Israeli officials are contemplating loaning the Megiddo Mosaic, an ancient Christian mosaic recognized for its early reference to Jesus as God, to the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
Discovered in 2005 near the historic site believed to be the prophesied Armageddon, the mosaic is situated near an Israeli prison. Critics, including scholars and archaeologists, have raised concerns over the proposed move, particularly due to the museum’s past controversies. The museum has faced a backlash over its acquisition methods and had to return looted items including an ancient Mesopotamian tablet.
Evangelical Christians in the US, significant supporters of Israel, have close ties with the museum. Since its discovery, the mosaic has remained at the Megiddo Prison location, but plans are underway to develop a tourist site around it. The Israel Antiquities Authority will determine the mosaic’s fate in the coming weeks.
The loan to the American museum "also underscores the deepening ties between Israel and evangelical Christians in the US," the Associated Press reported on Tuesday afternoon.
Time of excavation
The mosaic was excavated between 2004 and 2008 in an Israel Antiquities Authority salvage dig ordered by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) before it began construction of a new prison wing. The mosaic has been made available for public viewing in June of last year after the expected relocation of the jail.
The mosaic derives from what is reportedly the world's earliest Christian prayer hall, the AP reported, and that the discovery was made in a Roman-era village in the northern part of the country.
Judith Sudilovsky contributed to this report.