Archaeologists searching for the Church of the Apostles say they have discovered the ancient holy site near the Sea of Galilee.
The Church of the Apostles is famed for reportedly being built over the home of the apostles Andrew and Peter.
What are the details of the archaeologists’ findings?
Archaeological excavators affiliated with the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, Kinneret College in Israel, and Nyack College in New York State made the discovery, according to a Wednesday news release.
One archaeologist involved in the discovery says that the finding of a mosaic floor near the sea’s northern shore is “clear proof” of the Church of the Apostles’ existence.
According to the news release:
A large church from the Byzantine period was unearthed during the fourth season of archaeological excavations, carried out by Kinneret College and the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, at the site of Beit Habek (el-Araj), near the Jordan River estuary on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The excavators have identified it with the Church of the Apostles visited by a Bavarian bishop named Willibald in 725 C.E. He described his journey in which he traveled around the Sea of Galilee visiting Tiberias, Magdala, Capernaum and Kursi. On his way, he passed through a place called Bethsaida where he saw a church built over the house of Peter and Andrew. These two brothers were numbered among the first disciples of Jesus. The New Testament also records that they came from the village of Bethsaida, which in the first century was located on the lakeshore and today is in the Buteiha Valley Nature Reserve.
In a blog post about the expedition, R. Steven Notley, a professor of the New Testament at Nyack College, said, “The Church of the Apostles (as we have begun to call it), built over the house of Peter and Andrew, must have been a magnificent structure. It will take another season to fully uncover it.”
Other items unearthed included a portion of a stone cross. The release revealed that rooms appearing to be part of a monastery complex have been excavated.
Other items include a “fragment of the marble chancel screen, decorated with a wreath,” as well as “glass tesserae gilded in gold that belonged to a wall mosaic.”
Such items, according to the news release, indicate a “large and magnificent church.”
Notley told Fox News that he was most pleased to uncover the mosaic floors, and also explained why the find is so significant.
“It is always remarkable to bring these beautifully decorated floors to light after being buried for almost 1,500 years,” he said.
“First, until its recent discovery, many scholars questioned [the church’s] existence,” he added. “Although it is mentioned in Byzantine pilgrimage itineraries, many thought these reports mistaken. Of equal importance, the church indicates that there existed a living memory in the Christian community about the location of Bethsaida, home of Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44).”
You can read more on the background here.