Gush Halav, Israel and its Pauline Connection

January 18, 2018

Gush Halav (Arabic Jish) is located in Upper Galilee, on the northeastern slopes of Mount Meron, seven kilometers north-west of Safed (Tsfat). One of the interesting sites there is the remains of a synagogue (Roman period).

Remains of Gush Halav Synagogue, Upper Galilee, Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is some credible evidence of Paul’s family having lived at Gush Halav. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor wrote under the title “Paul’s Galilean Ancestors” the following:

Commenting on Philemon vv. 23–4 Jerome of Bethlehem (342–420) wrote, “They say that the parents of the Apostle Paul were from Gischala, [Gush Halav] a region of Judaea and that, when the whole province was devastated by the hand of Rome and the Jews scattered throughout the world, they were moved to Tarsus a town of Cilicia; the adolescent Paul inherited the personal status of his parents.” “Judaea” is used here to mean the whole of Palestine (Luke 23: 5). The likelihood that Jerome, or any earlier Christian, invented the association of Paul’s family with Gischala is remote. The town is not mentioned in the Bible. It had no connection with Benjamin, the tribe to which Paul belonged (Phil. 3: 5). It had no associations with the Galilean ministry of Jesus. And there is no evidence that it had Christian inhabitants in the Byzantine period. The Romans took control of Palestine in 63 BC, and subsequently there were a number of occasions (61, 55, 52, 4 BC, AD 6) when Jews from various parts of the country were enslaved and deported. The most probable in the case of Paul is 4 BC. (The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, p. 297).

When Ferrell Jenkins and I visited this location in May 2017, cattle were freely roaming the grounds.

One of many cows at Gush Halav. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.