Archaeologists working with Nyack College’s Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christianity and Israel’s Kinnert College recently announced they had discovered what was thought to be the Apostle Peter’s home in Bethsaida.
What the archaeologists actually discovered was the remains of an ancient Byzantium church that they believe was originally built over top of the birth home of Peter and Andrew, disciples of Christ. Though Peter eventually moved to nearby Capernaum, the Gospel of John reports that he his brother were originally from Bethsaida:
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:44 NASV)
The archaeological team led by Mordechai Aviam is referring to the Church of the Apostle referenced by a man named Willibald in 725 AD. He was the Bishop of Eichstaett located in Bavaria. During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he wrote of visiting the Church of the Apostle in Bethsaida while sailing from Capernaum to Kuris on the Sea of Galilee. He noted specifically the church was built over the original home of Peter and Andrew.
Due to the lack of evidence, many have questioned if the church actually existed. Though as some have pointed out, the mention by Willibald was a simple side note and hardly the basis of an elaborate conspiracy theory.
The archaeologists are working at a site known as El-Araj located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There has even been some debate if this is the actual location of Bethsaida.
But not only have they found coins and pottery dated to the first century, El-Araj fits the location provided by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus who described Bethsaida as being near a Roman settlement, that has also been found. And because of Willibald’s written record, the discovery of the Byzantium church actually adds further evidence this is Bethsaida.
At this point, archaeologists have only excavated a third of the church and it will take another three years for the full excavation to be completed. So far they have discovered evidence of a mosaic floor, guilded walls and a chancel screen made of marble. Chancel screens were used to partition off areas in a church. Their work also suggest that this was the site of much larger monastery.
It was typical for ancient Byzantine churches to provide signage indicating what it was dedicated too and if this church was built on the original home of Peter and Andrew there would undoubtedly be some type of inscription indicating this.
Of course even if they find a confirming inscription would it have been built on top of the actual home of Peter and Andrew?
It is hard to say.
Peter is considered the Roman Catholic church’s first pope and anything associated with him would be considered historically important.
We know, or at least claim to know, the house where Shakespeare was born. It is located on Henley street in Warkwickshire, England. It has been turned into a museum which would be the ancient’s equivalent of building a church to memorialize a site. Shakespeare was born in 1564, nearly 500 years ago.
The mention of the church in 725 tells us that it was built much earlier. So it is entirely possible that the early church knew the location of Peter’s home in Bethsaida.
In 2018, Italian archaeologists working in the confirmed ancient city of Capernaum stated they found Peter’s home in that community. Similar to El-Araj, a Byzantine church had been built over the house.
But as they worked on the site, they found the archaeological remains of a first century dwelling beneath the church. They also found evidence of extensive renovations including converting part of it into a larger room and as well large stone pots and several lamps indicating that the house had changed from a living quarters to some type of communal facility perhaps even a place for meetings some time after the mid-first century.
There was even Christian graffiti scratched into its plastered walls including crosses and phrases such as “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” indicating it may have been home to some of the earliest church meetings. Such a transformation wouldn’t be surprising if this was in fact Peter’s home.
- Church of Christ’s fishermen Apostles is found: Israel dig uncovers site of Biblical village where Jesus’s disciples Peter and Andrew were born: Daily Mail
- Ancient Church of the Apostles Uncovered Near Sea of Galilee: Breaking Israel News