From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

Bethsaida was an important town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee ( Mark 6:45). It was a base for fishermen who worked the rich fishing grounds of the lake. Among those fishermen were the brothers Andrew and Peter, who became two of Jesus’ disciples. Another disciple, Philip, was also from Bethsaida ( John 1:44).

On one occasion Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida ( Mark 8:22), and on another occasion he miraculously fed five thousand people not far from Bethsaida ( Luke 9:10-17). The people of Bethsaida, however, like the people of nearby Capernaum and Chorazin, stubbornly refused to accept the evidence that this Jesus was God’s promised Messiah. Such a refusal only guaranteed for them a more severe judgment ( Matthew 11:21-24).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

BETHSAIDA ( ‘house of fishing’).—The supposition that there were two places on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to which this name appropriately applies has been disputed or rejected by many writers (Buhl, G. A. Smith, Sanday, et al. ); but the evidence in its favour, direct and indirect, has the support of a long list of authorities on Palestinian geography from the days of Reland to the present time. There are differences of opinion with respect to the precise location of both places, but there is a general agreement that one was on the east and the other on the west side; of the Jordan or its expanse into the Galilaean Lake. Prominent on the list of those who advocate two Bethsaidas are the names of Ritter, Robinson, Caspari, Stanley, Edersheim, Wieseler, Weiss, Tristram, Thomson, van de Velde, Porter, Merrill, Maegregor, and Ewing. The facts and suggestions which bear upon the supposition itself may be summed up as follows:—

1. Bethsaida of Gaulanitis. —The historic evidence for the existence and general location of this city is not disputed. Josephus describes it as a village ‘situate’ at the Lake of Gennesaret which Philip the tetrarch advanced unto the dignity of a city, both by the number of inhabitants it contained, and its other grandeur, and called it by the name “Julias,” the same name with Caesar’s daughter’ ( Ant. xviii. ii. 1). In other passages he indicates its position as in ‘Lower Gaulanitis’ (Jaulân), ‘in Peraea,’ and as near the Jordan, which ‘first passes by the city and then passes through the middle of the Lake’ ( BJ ii. ix. 1, xiii. 2, also BJ iii. x. 7, and Life , 72). In every instance, except the one above quoted, which gives a reason for the change of designation, Josephus drops the old name and calls it ‘Julias.’ Pliny and Jerome give it the same appellation, and locate it on the eastern side of the Jordan (Plin. HN v. 16; Jer. Com. on Mt 16:31). The modern designation, ‘Bethsaida-Julias,’ is not to be found in ancient history, sacred or secular. The site of the city which thus became the successor, under another name, of Bethsaida of Gaulanitis, has not been identified with certainty. After careful research, Dr. Robinson came to the conclusion that a mound of ruins, known as et-Tell , was the most probable location of the long-lost city.

‘The tell extends from the foot of the northern mountains southwards, near the point where the Jordan issues from them. The ruins cover a large portion of it, and are quite extensive; but so far as could be observed, consist entirely of unhewn stones, without any distinct trace of ancient architecture’ ( BRJP 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ii. p. 413).

The site is over against one of the fording-places of the Jordan, and about 2 miles above its mouth. This tentative identification has been accepted by many recent explorers, but mainly for the reason that the location seems to be the most favourable, because of its commanding position, for such a city as Josephus describes. The objections to it are its distance from the Lake, and the absence of anything which would suggest its original name—‘the house (or place) of fishing.’

Another site, to which these objections do not apply, has been suggested by Dr. Thomson at el-Masʽadiyeh , not far from the eastern bank of the river, and near the Lake, ‘distinguished by a few palm trees, foundations of old walls, and fragments of basaltic columns’ ( Land and Book , ii. 422). This writer advocates the existence of a double city, lying on both sides of the Jordan, as the true solution of the Bethsaida problem, and indicates a site over against el-Masʽadiyeh , where a few ruins have been found, as the probable location of the Galilaean portion of the city. The apparent objections to this site are the boggy and treacherous ground in the vicinity, and the absence of anything that would suggest the existence in former times of a fording-place or a connexion by means of bridges. Wilson accepts Thomson’s views; and Schumacher, the noted explorer of the Jaulân region, agrees with him in locating the eastern city at el-Masʽadiyeh . He suggests also that the royal residence of Philip may have been on the hill at et-Tell , and the fishing village at el-ʽAraj , near the mouth of the Jordan, where are ruins, and that both were connected by a good road still visible (see Jaulan Quarterly Statement , April 1888). Conder, who favours et-Tell , makes the plea on its behalf that local changes in the river delta may have increased the distance materially between this site and the head of the Lake.

Assuming this as a possibility, the place must always have been a considerable distance from the mouth of the Jordan. It is not unlikely, however, as Merrill suggests, that the landing-place of Julias was the original site of the town, and that among the local fishermen it retained the old name for some time after the building of the city of Philip, which would naturally he laid out on higher ground. In the only NT references which can with certainty be attributed to this place, the Evangelists make use of the older name ( Luke 9:10,  Mark 8:22). In the first, the scene of the miracle of the five loaves, it is described as ‘a desert,’ or vacant place, ‘belonging to the city called Bethsaida.’ All the Evangelists concur in the statement that it was a place apart from the town, but evidently near it, where the native grass thickly covered the fallow ground and made a comfortable resting-place for the weary multitude. The location which fulfils all the conditions of the narrative is on the eastern ridge of the Batiha plain, in the immediate vicinity of the Lake.

In the second reference it appears that Jesus, after crossing to the other side from Dalmanutha on the west coast, came to Bethsaida en route to the towns of Caesarea Philippi. While in the city a blind man was brought to Him. It is a significant fact, in keeping with His uniform attitude towards the Gentile cities of this region, that He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town, before He restored his sight. In this, says Farrar, ‘all that we can dimly see is Christ’s dislike and avoidance of these heathenish Herodian towns, with their borrowed Hellenic architecture, their careless customs, and even their very names commemorating, as was the case with Bethsaida-Julias, some of the most contemptible of the human race’ ( Life of Christ , ch. xxxv.).

2. Bethsaida of Galilee. —It has been alleged by some writers that the existence of a western Bethsaida was invented to meet a supposed difficulty in the narrative of the Evangelists. This is not a fair statement of the case. A Bethsaida belonging to the province of Galilee is designated by name as well as implied by incidental reference. Its claims are advocated mainly, if not solely, on the ground that it is in the Gospel record. The objection sometimes urged, that the existence of two towns of the same name in such close proximity is improbable, has little weight in view of the fact that these towns were in different provinces, under different rulers, and in many respects had little in common. The name itself suggests a place favourably situated for fishermen, and might be appropriately applied to more places than one by the Lake side. But see art. Capernaum.

The main points of the argument in favour of a western Bethsaida are as follows:—

(1) The direct testimony given in John’s Gospel .—In one passage it is affirmed that Philip, one of the Apostolic band, was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter ( John 1:44); in another ( John 12:21), that Philip was of Bethsaida of Galilee. This is the testimony of one who is noted for his accuracy in geographical details, who knew every foot of this lake-side region, and who, in common with the other Evangelists, speaks of this trio of disciples as partners in a common industry, and as ‘men of Galilee.’ ‘Cana of Galilee’ is a similar expression in the same Gospel, and the fact that the writer mentions the province at all, in this connexion, is a strong presumptive proof that he wished to distinguish it from the other Bethsaida on the eastern side. The mention of Galilee in John’s Gospel determines this place on the west of the Jordan as decidedly as that of Gaulanitis does the other Bethsaida on the east. The assertion of G. A. Smith, that the province of Galilee included most of the level coastland east of the Lake,—if it applies to Galilee in the time of Christ,—is apparently in conflict with all the evidence which the history of that time has given us. It conflicts also with the positive testimony of Josephus, who places Julias—the city which Dr. Smith associates with Bethsaida—in Gaulanitis, and under the jurisdiction of Herod Philip.

(2) The well-attested fact that all of the Apostles, except Judas Iscariot, were men of Galilee ( Acts 1:11), furnishes another corroborative proof that the place of residence of the three above mentioned could not have been in the city of Philip (see also  Mark 14:70). They were typical Jews, and their place of employment and all their associations were with their brethren of the same faith on or near the plain of Gennesaret.

(3) In the narrative of the return journey from the place of ‘the feeding of the multitude, it is distinctly mentioned that the disciples embarked in a ship to go before to the ‘other side’ unto Bethsaida ( Mark 6:45). If the word ‘unto’ stood alone, there might he some ground for the supposition that the disciples aimed at sailing along the shore towards Julias, but in the description which follows, the Evangelist makes it plain that the ‘other side,’ as he uses the expression, meant the west shore of the Lake. ‘And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.’ The parallel accounts convey the same impression and are equally decisive on this point ( Matthew 14:22;  Matthew 14:34,  John 6:16). It is true that John adds that ‘they went over the sea towards Capernaum,’ but there is no discrepancy between the several statements if Robinson is right in identifying Bethsaida with ‘ Ain et-Tâbigha . The general direction would be the same, and the distance between the two points does not exceed three-quarters of a mile. In keeping with these statements is the mention of the fact that the multitude on the east side, noting the direction taken by the vessel in which the disciples sailed, took shipping the next day and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus ( John 6:22;  John 6:24). These passages, interpreted in their natural and ordinary sense, show that the disciples aimed at going to the western side of the Lake in obedience to the command of Jesus. The contrary wind retarded their progress, but it did not take them far out of their course. The mention of Bethsaida, in this connexion, with Capernaum makes it highly probable also that its site was somewhere in the same neighbourhood.

(4) There is a manifest verification and corroboration of this testimony in the close association of Bethsaida with Capernaum and Chorazin in the judgment pronounced upon them by our Lord because of their peculiar privileges ( Matthew 11:21-23). There is no uncertainty with respect to the import of this denunciation. It could not apply to a Gentile city like Julias, for it is here contrasted with the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon. It is evident, also, that its significance inheres in the peculiar privileges of Bethsaida through oft-repeated manifestations of supernatural power in connexion with the ministry of Jesus. In other words, it was in the very centre of that field of wonders in Galilee, honoured above all other places in the land as the residence of Jesus, to which multitudes flocked from every quarter. We have the record of three brief visits of Jesus to the semi-heathen population on the eastern side of the Lake, mainly for rest and retirement, but there is no record of ‘many mighty works’ in any of the towns or cities of this region. This of itself seems to be an unanswerable argument against the proposed identification of the city to which Jesus refers in this connexion with the Herodian city of Julias in the province of Gaulaoitis.

The generally accepted site of Bethsaida of Galilee is ‘ Ain et-Tâbigha . It is situated at the head of a charming little bay on the northern side of the spur which runs out into the Lake at Khân Minyeh . Here, by the ruins of some old mills, is a copious stream of warm, brackish water, fed by several fountains, one of which is the largest spring-head in Galilee. Its course, which now winds and descends amid a tangled mass of rank vegetation to the Lake, was formerly diverted to the plain of Gennesaret by a strongly built reservoir, still standing, which raised the water to an elevation of twenty feet or more. Thence it was carried by an aqueduct and a rock-hewn trench to the northern end of the plain. There is little to indicate the site of the city, except an occasional pier of the aqueduct and the substructures of a few ancient buildings long since overthrown and forgotten.

The natural features of ‘ Ain et-Tâbigha are a safe harbour, a good anchorage, a lovely outlook over the entire lake, a shelving, shelly beach, admirably adapted to the landing of fishing boats, a coast free from débris and driftwood; and a warm bath of water, where shoals of fish ofttimes crowd together by myriads, ‘their backs gleaming above the surface as they bask and tumble in the water’ (Macgregor, Rob Roy on the Jordan , p. 337). Although surrounded by desolate wastes, this is still the chief ‘Fishertown’ on the Lake, where nets are dried and mended, and where fish are taken and sorted for the market, as in the days of Andrew, Simon, and Philip.

Literature.—Andrews, Life of our Lord 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , pp. 230–236; Robinson, BR P [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ii. 413, and iii. 358, 359; Tristram, Land of Israel , p. 418, also Topog. of the Holy Land , pp. 259–261; G. A. Smith, HGH L [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] 457 f.; Thomson, Land and Book , ii. 423; Stewart, Mem. Places among the Holy Hills , pp. 128–138; Reland, p. 653; Macgregor, op. cit. pp. 334–343 and 360–372; Merrill Piet. Pal . i. 322; Ewiog in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible i. p. 282; Baedeker-Socin, Pal . 255 f.; Buhl, GA P [Note: AP Geographic des alten Palästina.] 241 ff.; Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels , 41 f., 45, 48, 91, 95.

R. L. Stewart.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

a city whose name in Hebrew imports a place of fishing or of hunting, and for both of these exercises it was well situated. As it belonged to the tribe of Naphtali, it was in a country remarkable for plenty of deer; and as it lay on the north end of the lake Gennesareth, just where the river Jordan runs into it, it became the residence of fishermen. Three of the Apostles, Philip, Andrew, and Peter, were born in this city. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, though it frequently occurs in the New: the reason is, that it was but a village, as Josephus tells us, till Philip the tetrarch enlarged it, making it a magnificent city, and gave it the name of Julias, out of respect to Julia, the daughter of Augustus Caesar.

The evangelists speak of Bethsaida; and yet it then possessed that name no longer: it was enlarged and beautified nearly at the same time as Caesarea, and called Julias. Thus was it called in the days of our Lord, and so would the sacred historians have been accustomed to call it. But if they knew nothing of this, what shall we say of their age? In other respects they evince the most accurate knowledge of the circumstances of the time. The solution is, that, though Philip had exalted it to the rank of a city, to which he gave the name of Julias, yet, not long afterward, this Julia, in whose honour the city received its name, was banished from the country by her own father. The deeply wounded honour of Augustus was even anxious that the world might forget that she was his daughter. Tiberius, whose wife she had been, consigned the unfortunate princess, after the death of Augustus, to the most abject poverty, under which she sank without assistance. Thus adulation must under two reigns have suppressed a name, from which otherwise the city might have wished to derive benefit to itself; and for some time it was called by its ancient name Bethsaida instead of Julias. At a later period this name again came into circulation, and appears in the catalogue of Jewish cities by Pliny. By such incidents, which are so easily overlooked, and the knowledge of which is afterward lost, do those who are really acquainted with an age disclose their authenticity. "But it is strange," some one will say, "that John reckons this Bethsaida, or Julias, where he was born, in Galilee,  John 12:21 . Should he not know to what province his birthplace belonged?" Philip only governed the eastern districts by the sea of Tiberias; but Galilee was the portion of his brother Antipas. Bethsaida or Julias could therefore not have been built by Philip, as the case is; or it did not belong to Galilee, as John alleges. In fact, such an error were sufficient to prove that this Gospel was not written by John. Julias, however, was situated in Gaulonitis, which district was, for deep political reasons, divided from Galilee; but the ordinary language of the time asserted its own opinion, and still reckoned the Gaulonitish province in Galilee. When, therefore, John does the same, he proves, that the peculiarity of those days was not unknown to him; for he expresses himself after the ordinary manner of the period. Thus Josephus informs us of Judas the Gaulonite from Gamala, and also calls him in the following chapters, the Galilean; and then in another work he applies the same expression to him; from whence we may be convinced that the custom of those days paid respect to a more ancient division of the country, and bade defiance, in the present case, to the then existing political geography. Is it possible that historians who, as it is evident from such examples, discover throughout so nice a knowledge of geographical arrangements and local and even temporary circumstances, should have written at a time when the theatre of events was unknown to them, when not only their native country was destroyed, but their nation scattered, and the national existence of the Jews extinguished and extirpated? On the contrary, all this is in proof that they wrote at the very period which they profess, and it also proves the usual antiquity assigned to the Gospels.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

("house of fish".) A city of Galilee, W. of and close to the sea of Tiberias, in the land of Gennesareth ( Mark 6:45-53;  John 6:16-17;  John 1:44;  John 12:21). Andrew, Peter, and Philip belonged to it, Near Capernaum and Chorazin ( Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13). When Jesus fed the 5,000 on the N.E. of the lake, they entered into a boat to cross to Bethsaida ( Mark 6:45), while John says" they went over the sea toward Capernaum." Being driven out of their course, Jesus came to them walking on the sea; they landed in Gennesaret and went to Capernaum; so that Bethsaida must have been near Capernaum.

In  Luke 9:10-17 another Bethsaida, at the scene of feeding the 5,000, is mentioned (though the Curetonian Syriac and later Sinaitic omit it), which must have been therefore N.E. of the lake; the same as Julias, called from the emperor's daughter Julia. The miracle was wrought in a lonely "desert place," on a rising ground at the back of the town, covered with much "green grass" ( Mark 6:39). In  Mark 8:10-22 a Bethsaida on the E. side of the lake in Gaulonitis (now Jaulan) is alluded to; for Jesus passed by ship from Dalmanutha on the W. side "to the other side," i.e. to the E. side. Thus, Caesarea Philippi is mentioned presently after, Bethsaida being on the road to it; and the mount of the transfiguration, part of the Hermon range, above the source of the Jordan ( Mark 9:2-3); the snow of Hermon suggested the image, "His raiment became white as snow."

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

This name signifies 'house of fish.'

1. Bethsaida Of Galilee a town from whence came Philip, Andrew, and Peter,  John 1:44;  John 12:21; and against which the Lord pronounced a 'woe' because it had not repented at His mighty works.  Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13 . After the Lord had fed the 5,000 on the east of Jordan He sent His disciples to Bethsaida on the western shore.  Mark 6:45 . It was near the shore on the west of the Sea of Galilee, in the same locality as Capernaum and Chorazin: there are ruins in the district, but its exact situation cannot be identified.

2. Bethsaida Julias a town near the N.E. corner of the same lake. A blind man was cured there,  Mark 8:22; and near to it the 5,000 were fed,  Luke 9:10-17 : also related in  Matthew 14:13-21;  Mark 6:31-44;  John 6:1-14 . It was called 'Julias,' because Philip the tetrarch enlarged the town, giving it the above name in honour of Julia, daughter of Augustus. It is identified by some with et Tell, 35 37' E 32 54' N . A few rude houses and heaps of stones are all that mark the spot. (The context of the above passages shows that the events recorded could not have taken place at or near the Bethsaida on the west of the lake.)

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Bethsaida ( Bĕth'Sâ'I-Dah ), Home, Of Fishing. A city of Galilee, near Capernaum.  John 12:21;  Matthew 11:21. Some writers urge that there were two Bethsaidas, since the desert place where the 5000 were fed belonged to "the city called Bethsaida,"  Luke 9:10, while after the miracle the disciples were to go before him unto the other side to Bethsaida,  Mark 6:45, which it is said could not refer to the same town. If there were two towns of this name, the first one was in Galilee on the west side of the lake, and 2. Bethsaida Julias, in Gaulanitis, on the eastern bank of the Jordan, near its entrance into the lake. Others think it unlikely that two cities in such close neighborhood should have borne the same name. Hence Dr. W. M. Thomson supposes that there was but one Bethsaida, which was built on both sides of the Jordan, and places the site at Abu-Zany, where the Jordan empties into the Lake of Galilee. The Sinaitic manuscript omits "belonging to a city called Bethsaida" in  Luke 9:1-62;  Luke 10:1-42; hence, Wilson agrees that there is no necessity for two Bethsaidas. The eastern city was beautified by Philip the tetrarch, and called Bethsaida Julias (in honor of a daughter of the emperor Augustus), perhaps to distinguish it from the western Bethsaida, in Galilee.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Bethsa'ida. (House Of Fish). Bethsaida , Of Galilee.  John 12:21. A city which was the native place of Andrew, Peter and Philip,  John 1:44;  John 12:21, in the land of Gennesareth,  Mark 6:46, compare  Mark 6:53, and therefore, on the west side of the lake. By comparing the narratives in  Mark 6:31-53 and  Luke 9:10-17, it appears certain that the Bethsaida, at which the five thousand were fed, must have been a second place of the same name, on the east of the lake.

(But, in reality, "there is, but one Bethsaida, that known on our maps as Bethsaida Julias." L. Abbot in Biblical and Oriental Journal. The fact is that Bethsaida was a village, on both sides of the Jordan, as it enters the sea of Galilee on the north, so that the western part of the village was in Galilee and the eastern portion in Gaulonitis, part of the tetrarchy of Philip.

This eastern portion was built up into a beautiful city by Herod Philip, and named by him Bethsaida Julias, after Julia, the daughter of the Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar. On the plain of Butaiha, a mile or two to the east, the five thousand were fed. The western part of the town remained a small village. - Editor).

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

BETHSAIDA . A place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, whither Christ went after feeding the five thousand (  Mark 6:45 , cf.   Luke 9:10 ), and where He healed a blind man (  Mark 8:22 ); the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (  John 1:44;   John 12:21 ). It was denounced by Christ for unbelief (  Matthew 11:21 ,   Luke 10:13 ). The town was advanced by Philip the tetrarch from a village to the dignity of a city, and named Julias, in honour of Cæsar’s daughter. The situation is disputed, and, indeed, authorities differ as to whether or not there were two places of the same name, one east, one west of the Jordan. Et-Tell , on the northern shore of the sea, east of the Jordan, is generally identified with Bethsaida Julias: those who consider that the narrative of the crossings of the Lake (  Mark 6:45 ) requires another site west of the Jordan, seek it usually at ’Ain et-Tabigha near Khan Minyeh. The latest writers, however, seem inclined to regard the hypothetical second Bethsaida as unnecessary (see Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels , p. 41), and to regard et-Tell as the scene of all the incidents recorded about the town.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

  • A city near which Christ fed 5,000 ( Luke 9:10; Compare  John 6:17;  Matthew 14:15-21 ), and where the blind man had his sight restored ( Mark 8:22 ), on the east side of the lake, two miles up the Jordan. It stood within the region of Gaulonitis, and was enlarged by Philip the tetrarch, who called it "Julias," after the emperor's daughter. Or, as some have supposed, there may have been but one Bethsaida built on both sides of the lake, near where the Jordan enters it. Now the ruins et-Tel.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Bethsaida'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [10]

    Place of fishing, 1. A city in Galilee, on the western shore of the lake of Gennesareth, a little north of Capernaum; it was the birthplace of the apostles Philip, Andrew, and Peter, and was often visited by our Lord,  Matthew 11:21;  Mark 6:45;  8:22 .

    2. A city in Gaulonitis, north of the same lake, and east of the Jordan. Near this place Christ fed the five thousand. It lay on a gentle hill near the Jordan separated from the sea of Galilee by a plain three miles wide, of surpassing fertility,  Luke 9:10 . Compare  Matthew 14:13-22;  Mark 6:31-45 . This town was enlarged by Philip, tetrarch of that region,  Luke 3:1 , and called Julias in honor of Julia, the daughter of Augustus. It is now little but ruins.

    Holman Bible Dictionary [11]

     John 1:44 John 12:21 Luke 9:10 Mark 8:22 Matthew 11:21 Luke 10:13 Mark 6:45 Mark 6:1

    William Vermillion

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

    ( Βηθσαϊδά , for the Aramaean צֵידָה בֵּית , Fishing-Town, Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. col. 1894), a name which nearly all writers on Palestinian geography since Reland have assigned to two places, not far from each other, on the opposite shores near the head of Lake Tiberias (see Raumer, Paldstina, p. 109), but which there appears to be no good reason for distinguishing from each other (see Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 31 sq.).

    1. A town ( Πόλις ,  John 1:45) in Galilee ( John 12:21), apparently on the western side of the sea of Tilcrias, being in "the land of Gennesareth" (q.v.), and yet toward the northern extremity of the lake ( Mark 6:45). It was the native place of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, and the frequent resort of Jesus ( John 1:44;  John 12:21, etc.). It was evidently in near neighborhood to Capernaum and Chorazin ( Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13; and comp.  Mark 6:45 with  John 6:16), and, if the interpretation of the name is to be trusted, close to the water's edge. By Jerome ( Comm. In Esai. 9, 1) and Eusebius ( Onom. ) these towns and Tiberias are all mentioned together as lying on the shore of the lake. Epiphanius ( Adv. Haer. 2) says of Bethsaida and Capernaum that they were not far apart. Wilibald (A.D. 722) went from Magdalum to Capernaum, thence to Bethsaida, and then to Chorazin. These ancient notices, however, though they fix its general situation, none of them contain any indication of its. exact position, and as, like the other two towns just mentioned, its name and all memory of its site have perished, no positive identification can be made of it. It is true that Pococke (2, 99) finds Bethsaida at Irbid; Scetzen at Khan Minyeh (Zach's Montl. Corresp. 18, 248); Nau at Mejdel ( Voyage, p. 578; Quaresmius, 2:866), apparently between Khan Minyeh and Mejdel; and others at Tabighah (so Robinson) all different points on the western shore of the lake. The Christians of Nazareth and Tiberias are indeed acquainted with the name, as well as that of Capernaum, from the New Testament; and they have learned to apply them to different places according to the opinions of their monastic teachers, or as may best suit their own convenience in answering the inquiries of travelers. It is thus that Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Researches, 3, 295) accounts for the fact that travelers have sometimes heard the names along the lake. Whenever this has not been the consequence of direct leading questions, which an Arab would always answer affirmatively, the names have doubtless been heard from the monks of Nazareth, or from the Arabs in a greater or less degree dependent upon them. The position of this Bethsaida mainly depends upon that of Capernaum, from which it was not far distant, to the north, on the shore (Robinson, new ed. of Researches, 3, 358, 359). If Capernaum be fixed at Khan Minyeh, then Bethsaida was probably at Ain el-Tabighah; but if (as on some accounts is more likely) Capernaum is to be located at Ain el-Mudawarah, then Bethsaida itself must be placed at Khan el- Minyeh; and in that case it may have sprung up as a restoration of the more ancient Cinnereth but nearer the shore. (See Capernaum).

    2. Christ fed the 5000 "near to a city called Bethsaida" ( Luke 9:10); but, it has been thought from the parallel passages ( Matthew 14:13;  Mark 6:32-45) that this event took place, not in Galilee, but on the eastern side of the lake. This was held to be one of the greatest difficulties in sacred geography (Cellar. Notit. Orb. 2, 536) till the ingenious Reland seemed to have afforded materials for a satisfactory solution of it by distinguishing Two Bethsaidas, one on the western and the other on the north-eastern border of the lake ( Palaest. p. 653). The former was undoubtedly "the city of Andrew and Peter;" and, although Reland did not himself think that the other Bethsaida is mentioned in the New Testament, it has been thought by later writers to be more in agreement with the sacred text to conclude that it was the Bethsaida near which Christ fed the 5000, and also, probably, where the blind man was restored to sight. This appears also to have been the Bethsaida of Gaulonitis, afterward called Julias, which Pliny (Hist. Nat. 5, 15) places on the eastern side of the lake and of the Jordan, and which Josephus describes as situated in Lower Gaulonitis, just above the entrance of the Jordan into the lake (War, 2, 9, 1; 3, 10, 7). It was originally only a village, called Bethsaida ( Βηθσαϊδά ), but was rebuilt and enlarged by Philip the Tetrarch not long after the birth of Christ, and received the name of Julias in honor of Julia, the daughter of Augustus (Josephus, Ant. 18, 2, 1). Philip seems to have made it his occasional residence; and here he died, and was buried in a costly tomb ( Ant. 18, 4, 6). At the northern end of the lake of Gennesareth the mountains which form the eastern wall of the valley through which the Jordan enters the lake, throw out a spur or promontory which extends for some distance southward along the river. This is known by the people on the spot by no other name than et -Tell (the hill). On it are some ruins, which were visited by the Rev. Eli Smith, and proved to be the most extensive of any in the plain. The place is regarded as a sort of capital by the Arabs of the valley (the Ghawarineh), although they have lost its ancient name, and now occupy only a few houses in it as magazines. The ruins cover a large portion of the tell, but consist entirely of unhewn volcanic stones, without any distinct trace of ancient architecture (Robinson, Bibl. Researches, 3, 308). M. De Saulcy, however, objects to this location of Bethsaida, that in et-Tell there are only what may be called ruins of a barbarous age, and not such as would mark the remains of the splendid structures of Julias; that it is situated too far from the lake to be properly called a "fishing-town," and that this position is inconsistent with Josephus's account of his military operations against Sylla (Life, § 72). He therefore thinks that Bethsaida was located at Tell-Houm, formerly regarded as the site of Capernaum (Narrative, 2, 377). But this position is inconsistent with his own identification of other neighboring localities, and fails also to meet the requirements of the scriptural texts.

    Of this Bethsaida we have certainly one, and probably two mentions in the Gospels:

    (1.) That named above, of the feeding of the 5000 ( Luke 9:10). The miracle took place in a Τόπος Ἔρημος , a vacant, lonely spot, somewhere, up in the rising ground at the back of the town, covered with a profusion of green grass ( John 6:3;  John 6:10;  Mark 6:39;  Matthew 14:19); and in the evening the disciples went down to the water and went home across the lake ( Εἰς Τὸ Πέραν ) to Bethsaida ( Mark 6:45), or, as John ( John 6:17) and Matthew ( Matthew 14:34) more generally express it, toward Capernaum, and to the land of Gennesareth. The coincidence of the two Bethsaidas occurring in the one narrative, and that on the occasion of the only absolutely certain mention of the eastern one, is extraordinary. In the very ancient Syriac recension (the Nitrian) just published by Mr. Cureton, the words in  Luke 9:10, "belonging to the city called Bethsaida" are omitted.

    (2.) The other, highly probable, mention of this place is in  Mark 8:22, where it is called a "village" ( Κώμη ). If Dalmanutha (8, 10) or Magdala ( Matthew 15:39) was on the west side of the lake, then was Bethsaida on the east, because in the interval Christ had departed by ship to the other side ( Mark 8:13). And with this well accords the mention immediately after of the villages of Caesarea-Philippi ( Mark 8:27), and of the "high mountain" of the transfiguration (9:2), which was not the traditional spot (Matthew Tabor), but a part of the Hermon range somewhere above the source of the Jordan.

    3. It is doubtful, however, whether, after all, there exists any real necessity for supposing two places of this name. As they could not have been very far from each other, the assumption is in itself a very improbable one, especially as the name nowhere occurs with any epithet or note of distinction, and neither Josephus nor any other ancient writer speaks of such a difference or duplication. In fact, all the circumstances under which every mention of the locality occurs, whether in Scripture or elsewhere, may be met by a location at the mouth of the Upper Jordan on the lake:

    (1.) This corresponds to the only definite mention of the spot by Josephus ( Ant. 18, 2, 1), as being "situate at Lake ( Πρὸς Λίμνῃ ) Gennesareth."

    (2.) This would be popularly called a part of Galilee ( John 12:21). and yet might very easily be reckoned as belonging to Lower Gaulonitis (Joseph. War, 2, 9, 1), since it was really on the border between these two districts.

    (3.) It would thus lie directly on the route from the western shore of the lake to Caesarea-Philippi ( Mark 8:22, comp. with 10 and 27).

    (4.) Such a position readily reconciles the statements in the accounts of Christ recrossing the lake after both miracles of the loaves:

    [1.] In  Mark 6:32 (comp.  John 6:1), the passage was directly across the northern end of the lake from Capernaum to a retired spot on the shore somewhat S.E. of Bethsaida; thence the disciples started to cross merely the N.E. Corner of the lake to Bethsaida itself ( Mark 6:45, but were driven by the head-wind during the night to a more southerly point, and thus reached Capernaum ( John 6:17;  John 6:21;  John 6:24), after having traversed the plain of Gennesareth ( Matthew 14:34;  Mark 6:53).

    [2.] In  Mark 8:10, the passage was likewise directly across the upper portion of the lake, but in an opposite direction, from the Decapolis ( Mark 8:31) to the vicinity of Magdala ( Matthew 15:39), thence along the shore and around the N.W. head of the lake to Bethsaida ( Mark 8:22), and so on northward to the scene of the transfiguration in the region of Caesarea-Philippi ( Matthew 16:13).

    [3.] The position of et-Tell is too far from the shore to correspond with the notices of Bethsaida and Livias, which require a situation corresponding to that of the modern ruined village el-Araj, containing some vestiges of antiquity (Robinson, Researches, 3, 304), immediately east of the debouchure of the Upper Jordan. (See Forbiger, Situs desertorum Bethsaidae, Lips. 1742).

    If Capernaum be located at Khan Minyeh or Ain Tabighah, or anywhere in that immediate vicinity, Bethsaida may very well have been situated at Tell Hum; and this position will obviate the necessity for the supposition of two Bethsaidas, inasmuch as this was the last important town in that direction, and the entire shore of the lake beyond, even on the north-east side, may very well be designated as belonging to it ( Luke 9:10). (See Capernaum).

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

    beth - sā´i - da ( Βηθσαΐδά , Bēthsaidá , "house of fishing"):

    (1) A city East of the Jordan, in a "desert place" (that is, uncultivated ground used for grazing) at which Jesus miraculously fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes ( Mark 6:32;  Luke 9:10 ). This is doubtless to be identified with the village of Bethsaida in Lower Gaulonitis which the Tetrarch Philip raised to the rank of a city, and called Julias, in honor of Julia, the daughter of Augustus. It lay near the place where the Jordan enters the Sea of Gennesaret ( Ant. , Xviii , ii, 1; BJ , II, ix, 1; III, x, 7; Vita , 72). This city may be located at et - Tell , a ruined site on the East side of the Jordan on rising ground, fully a mile from the sea. As this is too far from the sea for a fishing village, Schumacher (The Jaulān , 246) suggests that el - ‛Araj , "a large, completely destroyed site close to the lake," connected in ancient times with et - Tell "by the beautiful roads still visible," may have been the fishing village, and et - Tell the princely residence. He is however inclined to favor el - Mes‛adı̄yeh , a ruin and winter village of Arab et - Tellawı̄yeh , which stands on an artificial mound, about a mile and a half from the mouth of the Jordan. It should be noted, however, that the name is in origin radically different from Bethsaida. The substitution of sin for cad is easy: but the insertion of the guttural ‛ain is impossible. No trace of the name Bethsaida has been found in the district; but any one of the sites named would meet the requirements.

    To this neighborhood Jesus retired by boat with His disciples to rest awhile. The multitude following on foot along the northern shore of the lake would cross the Jordan by the ford at its mouth which is used by foot travelers to this day. The "desert" of the narrative is just the barrı̄yeh of the Arabs where the animals are driven out for pasture. The "green grass" of  Mark 6:39 , and the "much grass" of  John 6:10 , point to some place in the plain of el - Baṭeiḥah , on the rich soil of which the grass is green and plentiful compared with the scanty herbage on the higher slopes.

    (2) Bethsaida of Galilee, where dwelt Philip, Andrew, Peter ( John 1:44;  John 12:21 ), and perhaps also James and John. The house of Andrew and Peter seems to have been not far from the synagogue in Capernaum ( Matthew 8:14;  Mark 1:29 , etc.). Unless they had moved their residence from Bethsaida to Capernaum, of which there is no record, and which for fishermen was unlikely, Bethsaida must have lain close to Capernaum. It may have been the fishing town adjoining the larger city. As in the case of the other Bethsaida, no name has been recovered to guide us to the site. On the rocky promontory, however, East of Khān Minyeh we find Sheikh ‛Aly eṣ - Ṣaiyādı̄n , "Sheikh Aly of the Fishermen," as the name of a ruined weley , in which the second element in the name Bethsaida is represented. Near by is the site at ‛Ain et - Ṭābigha , which many have identified with Bethsaida of Galilee. The warm water from copious springs runs into a little bay of the sea in which fishes congregate in great numbers. This has therefore always been a favorite haunt of fishermen. If Capernaum were at Khān Minyeh , then the two lay close together. The names of many ancient places have been lost, and others have strayed from their original localities. The absence of any name resembling Bethsaida need not concern us.

    Many scholars maintain that all the New Testament references to Bethsaida apply to one place, namely, Bethsaida Julias. The arguments for and against this view may be summarized as follows:

    ( a ) Galilee ran right round the lake, including most of the level coastland on the East. Thus Gamala, on the eastern shore, was within the jurisdiction of Josephus, who commanded in Galilee ( BJ , II, xx, 4). Judas of Gamala ( Ant. , Xviii , i, l) is also called Judas of Galilee (ibid., i, 6). If Gamala, far down the eastern shore of the sea, were in Galilee, a fortiori Bethsaida, a town which lay on the very edge of the Jordan, may be described as in Galilee.

    But Josephus makes it plain that Gamala, while added to his jurisdiction, was not in Galilee, but in Gaulonitis ( BJ , II, xx, 6). Even if Judas were born in Gamala, and so might properly be called a Gaulonite, he may, like others, have come to be known as belonging to the province in which his active life was spent. "Jesus of Nazareth" was born in Bethlehem. Then Josephus explicitly says that Bethsaida was in Lower Gaulonitis ( BJ , II, ix, 1). Further, Luke places the country of the Gerasenes on the other side of the sea from Galilee ( Luke 8:26 ) - antı́pera tḗs Galilaias ("over against Galilee").

    ( b ) To go to the other side - eis tó péran ( Mark 6:45 ) - does not of necessity imply passing from the East to the West coast of the lake, since Josephus uses the verb diaperaióō of a passage from Tiberias to Tarichea ( Vita , 59). But ( i ) this involved a passage from a point on the West to a point on the South shore, "crossing over" two considerable bays; whereas if the boat started from any point in el - Baṭeiḥah , to which we seem to be limited by the "much grass," and by the definition of the district as belonging to Bethsaida, to sail to et - Tell , it was a matter of coasting not more than a couple of miles, with no bay to cross. ( ii ) No case can be cited where the phrase eis to peran certainly means anything else than "to the other side." ( iii ) Mark says that the boat started to go unto the other side to Bethsaida, while John, gives the direction "over the sea unto Capernaum" ( Mark 6:17 ). The two towns were therefore practically in the same line. Now there is no question that Capernaum was on "the other side," nor is there any suggestion that the boat was driven out of its course; and it is quite obvious that, sailing toward Capernaum, whether at Tell Ḥūm or at Khān Minyeh , it would never reach Bethsaida Julius. ( iv ) The present writer is familiar with these waters in both storm and calm. If the boat was taken from any point in el - Baṭeiḥah towards et - Tell , no east wind would have distressed the rowers, protected as that part is by the mountains. Therefore it was no contrary wind that carried them toward Capernaum and the "land of Gennesaret." On the other hand, with a wind from the West, such as is often experienced, eight or nine hours might easily be occupied in covering the four or five miles from el - Baṭeiḥah to the neighborhood of Capernaum.

    ( c ) The words of Mark ( Mark 6:45 ), it is suggested (Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels , 42), have been too strictly interpreted: as the Gospel was written probably at Rome, its author being a native, not of Galilee, but of Jerusalem. Want of precision on topographical points, therefore, need not surprise us. But as we have seen above, the "want of precision" must also be attributed to the writer of  John 6:17 . The agreement of these two favors the strict interpretation. Further, if the Gospel of Mark embodies the recollections of Peter, it would be difficult to find a more reliable authority for topographical details connected with the sea on which his fisher life was spent.

    ( d ) In support of the single-city theory it is further argued that ( i ) Jesus withdrew to Bethsaida as being in the jurisdiction of Philip, when he heard of the murder of John by Antipas, and would not have sought again the territories of the latter so soon after leaving them. ( ii ) Medieval works of travel notice only one Bethsaida. ( iii ) The East coast of the sea was definitely attached to Galilee in ad 84, and Ptolemy (circa 140) places Julius in Galilee. It is therefore significant that only the Fourth Gospel speaks of "Bethsaida of Galilee." ( iv ) There could hardly have been two Bethsaidas so close together.

    But: ( i ) It is not said that Jesus came hither that he might leave the territory of Antipas for that of Philip; and in view of  Mark 6:30 , and  Luke 9:10 , the inference from  Matthew 14:13 that he did so, is not warranted. ( ii ) The Bethsaida of medieval writers was evidently on the West of the Jordan. If it lay on the East it is inconceivable that none of them should have mentioned the river in this connection. ( iii ) If the 4th Gospel was not written until well into the 2nd century, then the apostle was not the author; but this is a very precarious assumption. John, writing after 84 ad, would hardly have used the phrase "Bethsaida of Galilee" of a place only recently attached to that province, writing, as he was, at a distance from the scene, and recalling the former familiar conditions. ( iv ) In view of the frequent repetition of names in Palestine the nearness of the two Bethsaidas raises no difficulty. The abundance of fish at each place furnished a good reason for the recurrence of the name.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

    Bethsa´ida (fishing-town), a town ( John 1:44;  Mark 8:22) in Galilee ( John 12:21), on the western side of the sea of Tiberias, towards the middle, and not far from Capernaum ( Mark 6:45;  Mark 8:22). It was the native place of Peter, Andrew, and Philippians and the frequent residence of Jesus. This gives some notion of the neighborhood in which it lay; but the precise site is utterly unknown, and the very name has long eluded the search of travelers.

    Bethsaida, 2

    Christ fed the 5000 'near to a city called Bethsaida' ( Luke 9:10); but it is evident from the parallel passages ( Matthew 14:13;  Mark 6:32-45), that this event took place, not in Galilee, but on the eastern side of the lake. This was held to be one of the greatest difficulties in sacred geography, till the ingenious Reland afforded materials for a satisfactory solution of it, by distinguishing two Bethsaidas; one on the western, and the other on the north-eastern border of the lake. The former was undoubtedly 'the city of Andrew and Peter;' and, it is in perfect agreement with the sacred text to conclude that it was the Bethsaida near which Christ fed the five thousand, and also, probably, where the blind man was restored to sight. It was originally only a village, called Bethsaida, but was rebuilt and enlarged by Philip the Tetrarch not long after the birth of Christ, and received the name of Julias in honor of Julia the daughter of Augustus ( Luke 3:1). Philip seems to have made it his occasional residence; and here he died, and was buried in a costly tomb.