Archaeology breakthrough as remains of 1,500-year-old lost ‘Church of the Apostles’ found

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The groundbreaking discovery was made on the shores of the Galilee after archaeologists exposed an intricate mosaic dating back some 1,500 years. According to Christian tradition, the Church of Apostles was built in the city of Bethsaida, atop the home of Jesus’s apostles Peter and Andrew. The site was uncovered by the El-Araj Excavation Project (EAEP), which is being led by researchers from the US and Israel.

According to excavation director Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College of the Galilee, the archaeologists unearthed a mosaic inscription that could prove the site’s Biblical significance.

He said: “We identified a large apse in the east and uncovered two inscriptions.

“While the smaller one mentions a deacon and a building project, the larger inscription is a half medallion and speaks of the bishop and reconstruction of the building.”

According to a report in Haaretz, the Church of Apostles was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD and whatever was left of its ruins was lost in the annals of time.

The village of Bethsaida itself was all but erased from history after the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land as it did not carry the Biblical heft that places like Bethlehem or Nazareth did.

There have been mentions of the church in Christian texts dating as far back as 725 AD, but without any concrete evidence to back its existence, many historians have doubted whether it ever really existed.

Saint Willibald, the eighth-century bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria is said to have visited the site during a pilgrimage in 725 AD, when reported: “And thence they went to Bethsaida, the residence of Peter and Andrew, where there is now a church on the site of their house.”

However, the site was uncovered in the Thirties when a German priest discovered an ancient mosaic below an Ottoman mansion northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee.

At the time, he presumed the mosaic dated to the Roman period, which preceded the rise of the Byzantine Empire in the East.

But proper excavations in the region did not begin until 2016 when the EAEP archaeologists began combing through the area.

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Their seasonal excavations have so far revealed a wealth of ancient treasures, building a strong case for their possible discovery of the Church of Apostles.

These included evidence of a settlement some 100m north of the main dig site area.

The last round of excavations was carried out in the summer when the archaeologists “brought more clarity to the outlines” of the Byzantine church.

Describing the fifth day of the dig, the EAEP wrote in its blog: “Early in the morning one of the students unearthed a portion of a small column likely belonging to the Byzantine Church.

“Later in the day another student found a fired mud brick.

“Even though it was found among Byzantine remains, it belonged to the first-century Roman bath that was found in 2017.

“In Area C2 students continued to dig and soon encountered mud and water because they were excavating at a lower level.

“Still they were able to identify the walls of three more first-century houses, which corresponds to the houses nearby found in 2019.”

The excavators consequently argued the Bethsaida settlement covered a large area, which opens up the possibility for more excavations in the future.

According to the Bible, Bethsaida was the site of one of Jesus’s miracles.

Mark 8 describes an encounter between Jesus and a blind man, which led to Jesus restoring his sight.

The scripture reads: “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.

“When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’

“He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.'”

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