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Megiddo Mosaic, incribed: To God Jesus Christ (archeology)

posted by bibleprobe(R) Homepage, Mass., 03.04.2007

Early Christian Prayer Hall Found in Megiddo Prison
Inscribed To God Jesus Christ

[image]

MEGIDDO PRISON, Israel - Israeli prisoner Ramil Razilo was removing rubble from the planned site of a new prison ward when his shovel uncovered the edge of an elaborate mosaic, unveiling what Israeli archaeologists said Sunday may be the Holy Lands oldest church.

The discovery of the church in the northern Israeli town of Megiddo, near the biblical Armageddon, was hailed by experts as an important discovery that could reveal details about the development of the early church in the region. Archaeologists said the church dated from the third century, decades before Constantine legalized Christianity across the Byzantine Empire.

Whats clear today is that its the oldest archaeological remains of a church in Israel, maybe even in the entire region. Whether in the entire world, its still too early to say, said Yotam Tepper, the excavations head archaeologist.

Israeli officials were giddy about the discovery, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calling the church an amazing story.

Vatican officials also hailed the find.

A discovery of this kind will make Israel more interesting to all Christians, for the church all over the world, said Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican envoy to Jerusalem. If its true that the church and the beautiful mosaics are from the third century, it would be one of the most ancient churches in the Middle East.

Razilo, who is serving a two-year sentence for traffic violations, was one of about 50 prisoners brought into the high-security Megiddo Prison to help excavate the area before the construction of new wards for 1,200 Palestinian prisoners.

Razilo was shocked to uncover the edge of the mosaic. The inmates worked for months to uncover all the parts of the mosaic the floor of the church, he said.

We continued to look and slowly we found this whole beautiful thing, said Razilo, who used a sponge and a bucket of water to clean dirt off the uncovered mosaics Sunday.

[image]

Above picture from Biblical Archeological Society

Two mosaics inside the church one covered with fish, an ancient Christian symbol that predated the widespread use of the cross symbol tell the story of a Roman officer and a woman named Aketous who donated money to build the church in the memory of the god, Jesus Christ.

[image]
This inscription was made (or commissioned) by a woman named Akeptous. She has "offered a table", it says, "as a remembrance, to (the) God Jesus Christ". It is pretty likely that the so-called table was in use as the place where the ritual Last Supper (or Eucharist) took place.

Pottery remnants from the third century, the style of Greek writing used in the inscriptions, ancient geometric patterns in the mosaics and the depiction of fish rather than the cross indicate that the church was no longer used by the fourth century, Tepper said.

The churchs location, not far from the spot where the New Testament says the final battle between good and evil will take place, also made sense because a bishop was active in the area at the time, said Tepper, who works with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The inscription, which specifies that Aketous donated a table to the church, indicates the house of worship predated the Byzantine era, when Christians began using altars in place of tables in their rituals, Tepper said. Remnants of a table were uncovered between the two mosaics.

The building most of which was destroyed also was not built in the Basilica style that was standard under the Byzantines, he added.

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar and professor at the Holy Land University, said the second and third centuries were transitional periods where people sought to define their religious beliefs and modes of worship. Iconography and inscriptions found in Nazareth and Caperneum places where Jesus lived show that people went there to worship, although most did so secretly.

This was a time of persecution and in this way it is quite surprising that there would be such a blatant expression of Christ in a mosaic, but it may be the very reason why the church was destroyed, Pfann said.

The dig will continue as archaeologists try to uncover the rest of the building and its surroundings, including what they believe could be a baptismal site, Tepper said.

Read this entire story: here

 


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