Charleston and the Ship Model Jesus

jesusboatLast week, I was in Charleston, S.C., to speak to the Nautical Research Guild about my father’s Egyptian ship model and how he used models in researching ancient ship construction. The guild is a national group of ship modelers and other ship enthusiasts that’s been around since 1948, and its members had some incredible models on display. As I was walking around the exhibits, I spotted this one, which is the Sea of Galilee Boat, complete with a tiny ship model Jesus ahead of the mast.

My father and others who worked on the project were always careful to say that the first-century fishing boat, found on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel, may have been similar to the one that Jesus used, but there is no evidence that it is the boat referred to in the Bible. Also, there’s no record of Jesus owning a boat. Nevertheless, the vessel has become known as the “Jesus Boat,” and the tiny ship model Jesus seemed to be a nod to the savvy marketing of the project.

Nearby was a model of a bireme in a perfume bottle. It reminded me of a model I mentioned in  The Man Who Thought Like a Ship. My father built a tiny frigate in a hollowed out flashlight bulb. He used strands of my mother’s hair for the rigging. He had to build special tools to do it, and he displayed it at a hobby fair under a magnifying glass. Sadly, like so many of his models, that one is lost to the ages.

The modeler who built both the bireme and the Jesus Boat also told me there’s a model kit of the Kyrenia Ship available on the Internet. I had no idea. I’m certainly not the ship modeler my father was, but I’m tempted to try my hand at this just for the sheer irony of it. After all, it appears this model is patterned after Kyrenia II, the full-scale replica built in the 1980s. That ship was built using the lines drawings my father made for the reconstruction of the original Greek merchant ship from 300 BC.


About lorensteffy

Loren Steffy is a writer, speaker and consultant. He is the author of Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit published by McGraw-Hill in 2010 and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship, published by Texas A&M University Press in April 2012. A journalist for more than 25 years, he was most recently the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle.
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