Discovery: Byzantine-Era Church Built on Home of Two Apostles

A new discovery in Israel may shine a light on the personal residence of two of Jesus Christ’s closest disciples, as archaeologists report that the Byzantine-era church they found may have been built on the home of two apostles.

An inscription on the floor of the church ruins, which were discovered on the coast of the Sea of Galilee in Israel, has led archaeologists to believe that they have found the place where apostles Andrew and Peter resided during biblical times.

According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and Peter were brothers. The two apostles were residents of a town named Bethsaida, which has long since ceased to exist.

The archaeologists who found the church ruins are researchers from the El Araj Excavation Project.

The researchers believe that the Byzantine basilica they uncovered on the north side of the sea may have been built on the ruins of old Bethsaida — specifically, on the home belonging to Peter and Andrew.

The area that the site is located in is known today as Israel’s Betiha nature preserve.

Inside the church, a Greek inscription identifies Peter as “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles,” which has led archaeologists to believe that the basilica was dedicated in his honor.

The floor of the church also identifies a donor named Constantine — which is possibly a reference to the Roman Emperor Constantine who embraced Christianity in the early 4th century.

Christian authors in medieval times referred to a Holy Land basilica which had been constructed atop the shared residence of the apostles, and this discovery has experts believing they have finally found the site in question.

“This discovery is our strongest indicator that Peter had a special association with the basilica, and it was likely dedicated to him,” stated Steven Notley, academic director of the dig.

“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,” he added.

Academics from both Kinneret College and Nyack College collaborated on the dig, and the project was also 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.

Archaeologists are planning to restore more of the buried church in October in the hopes of uncovering more inscriptions from the original building.

Meanwhile, they are comparing the inscriptions they have already found to the writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who has indicated that biblical Bethsaida became a village named Julias.

The apostles Peter and Andrew initially became disciples of Jesus when they worked as fishermen in Galilee. Peter is one of the most often mentioned individuals in the New Testament, and was a leader of the early Christian church following Jesus’ earthly ministry.

According to Christian tradition, Peter served as the bishop of Antioch in modern-day Syria prior to his eventual martyrdom in Italy.