Inscription and church resolve controversy over location of holy city of Bethsaida

GOLAN HEIGHTS — Several days ago, researchers found a mosaic inscription that definitively refers to a church named after St. Peter and St. Andrew within the archaeological city in which research and excavations continued for three decades in the Golan Heights, confirming that the site dates to Christian antiquity.

After more than three decades of archaeological excavations in the Al-Batiha Plain of the Golan Heights in search of the city of Bethsaida, where according to the New Testament five of the disciples of Jesus Christ were born, researchers were able to read a mosaic inscription that definitively refers to a church named after St. Peter and St. Andrew. This major discovery may solve the longstanding mystery and resolve the controversy over the location of the city of Bethsaida, which historically was one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites.

According to a report by Tayseer Khalaf in Irfaasawtak, the church — built during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great — was found at the Al-Araj site near the village of Masadiya on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee by the excavation team of the Kinneret Institute.

(Image: Menahem Kahana / AFP)

According to the two professors heading the excavation, the inscription in question is surrounded by a circular medallion consisting of two lines of black stones and refers to the name of the donor, “Constantinos the Servant of Christ”, confirming the city’s conversion to Christianity.

The real location of Bethsaida was a subject of controversy among travelers and biblical archaeologists in the nineteenth century. In the last three decades, archaeologists, benefiting from new scientific data, reached a kind of consensus regarding the site of Bethsaida, placing it somewhere in the Al-Batiha Plain, in the middle of which lies an archaeological hill. A prominent position in Christian history through its association with many major events in the life of Christ.