in the Sea of Galilee.

Galilee was known in ancient times as an excellent region for producing wheat. It was also known for its production of olive oil (Josephus, Jewish War 3.592); olive groves were planted on the lower slopes of the hills while grain grew on the fertile valley floors. According to Jewish tradition, it was easier to bring up a legion of olives in Galilee than one infant in Judaea (Avi-Yona, The Holy Land, 203). Galilee was also Israel’s largest and best producer of wine.

The abundance of fish in the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee resulted in the fishing industry being a primary source of income for Galileans. Salted and pickled fish from Galilee were sold throughout the land. Fishermen from Capernaum were among the first to become followers of Jesus (Matt 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–20). While the fertile fields of Galilee could have been used as grazing land for sheep and goats, Galilee’s ancient farmers realized that the land could be used more profitably for agriculture.

Galilee was also located on the international trade and travel route which passed through the land of Israel, joining Mesopotamia with Egypt. The route descended south from Damascus, crossing the Jordan River just east of the Hazor, and cutting through Lower Galilee and the Jezreel Valley to reach the coastal plain. The Galileans profited from the trade and the customs they levied on caravans and travelers who passed through their region. Levi was a customs collector in Capernaum, a toll station on the Via Maris (“way of the sea,” Isa 9:1), when Jesus called him to become His follower (Mark 2:14).

The Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley—part of the Great Rift Valley—runs north and south along the eastern border of Galilee. The section of the valley north of the Sea of Galilee is called the Hula Valley. It extends south from the foot of Mount Hermon to a basalt flow from the Golan, which hindered the Jordan River’s advance to the Sea of Galilee, creating a shallow lake and a marshy region. The Hula Valley, about 300 feet below sea level, has been drained and is now used for agriculture (Baly, The Geography of the Bible, 191–96). The sources of the Jordan—the Dan, Hasbani, and Hermon Rivers—were located at the northern end of the valley.

The Jordan Valley extends south of the Sea of Galilee 65 miles to the Dead Sea. The valley is 2–12 miles wide and averages 1,000 feet below sea level. The Jordan Valley is cultivated at the foot of the hills that border the valley on the east and west. The region is dry and desolate toward the Jordan River, which is uncultivated. A narrow jungle called the zor is located along the banks of the Jordan. The Jordan River is a small, winding river and is not suitable for navigation or travel. Throughout history, the Jordan River served primarily as a border between Israel and the Transjordan territories to the east (Gilead, Ammon, and Moab). While the Jordan used to overflow its banks during the spring (Josh 3:15), much of the water is now pumped out of the river for irrigation and only a trickle actually reaches the Dead Sea. Ancient travelers could cross the Jordan in several places, including a location just east of Old Testament Jericho.

The Sea of Galilee

A fresh water lake known as Sea of Galilee is located between the Hula Valley and the Jordan Valley. This lake was known in ancient times as Chinnereth (“harp”) probably because of its harp-like shape (Num 34:11; Josh 13:27). It was also known as the Lake of Gennesareth based on its proximity to the plain of Gennesareth along its northwestern shore (Luke 5:1). In the Roman period, it was known as the Lake of Tiberius—a name taken from the new capital of Galilee which Herod Antipas had built and named for the emperor. Modern Israelis call it Lake Kinneret, or “the Kinneret.”

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 12 miles north to south, and about seven and a half miles wide. It is situated in a basin about 680 feet below sea level with steep hillsides on the east and west. The shores of the Sea of Galilee are rich in agriculture, and the lake has been fished since ancient times. Along the shores of the lake, 15 ancient harbors have been located. One of the most important was at Tabgha, where warm springs attract schools of fish. Fishermen often came to this area; it could be the location where Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their nets and become “fishers of men” (Matt 4:18–22). There are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, including the Talapia Galilea (known as “St. Peter’s fish), which can reach about 16 inches in size (Nun, The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen, 6–11).

The Cities of Galilee

Excavation of many cities in Galilee has advanced modern understanding of the biblical background and history of the region.


Hazor is located 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. It was the largest city ever built in Palestine during the biblical period, with an upper city of 30 acres and a lower city of 170 acres. The city was located just west of the main ford of the Jordan (“Bridge of Jacob’s Daughter”). Thus, those who controlled Hazor also controlled the International Highway.

Hazor was the political and military hub of Palestine in the second millennium. Joshua fought against Jabin, king of Hazor and his coalition of kings at the Waters of Merom (Josh 11:1–11). Solomon rebuilt the city (circa 950 bc) as a fortress to protect the northern entrance into Palestine (1 Kgs 9:15). Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo had similar gates which were designed by Solomon’s builders. The city was built and destroyed six different times between the division of the kingdom and the captivity of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 15:20; 2 Kgs 15:29).

Hazor was first excavated by Garstang in 1926. Yadin led the project from 1955–1958, and returned for a final season in 1968 (Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible). Amnon Ben-Tor has directed the work for Hebrew University since 1990.


During the period of the judges, the tribe of Dan abandoned their assigned territory on the coastal plain and migrated north. They found a suitable location at the foot of Mount Hermon, where a spring provideded plenty of water for drinking and agriculture. The Danites conquered the city of Laish and renamed it Dan. The city was idolatrous from its founding and became a center for golden calf worship during the rule of Jeroboam.

The city of Dan was the northernmost city of the land of Israel. The extent of the land was described as from “Dan to Beersheba.” Excavations at Tel Dan commenced in 1966 under the leadership of Biran. Biran discovered a ninth-century Aramaic inscription which refers to “Beit David,” the House of David—the first extrabiblical evidence of King David (Biran and Naveh, “An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan,” 81–99).


Capernaum is located at the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus made his home at Capernaum after leaving Nazareth (Matt 4:12–13), performed some of His greatest miracles there (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 4:23; John 4:46–54), and ministered in its synagogue (John 6:16–59). The American explorer Edward Robinson first identified the site of Capernaum. Excavations began in 1905 by German archaeologists and continued in under the Franciscan Fathers (1905–1915; 1921–1926). Excavations on the western portion of the site began in 1968.

Franciscan excavators identified what they believed to be the house of Peter over which an octagonal church was built in the fifth century (Strange and Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” 26–36). A fourth-century synagogue made of limestone stands over the foundation of a first-century basalt synagogue, which may have been the location of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse (John 6:35–59).


Chorazin is located in the basalt hills just two miles north of Capernaum. Jesus evidently taught there, since he reproached it for its unbelief (Matt 11:21). Chorazin has the remains of a fourth-century ad basalt synagogue. Excavation of the synagogue was done by the Germans in 1905–1907 and completed by Israel’s Department of Antiquities. Excavations in 1962–1963 were chiefly concerned with the structures of the central quarter surrounding the synagogue. One of the most interesting discoveries at Chorazin was a basalt “seat of Moses,” where the keynote speaker at a synagogue service would sit to teach. Jesus remarks in Matt 23:2 that the Pharisees have pridefully seated themselves in the “chair of Moses.”

Bethsaida Julias

It is debated whether Bethsaida Julias was located at the dominating site of et-Tell, a mile from the Sea of Galilee, or at El-’Araj, which lies right on the shore. Iron Age Bethsaida, located at et-Tel, appears to have been the capital of the kingdom of Geshur. The Bethsaida of the New Testament may have been a double site with a road connecting the fishing village of Bethsaida with the city (polis) Julias a mile inland from the shore. Rami Arav directed excavations at the prominent mound (et-Tell) that dominated the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee just east of the Jordan River. He argued et-Tell was the biblical site of Bethsaida.

Bethsaida (“House of the Fisher”) was a fishing village, and the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (John 1:44, 12:21). Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22). The Bible refers to the city as Bethsaida, but it was named “Julius” in honor of the daughter of Augustus when Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the town in ad 30. The Consortium of the Bethsaida Excavations Project continues to search for clues about the history and culture of ancient Bethsaida (Arav and Freund, Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, 1–310).


Tiberias is located on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. The city is not mentioned in the ministry of Jesus. Herod Antipas built Tiberias between ad 18–22 to serve as the capital of the tetrarchy of Galilee and Peraea. He named it for Emperor Tiberius. The city was a health spa for the Romans, who enjoyed its hot sulphur springs located south of the city. Because the city was built on an old Jewish cemetery, the Jews considered the place unclean until ad 145, when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai cleansed the city, allowing Jews to settle there. Tiberias eventually became the location of the Sanhedrin and a center for Jewish scholarship. Several excavations conducted at Tiberias during the past 50 years have uncovered remains from Chalcholithic through the Ottoman periods. In 2009, a new project was begun at the city center under the direction of Cytryn-Silverman of the Hebrew University.


Nazareth is located on the hills along the northern border of the Valley of Jezreel, just 18 miles from Capernaum. The city is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but it was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 1:26) and the city of Jesus’ childhood (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39, 51). Nazareth is just four miles south of Sepphoris, the Roman capital of Galilee. In Nazareth, Jesus read from Isa 61:1–2 in the synagogue and was rejected by the people (Luke 4:16–30).

Nazareth is situated in a basin that centers at the Church of the Annunciation, property that the Catholic Church purchased in 1620. A Franciscan priest named Belarmino Bagatti excavated this area extensively in 1955–65. Occupation at the site ended around 720 bc with the Assyrian conquest, but a small village situated by the spring existed there in the Roman period. Today, Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel, and is the home of 23 monasteries and churches as well as mosques. The Church of the Annunciation, marking the site of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (Luke 1:26–31), is the largest Christian building in the Middle East.


Jesus performed His first miracle in the city of Cana (John 2). Traditional Cana is located four miles northeast of Nazareth at Kefr Kenna. However, the actual site is probably at Khirbet Kana, nine miles north of Nazareth along the north edge of the Bet Netofa Valley, a place which Arabs call “Cana of Galilee.” Cana was the home of Nathanael (John 21:2) and the place where Jesus healed the nobleman’s son who lay sick in Capernaum (John 4:46–50). Douglas Edwards, in association with the University of Puget Sound, conducted excavations at Khirbet Kana in 1998–1999. He discovered Hellenistic and Roman houses and a large complex with monumental columns, apparently a Byzantine synagogue or church.


Sepphoris was a strongly fortified city four miles north of Nazareth. Josephus records that at the beginning of his reign, Herod conquered the city during a snow storm. It was an important military and cultural center, as well as the capital of Galilee during the early reign of Herod Antipas (4 bc—ad 39) until he built Tiberias. Since Sepphoris was only an hour’s walk from Nazareth, this may have been one of the work sites of Mary’s husband, Joseph.

After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in ad 70, Sepphoris became an important Jewish center. It was the seat of the Sanhedrin for some time. Judah the Patriarch, who recorded the Jewish oral tradition in the Mishnah, lived in Sepphoris for 17 years, and, according to Jewish tradition, was buried there.

Sepphoris was first excavated in 1931 by the University of Michigan. Excavation commenced again in 1983 under the direction of J.F. Strange of the University of South Florida. Since 1985, work at Sepphoris has been conducted by the Joint Expedition to Sepphoris. Excavations have revealed a Jewish residential district, a Roman Villa featuring a triclinium table mosaic, a Byzantine Cardo, a theater, a bath, and a Jewish synagogue featuring Jewish motifs as well as the signs of the Zodiac (Chancey and Meyers, “How Jewish Was Sepphoris In Jesus Time?” 18–33).

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi is located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, near the foot of Mount Hermon. Philip built the city in honor of Caesar at an ancient worship center for the god Pan, a nature god associated with shepherds, flocks, hunting, and rustic music. A sacred grotto dedicated to Pan was uncovered at the mouth of a cave which is the headwaters for the Banias River, one of the main sources of the Jordan. The cave became a center for Pan worship during the Hellenistic period. The sanctuary received a greater recognition when King Herod constructed a temple there in honor of Augustus (16 bc). Here, by this pagan worship center, Peter made his confession of faith in Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matt 16:13–16).

Although an initial excavation took place in 1967, a full scale 10-year project was initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1988. The Institute for the Study of Archaeology and Religion of Pepperdine University joined the project in 1993. Discoveries at the site included a royal palace, believed to be the residence of Agrippa II (Wilson and Tzaferis, “Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace”, 54–61). Other structures include aqueducts, courtyards, a bath house, a synagogue, and a church. Crusader remains can also be found in the vicinity.

Transition of Galilee to Complete Roman Control

Galilee participated in the revolt against Roman rule in ad 70. After a fierce battle, the key Galilean stronghold of Jotapata fell to the Romans. Other battles took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and on the surrounding hills. After the Jewish revolt against Rome ended in ad 73, Jewish self-rule in Galilee also came to an end.


Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible. London: Burns and Oates, 1967.

Arav, Rami, and Richard Freund. Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Truman State University Press, 2004.

Avi-Yona, Michael. The Holy Land: From the Persian to the Arab Conquests. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966.

Baly, Dennis. The Geography of the Bible. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974.

Beck, John A. The Land of Milk and Honey. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Biram, Avraham, and Joseph Naveh. “An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan.” Israel Exploration Journal 43 (1993): 81–98.

Chancey, Mark, and Eric M. Meyers. “How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time?” Biblical Archaeology Review (July—Aug 2000): 18–33.

Hoehner, Harold. Herod Antipas. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1972.

Horsley, Richard. Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996.

Laney, J. Carl. Concise Bible Atlas. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

May, Herbert G., ed. Oxford Bible Atlas. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Nun, Mendal. The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen. En Gev: Kinnereth Sailing Co., 1989.

Orni, Ephraim, and Elisha Efrat. The Geography of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973.

Strange, James F., and Hershel Shanks. “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov—Dec 1982): 26–36.

Wilson, John F., and Vassilios Tzaferis. “Banias Dig Reveals King’s Palace.” Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan—Feb 1998): 54–61.

Wright, Paul. Understanding the New Testament: An Introductory Atlas. Jerusalem: Carta, 2004.

Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York: Random House, 1975.

Carl Laney

The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 2016. Shared from Logos Bible Software


Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)