megido mosaic 298 IAA.
(photo credit: courtesy of IAA)
Expansion plans for Megiddo Prison, until now known only as a main facility for security prisoners in the North, have unexpectedly yielded a major find for the Christian world and Israeli tourism: a structure believed by some archeologists to be the earliest church ever found.
The rare Christian religious structure, possibly the largest church ever found here according to reports, was found during an Israel Archeological Association (IAA) excavation at the site, discovered thanks to the help of, among others, 60 prisoners who worked on the dig.
Found on the floor of the structure was an inscription written in Greek dedicating the monument to the "Lord Jesus Christ". In addition to the dedication to Jesus, three other inscriptions were found on the mosaic floor.
One of them, the northernmost inscription on the mosaic, constituted a dedication to Gaianus, a military officer who contributed to the
construction of the mosaic floor from his own funds. Another, the easternmost inscription, memorialized four Greek women. The last of the inscriptions, on the western side of the mosaic recalled a certain god-loving "Afektos."
IAA excavation supervisor Jotham Tefer said that the content, wording and style of the inscriptions date the structure to the 3rd-4th centuries CE.
"Christian religious structures from this period are a rare archeological find in Israel," Tefer said.
"Third to fourth century mosaics, including those with inscriptions, are very rare. This [finding] is a unique and important structure [and expands] our understanding of the early period of Christianity as a recognized and official religion," he continued.
The IAA excavation was initiated following the Israel Prisons Service's (IPS) request to expand the Megiddo Prison to check the surrounding area earmarked for expansion for artifacts.
The IPS, which confirmed the finding, expressed their hope that the ancient structure would not stall their efforts to expand the prison.
"We need to see if it will be transferred elsewhere," the IPS said in a statement.
"We are interested in expanding the prison and we hope the find will not hinder our plans."
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
Send us your comments >>
Amy Chai, USA:
Fascinating! I hope nobody is shortsighted enough to move the priceless and ancient structure just so they can enlarge a prison. Please!
This article is extremely interesting to myself and my friends. I hope there will be follow-up on this very important news. Many thanks for it.
Todd Staege, USA:
God has all things in his control. This find is the next step in the events that will lead to Christ's return. The inscription about Jesus states that the table is prepared for him. This is God's way of telling us to be prepared and to come to Christ, for his return is near. "behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew
tongue Armageddon." Revelation 16:15,16. Please do not be caught sleeping when the day of judgement arrives, but trust in the Lord God and in his Christ (our Creator, Savior, and King) to the glory of God the Father, Amen.
Bob Benzin, Easton, MD:
Outstanding discovery. Kudos to both the prison authorities and the IAA. Prison should look to expand in another direction or location.