The news comes after researchers from Nyack College in New York and Kinneret College in Israel discovered a mosaic at the “Church of the Apostles” at the El Eraj Excavation Project in the Holy Land at what is believed to be the biblical town of Bethsaida. Christian tradition indicates that the church was built over the home of Peter and his brother Andrew, who were disciples of Jesus.
A Greek inscription on a mosaic at the Byzantine-era church includes a request for prayer that refers to the Apostle Peter as the “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles.” The inscription also discusses a man named Constantine, who is described as “the servant of Christ.”
“This discovery is our strongest indicator that Peter had a special association with the basilica, and it was likely dedicated to him. Since Byzantine Christian tradition routinely identified Peter’s home in Bethsaida, and not in Capernaum as is often thought today, it seems likely that the basilica commemorates his house,” said Steven Notley, one of the professors leading the project.
The archeological project is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, the Museum of the Bible, the Lanier Theological Library Foundation, and HaDavar Yeshiva, a biblical education group.
Willibald, an 8th century bishop, wrote that the “Church of the Apostles” was built at the same location where Peter and Andrew lived. Archeologists say the new inscriptions strengthen this claim and give them a better idea of whether or not they are actually working at the biblical Bethsaida, as there are several suggested locations for the historic city.
“One of the goals of this dig was to check whether we have at the site a layer from the 1st century, which will allow us to suggest a better candidate for the identification of Biblical Bethsaida,” archeological director Mordechai Aviam said. “Not only did we find significant remains from this period, but we also found this important church and the monastery around it.”
In October, the rest of the church is expected to be cleared, and researchers say that they hope to find more inscriptions. Volunteers from the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, Slovakia, Brazil, and the U.K. all helped with the dig at the church.