Archaeologists Find Lost Roman City That Was Apostles’ Home

The ancient texts of Josephus Flavius, the famous ancient Jewish historian, talk about the son of King Herod (King Philip Herod) modernizing the fishing village of Bethsaida into a real Roman city named “Julias”. While Roman writer Pliny the Elder writes that Bethsaida is one of four lovely cities by the sea (of Galilee), Flavius’ texts are the only known source describing Herod’s modernization project named after empress Julia Augusta, mother to Emperor Tiberius.

The book of John in the Bible names Bethsaida as the home of apostles Andrew, Peter and Philip. The books of Mark and Luke both detail events that happened in or near Bethsaida, including Jesus giving sight to a blind man, and the famous story of Jesus using just a few fish and loaves to feed 5,000 people. Remember the story of Jesus walking on water? The eyewitnesses viewed him from the shores of Bethsaida.

Jesus once visited Bethsaida and criticized the people for their lack of faith in God. This is written in the book of Luke (10:13-14):“Woe to you, Bethsaida!” That’s when three natives—Andrew, Peter and Philip—responded to Jesus’ call and became his apostles.

Archaeologists now think they’ve found the city at an excavation site located on the Sea of Galilee’s northern shore. The multi-layered excavation site is situated in the modern-day Bethsaida Valley Nature Reserve.

Archaeologists began wondering if they’d stumbled upon Julias when a Roman-style bathhouse was uncovered. An advanced architecture like the bathhouse would certainly not have been a part of any Jewish fishing village, according to Kinneret College professor Dr. Mordechai Aviam. Traditional clay bricks and a particular design of ceramic vent used in Roman bathhouses marked the specific find. Then, an entire wall was found, and after that, an adjacent section of a large black-and-white mosaic floor with mortar still intact.

The reports of Josephus Flavius discuss Herod’s upgrade of “the fishing village into a proper city”. Apparently, Flavius himself was in charge of fortifying the new city’s defenses, just in time for the “Great Jewish Revolt” against Rome in 67 to 70 C.E. Flavius’ accounts even say he himself was wounded in the battle.

The excavation site by the Sea of Galilee is rather large, and up until the bathhouse find, archaeologists had three sites that were potentially Julius. The find with the bathhouse is called el-Araj, and there were two other finds very near the lake, one called el-Tell. After the bathhouse was located, other Roman-era remains like mosaics, pottery shards, and coins including a silver denarius were found beneath the Byzantine layer. The Roman layer is over 200 meters below sea level, indicating the lake level was lower than historians previously figured. (The Sea of Galilee is the second lowest lake in the world.

Because el-Araj is located at the Jordan River delta, el-Araj is the strongest candidate for both the fishing village and the modern metropolis built by Herod.

As if the Julias find is not exciting enough, archaeologists now also think they may have found a missing church once described by ancient church leaders. Walls with gilded glass blocks called tesserae have been found. These blocks were almost exclusively used in church mosaics because of their high cost. The church is thought to be the ancient church built to commemorate the site where Peter and Andrew grew up. The church is described in 725 C.E. in the journals of Willibald, the bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria, in his accounts of his Holy Land visit, but the church had never been found by modern-day archaeologists.

Geologists from Haifa and Kinneret Universities now think that mud and clay from the Jordan River washed over the city of Julias, and was uninhabited for about 100 years before it was resettled in about the 4th century A.D.

The dig’s academic director, Nyack College professor Steven Notley, is very excited about the find, because he says that “the site is one of the few biblical sites that has remained elusive. There are indications that we’re excavating Bethsaida-Julia, we have to continue digging to confirm and clarify,” Notley said. The site is closed now, but the universities are expected to begin again in June 2018 and go for another five seasons.

~ Christian Patriot Daily


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