For centuries the church of the apostles, which historians say rested atop the home of disciples Peter and Andrew has just been discovered near the Sea of Galilee in the ancient city of Bethsaida.
A team of archaeologists from Kinneret College in Israel and Nyack College’s Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins have been excavating the site for four years according to CNN.
A New Testament professor from Nyack College, R. Seven Notely said they will need another year to complete the excavation of the church entirely he cites in his blog. So far, they’ve uncovered roughly one third.
According to Notely, the church’s recent discovery is bold evidence to combat scholars who have denied its existence. Christian Post quotes the professor saying: “Although it is mentioned in Byzantine pilgrimage itineraries, many thought these reports mistaken,” Notley said. “Of equal importance, the church indicates that there existed a living memory in the Christian community about the location of Bethsaida, home of Peter and Andrew and Philip (John 1:44).”
The ancient town and host of the church, Bethsaida is believed to be modern-day el-Araj which sits on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s in this same town that Jesus healed a blind man and fed the crowd of 5,000.
Archaeologists were led initially by bits of evidence that indicated they were on the heels of uncovering a church. According to Fox News, they identified chunks of marble, glass blocks called tesserae which are used to create ornate mosaics. Notely went on to explain, “These discoveries already informed us that the church was waiting to be found somewhere nearby.”
The uncovered mosaic floor, in particular, was “clear proof that the church stood here in the Byzantine era,” Notley comments.
Although this discovery is a significant milestone, the team has much work to do to finish excavating the church and fully substantiate the building as the Church of the Apostles. Haaretz cities in an interview with Notely that an inscription which indicates whose memory the building was created for will secure its identity.
Archaeologists remain confident that this is only the beginning of compelling discoveries from this ancient Byzantine site as they continue their ambitious dig.