A team of Israeli and American archaeologists has uncovered a 1,500-year-old inscription on a centuries-old basilica near the Sea of Galilee that strongly suggests the building was constructed over the home of the Apostle Peter.
According to a news release, “the title’chief and commander of the apostles’ is routinely used by Byzantine Christian writers to refer to the Apostle Peter.”
Kinneret College in Israel and Nyack College in New York led the expedition. The same team announced last year that they had likely discovered the famed “Church of the Apostles,” a Byzantine-period basilica at the same location that was thought to be built over the homes of Peter and his brother, Andrew.
“This discovery is our strongest indicator that Peter had a special relationship with the basilica, and it was likely dedicated to him,” said Steven Notley, the dig’s academic director.
“Because Byzantine Christian tradition consistently identified Peter’s home as Bethsaida, rather than Capernaum, as is commonly assumed today, it appears likely that the basilica commemorates his house.”
According to the news release, the inscription, which is part of a mosaic floor in the church, was translated by Leah Di Segni (Hebrew University) and Yaakov Ashkenazi (Kinneret College). Floral patterns are used to decorate the mosaic.
The basilica is located on the Sea of Galilee in el Araj/Beit haBek, Israel.
The team believes the location is most likely Bethsaida, a biblical village.
“One of the goals of this dig was to check whether we have at the site a layer from the first century, which will allow us to suggest a better candidate for the identification of Biblical Bethsaida,” said archaeologist Mordechai Aviam, archaeological director of the excavation. “Not only did we find significant remains from this period, but we also found this important church and the monastery around it.”
An eighth-century book about the travels of bishop Willibald of Eichstätt in Bavaria references the site: “And thence they went to Bethsaida, the residence of Peter and Andrew, where there is now a church on the site of their house. They remained there that night, and the next morning went to Chorazin, where our Lord healed the demoniacs, and sent the devil into a herd of swine.”
The excavation is sponsored by the Museum of the Bible, the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, the Lanier Theological Library Foundation and HaDavar Yeshiva.