CAPERNAUM (KαΦαρνούμ, or, in Jewish writings, ):
Small town by the Lake of Gennesaret, mentioned in the Gospels as the home of Jesus, where he resided after his rejection by his Nazareth townsmen (Matt. iv. 13, viii. 5-17, ix. 1, xi. 23, xvii. 24; Mark i. 21; Luke vii. 1 et seq.; John vi. 17; Eccl. R. to i. 6 and to vii. 26, as the dwelling-place of the Minim or Christian exorcists of the second century. See also Derenbourg, "Essai sur l'Histoire et la Géographie de la Palestine," p. 362). According to these passages it lay close by the lake, and contained a synagogue built by a centurion living there. The "receipt of custom" nearby (Matt. ix. 9) probably had made it necessary to station Roman soldiers in the town. The exact site of the town can not be definitely fixed. Josephus speaks of a spring "Kafarnaum," which watered the fertile plain of Gennesaret (now plain of Ghuwair) on the northwestern side of the lake. Hence the spring must be looked for in 'Ain al-Tabighah, on the northern slopes of the plain, since water was in olden times carried down to the plain through a conduit now in ruins. Accordingly the ruins of El-Minyah, in the extreme northern part of the Gennesaret plain, have been taken by some as the site of Capernaum. This assumption is further supported by the statement of the pilgrim Arculfus (middle of the seventh century; Tobler and Molinier, "Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum," p. 183) that Capernaum lay at the base of the southern slope of a mountain. This is not decisive, however, since Arculfus did not visit the town itself, but saw it from a distance, and his further remarks can not be applied to the site of the ruins of Minyah.
But Capernaum might also be identified with the ruins close by the Tabighah spring, discovered by Schumacher. However, Theodosius of the sixth century says that Capernaum was two Roman miles from the Heptapegon (or Tabighah) spring. Jerome also says that Capernaum was two miles distant from Chorazin (probably the Kerazah of to-day). These figures apply to the well-known ruins of Tell Hum, found near the lake and rapidly disappearing. Among the blocks of black basalt are found the remains of a marble synagogue, which show that a city once stood on this spot; and as the second part ("hum") of this name is also found in "Kefar Naḥum," many scholars identify these ruins with Capernaum. If the name "Tell Hum" was originally "Tenhum," this identification is made more probable on linguistic grounds, especially since "Kefar Tanḥum" and "Kefar Teḥumin" are frequently given as variants for "Kefar Naḥum." [See Kohut, "Aruch Completum,"s.v. ; Neubauer "G. T." p. 221; Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," iii. 307 et seq.—k.] This location would harmonize with the statement of Josephus ("Vita," § 72) that, after his accident on the Jordan, he was carried to a village, Cepharnome (Kephar Nome). But the reading here is not certain (compare Niese), and, moreover, Capernaum was a town, not a village.
- Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.;
- Hastings, Dict. Bible, and the literature given there.