In existence from the 2nd c. B.C. to the 7th c. A.D., Capernaum was built along the edge of the Sea of Galilee and had up to 1500 residents.
Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here. Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.
Capernaum is frequently mentioned in the Gospels and was Jesus' main base during his Galilean ministry. It is referred to as Jesus' "own city" (Mt 9:1; Mk 2:1) and a place where he lived (Mt 1:13). He probably chose it simply because it was the home of his first converts, Peter and Andrew (Mk 1:21, 29)
Many familiar Gospel events occurred in this village. Capernaum is where Jesus first began to preach after the Temptation in the wilderness (Mt 1:12-17) and called Levi from his tax-collector's booth (Mk 2:13-17). It was while teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum that he said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (Jn 6:54)
Capernaum is where Jesus healed a centurion's servant without even seeing him (Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7:1-10), Peter's mother-in-law (Mt 8:14-15; Mk 1:29-30); the paralytic who was lowered thorugh the roof (Mk 2:1-12), and many others who were brought to him (Mt 8:16-17). And it was Capernaum that Jesus had set out from when he calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 8:23-27).
The discovery of coins and pottery at the site suggests that it was built in the late 4thcentury. Some believe that it was erected in the 2nd or 3rd century. In the synagogue, the main prayer hall features a Roman façade and column with a Greek inscription. Worshippers sat along the walls on the stone benches.
Perhaps the reconstruction 5th century synagogue hides the remains of the synagogue where Jesus preached. The synagogue was originally where people congregated to learn Torah. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem it became a place of prayer.
Carvings in the Capernaum synagogue include a Star of David, a palm, a menorah, a wagon that represents the Holy Ark and a half horse - half fish figure.
Capernaum is located on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a chief commercial and social center of the area during the ministry of Jesus. Custom taxes were collected. Geographically it was situated on a "highway" between the land of Israel and Syria.
Jesus came to Capernaum after leaving Nazareth. He lived in Peter's home for a time. At Capernaum, Jesus called Mathew from the "receipt of customs." Ruins of an octagonal-shaped structure are known as "Peters house". The remains of one of the finest and best preserved synagogues of the Galilee are in this town.