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BETHSAIDA (Βηθσα̈ιδά).


A town of Galilee, situated on the Sea of Tiberias. (St. John, 12.21; St. Mark, 6.45, 8.22.) It was the native place of four of our Lord's apostles (St. John, 1.45), and probably derived its name from the occupation of its inhabitants== “vicus piscatorum.” (Reland, s. v.) It is mentioned in connection with Chorazin and Capernaum as one of the towns where most of our Lord's mighty works were done (St. Matth. 11.21--23; St. Luke, 10.13); and Epiphanius speaks of Bethsaida and Capernaum as not far distant from each other. (Adv. Haer. ii. p. 437.) At the NE. extremity of the plain of Gennesareth, where the western coast of the Sea of Tiberias joins the north coast, is a rocky promontory which is called Ras (Cape) Seiyada, and between this and some ruined water-works of Roman construction--now called Tavga (mills), from some corn mills still worked by water from the Roman tanks and aqueducts--are the ruins of a town on the shore which the natives believe to mark the site of Bethsaida.


Another town on the northern shore of the Sea of Tiberias, which Philip the Tetrarch enlarged and beautified, and changed its name to Julias, in honour of the daughter of Augustus and the wife of Tiberius. (Ant. 18.2.1.) As Julia was disgraced by Augustus before his death, and repudiated by Tiberius immediately on his assuming the purple, it is clear that the name must have been changed some time before the death of Augustus (A.D. 14), and probably before the disgrace of Julia (B.C. 2). And it is therefore nearly certain that this town is not (as has been supposed) the Bethsaida of the Gospels, since the sacred writers would doubtless, as in the parallel case of the town of Tiberias, have adopted its new name. Besides which, the Bethsaida of the Gospels was in Galilee (see supra, No. 1), while Julias was in Lower Gaulonitis (B. J. 2.9.1), and therefore subject to Philip, as Galilee was not. Its exact situation is indicated by Josephus, where he says that the Jordan enters the Lake of Gennesareth at the city Julias. (B. J. 3.9.7.) It was therefore on the left bank of the Jordan, at its embouchure into the Sea of Tiberias. It is not otherwise known in history except as the place of Philip the Tetrarch's death. (Ant. 18.5.6.) It is mentioned also by Pliny in connection with Hippo, as one of several agreeable towns near to the place where the Jordan enters the lake, and on the E. shore (5.15). The small triangular plain between the lake and the river is thickly covered with ruins, but especially at et-Tell, a conspicuous hill at its NW. extremity. (Robinson, Bib. Res. vol. iii. pp. 304--308.) [G.W]

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