A Very Old Boat

Series: Israel 2022

“Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
out on the beautiful sea.”

The Sea of Galilee. Boats & fishermen. If I had to guess, I would say that there have been fishermen and boats for as long as there has been a sea there in Galilee. And there were certainly fishermen and boats there when Jesus made Capernaum the center of his three-year ministry.

The sea of Galilee is where Jesus called four burly fishermen named Peter, Andrew, James & John to be a part of His ministry, to come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.2  Both Matthew and Mark in the Gospels state that Jesus found Peter and Andrew by their boat casting their nets3 and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, working in the boat of their father repairing their nets4 right there on the sea where they had been fishing.

When I sang that song in Sunday School so many years ago, I never thought that one day I would be able to visit Israel and stand on the shore of that great lake. Okay, I may have thought about it and wanted to go but never really thought I’d be able to do so. And, though I have read many articles about archaeological finds in the Holy Land, I never contemplated seeing one of the most amazing archaeological finds of the past fifty years – a boat.

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Imagine a simple wooden fishing boat stuck in the mud for just about two thousand years until a drought revealed its resting place in 1986. A boat that is thought to be exactly like the boats of those four apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

It is called the “Jesus Boat6 because it has been carbon-dated to @40 BC which puts it right smack dab into the time of Christ…the time when He walked by the Sea and sailed upon its waters in a boat like this. There is, of course, no proof that Jesus ever stepped foot in this particular boat, walked on the water anywhere near it, or calmed the stormy sea from its stern, but there is no proof that He didn’t use this boat either. So, people like to imagine that this very boat, no matter how far-fetched, is actually a boat that Jesus sailed in…so, it has been named for Him.

The “Jesus” Boat Remains

This ancient fishing boat was found by Moshe and Yuval Lufan5, two brothers, fishermen just like those four disciples of Jesus, who lived at Kibbutz Ginosar5 had been looking for such a boat during a drought when the waters of the lake were very low. The recovery of the boat was a bit of a miracle in and of itself and involved teams from the Kibbutz and from the Israel Antiquities Authority5. Since the mud had preserved the boat for so long, the wood was completely saturated with water and quite spongy and began decomposing quickly with exposure to air.  To prevent decomposition, they wrapped the ruins in fiberglass and insulating foam and floated it out to a restoration site where it was submerged in a wax bath for twelve (12) years.

Today the boat is housed in the Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar, which is where I saw it. The boat is 27’ (8.27m) long by 7.5’ (2.3m) wide with a maximum preserved height of 4.3’ (1.3m). It is made mostly of cedar wood but includes about 10 different types of wood which seems to indicate that it was in service for a long time (maybe 100 years) and repaired with whatever was available over that time period. It sounds like it was sort of scrapped together and just like I’d imagine a fisherman’s boat to be after many years on the water.  By the time it was “retired” (decommissioned??) as no longer useful and sunk into the sea, it was in pretty bad shape.  

Inside the boat, some nails, a cook pot, and a lamp were found. I really wonder why these articles would have been left in the boat. I can figure out the nails part…. having a few nails in an old boat would have been necessary just in case a few repairs were needed along the way.  But leaving a good lamp and a pot seems odd. Of course, it’s hard to tell when that pot got cracked like that so it might have been worthless at the time.

Bowl, Lamp, and Nails found with the boat.

The historian Flavius Josephus10 says that during the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD, boats were used on the Sea of Galilee by the rebels to escape the Romans and he indicated that there were about two hundred and thirty (230) boats operating on the sea at that time. Although the lake is good-sized, that number seems like quite a lot of boats, but I am reminded that boats were used for just about everything and not just fishing. Commerce and trading goods would be more easily transported to cities across the sea and way more convenient than hauling goods overland. Besides making work easier, taking a ferry boat across the lake would be much more practical and much quicker than walking all the way around along the shore.  From scriptures, that is pretty much what Jesus did…. many times He took a boat. Boats are mentioned at least fifty (50) times in the Gospels and were an integral part of Jesus’ ministry in the area.

Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar

I stood by that boat in the museum and marveled at the miracle of it having lain in the mud for those two thousand years and then, found, and then preserved. Who knew it would take 12 years in a wax bath? I wondered if this boat could, in fact, be the boat where Peter and Andrew were working when they looked up and saw the Messiah for the first time2, or the one where Jesus stood and rebuked the storm7, or the one where He walked across the water8 to catch up to the disciples who had gone on ahead, or the boat that was rowed to a spot off shore where Jesus stood and spoke to the crowds9…. a boat that featured so prominently throughout the scriptures. I think the experts are probably right – there’s just no way this could be the exact boat that Jesus used…. just no way.  But I looked at the boat knowing it was very similar to that boat (or those boats) and my heart…… well, my heart wanted very much at that moment to believe that it was and will always be “the Jesus boat6.

Scriptural Sources:

When I queried Biblehub.org for “boat”, I got a message saying 101 verses had been found and 25 were listed. I decided to omit the listing of scriptural sources for this blog and just included those I found to be most relevant in the blog itself and in the Resources section below.

Still fishing on the Sea of Galilee.


  1. Peter and James and John | Hymnary.org
  2. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:19 & Mark 1:17, NKJV
  3. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:18 & Mark 1:16, NKJV
  4. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:21 & Mark 1:20, NKJV
  5. Sea of Galilee Boat – Wikipedia
  6. Jesus Boat | The Jesus Boat | Galilee Boat | 1st century Galilee Boat | The Boat of Jesus | Jesusboat.com
  7. Holy Bible, Luke 8:24, NKJV
  8. Holy Bible, Matthew 14:25, NKJV
  9. Holy Bible, Luke 5:3, NKJV
  10. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book II, Whiston chapter 21, Whiston section 8 (tufts.edu); Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895.
Lunch after our visit featured fish. What else??

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Previous blogs in the Israel 2022 series:

Israel 2022: Pinch Yourself – April 4, 2022

Israel 2022: Caesarea Maritima – Birding Boomers – April 11, 2022

Israel 2022: Contested on Mount Carmel – Birding Boomers – April 20, 2022

Israel 2022: In This Valley – Birding Boomers – April 30, 2022

Israel 2022: Sea of Galilee – Birding Boomers – May 9, 2022

George Washington Prayed Here

Series: Old Churches & US Route 1

Pohick Episcopal Church

Quite a bit is known about George Washington, the stern looking man in the white powdered wig that is pictured in all the paintings in Federal buildings and schools across the nation and in every history book from about third grade on. He has been described as having long reddish-brown hair under that white wig, being maybe upwards of 6’3” tall and weighing about 220 pounds…. a big man, known for his strength. Yep, he had bad teeth and wore dentures and suffered for it using laudanum to ease the pain. And there’s that story about cutting down the cherry tree and then not lying about it when his father accosted him…. but, oh yeah, I seem to recall hearing that the cherry tree story has been discounted and moved over into the urban legend category.

But factually, he was a military officer (Commander of the Continental Army), one of the “Founding Fathers”, the first US President (“Father of the Nation”), a statesman, loving husband of Martha, a surveyor (Have you seen the Dismal Swamp Canal? Very straight), a landowner and speculator, a planter, and, yes, sadly, a slave owner. 

Wall surrounding the church property was built with the original church.

In addition to all that, George Washington was a religious man, a devout member of the Anglican Church from his baptism as a baby in April 1732 to his death in December 1799. His great-great-grandfather was, in fact, an Anglican minister. He was “raised” in the church and was a Christian though he was not a Christian in the sense that I think of Christians. Some of his biographers refer to George Washington as a “theistic rationalist” more than a “Christian”. Theistic rationalists have a hybrid belief system combining Christianity, religion, and rationalism whereby Christianity and religion “co-exist” with any conflicts being balanced out by rational thought and with rationalism being the predominant part.

Area of the altar

But he did believe in God. In his correspondence and communications, George Washington referred to God as “Providence”, the “Creator”, the “Almighty”, the “Divine Author”, and the “Supreme Being”. Strangely, he never mentioned Jesus Christ at all (Wikipedia – George Washington1) so I can see where he is thought of as being more “theistic” than Christian.

For all his sixty-seven years on this earth, he was known to read his Bible and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer privately and to pray daily.  He also encouraged others to pray as he believed that God played a pivotal role in human life and did indeed answer prayers. And he was an upstanding member of the Pohick Episcopal Church near his home at Mount Vernon and later in his life at the Christ Church in Alexandria.

Altarpiece includes the Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, & Ten Commandments

Recently, I visited Pohick Church where George Washington attended services, served on the church vestry, worshipped God, and, yes, where he prayed. Like our first president, I also believe God answers prayers and I really love visiting old churches.

Some years ago…. way back in the last century (it’s like I’m lost somewhere in history myself), in the late 1980’s, I worked down at an office in Newington, Virginia. The straightest commute from Maryland was straight down Interstate 95. But straight is not always the best way during rush hour so I often used a less congested way home via Telegraph Road or US Route 1 – yes, the US Route 1 that runs 2,370 miles from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida.  Of course, I only traveled those 10 miles or so that ran from Newington to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. At any rate, every time I used that route, I passed by the old Pohick Church at the junction of what Washington would have called the Potomac Road (Route 1) and the “back road” (Telegraph Road). And every time I passed the church, I promised myself that I would stop and take a look. (Of course, I didn’t know George Washington used to be a member.) But I never did stop. Time passed, I changed jobs, didn’t think about it until recently when we were down in the area attending a seminar and had a couple free hours. What better to do than go see that old church?

View of the church interior showing the box pews.

The Pohick Church is an Episcopal church having been originally consecrated as an Anglican Church since it was established prior to the American Revolution. After the Revolution and with passage of the Religious Freedom Act in 1785, Virginia dis-established the Church of England and the Anglican churches in the “colonies” became Episcopalian churches. But things always seem to come full circle and today many of these Episcopal churches are now members of the “Anglican Communion” using the hymnals and prayer books from the “mother” church in England.

The church is comprised of several buildings including the church building itself, the Vestry house, the Parish House, a separate belfry for the church bell, and a cemetery.  The two ancillary buildings and the belfry are not considered to be historical as the vestry was built in 1931 and the Parish in 1955. But a church is not necessarily the building; it is the congregation – the people who worship there.

The Vestry was not part of the original church. A vestry was included in the original plans but considered to be too expensive to build at the time.

Pohick has been referred to as the “Mother Church of Northern Virginia”3.  It was first established in 1695 as a “chapel of ease”1 for Overwharton Parish in the area and occupied a building near Woodlawn & Mount Vernon (which would eventually be George Washington’s home). A chapel of ease is a building other than the parish church that is in the vicinity but is used for worship by those who cannot reach the regular parish church easily.

The Memorial Belfry was added at a later date in the 20th century.

In 1730, the church was moved south to Colchester and was referred to as the “church above Occoquan Ferry”. A stone marker marks the original church site which is on the grounds of another church just down the road. The name, “Pohick Church”, comes from Pohick Creek. George Washington attended the church and served as both a warden and a member of the vestry. Then, as the congregation grew, the church was moved to its current location at the intersection of Route 1 and Telegraph Road.

To be a Biblical “city on a hill” that couldn’t be hidden (Matthew 5:14), the site picked for the church was the highest point on the property consisting of 3 acres and 26 perches at that time.  (Now, that’s a great word – perches. It refers to a rod or pole which is used by surveyors and is between 3 and 8 meters long – about 16.5 feet.) The original design plan for the building by James Wren called for the church to be identical to two other churches in Virginia, The Falls Church and the Christ Church in Alexandria, but the footprint was altered sometime during the actual construction.

View of the pulpit with one of two old baptismal fonts in the church.

The church flourished for some years. George Washington attended along with other dignitaries in the area.  The first to preach there was the Reverend Lawrence DeButts who was a circuit rider hired to preach 3 times a month for 8000 pounds of tobacco a year. The first official rector was Dr. Charles Green who served for the about 20 years.  At some point, Washington started attending the Christ Church in Alexandria but kept up payments for his pew at Pohick until his death.

Over the years, the church at Pohick began to deteriorate. It remained relatively intact until the American Civil War when it was raided by the 2d Michigan Volunteers in November 1861. Those who thought the church “was sacred enough to be secure” were wrong. It was totally vandalized…. even the cornerstone laid by Washington in 1765 was unearthed. The pews, altar, everything was stolen or trashed. For the remainder of the war, the building was taken over by the army and used as a base of operations in the area. The graffiti carved into the walls is still visible today.

Sometime in 1874, renovations were begun, and the church was reconsecrated by the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, John Johns, in 1875. With renovation, some items taken during the war were returned but the early renovations focused only on restoring the building for use as a church.  Later between 1890 and 1917, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association working with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) began the process of restoring the building to its original design.

Pipe Organ

Today, the church – the congregation – remains active after more than 300 years. The building originally made of “good bricks well burnt” with corners (or quoins) made of Aquia Creek sandstone mined in Stafford, Virginia, stands as a testament to the faith and devotion of the people who make up the “church” and to the founding fathers of both the Pohick Church and this nation.

According to the church website, the church today is balanced on 7 pillars – worship, prayer, study, Christian fellowship, outreach/pastoral care, evangelism, and tradition/history3 citing the following Bible verse as the guide for the Pohick Church & Congregation:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47

Sources for Information:

  1. Wikipedia George Washington – George Washington – Wikipedia
  2. Wikipedia Theistic Rationalism – Theistic rationalism – Wikipedia
  3. Wikipedia Pohick Church – Pohick Church – Wikipedia
  4. Pohick Church Website – Pohick Episcopal Church – LORTON, VA • EST 1732