You are here

Biblical Archaeology Review 48:1, Spring 2022

Bethsaida and the Church of the Apostles

In 2017, excavators at El-Araj uncovered a Byzantine basilica. Could this be the lost Church of the Apostles, described by early pilgrims as a church commemorating the home of Peter and Andrew?

Located along the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, El-Araj is one of two sites proposed as biblical Bethsaida, the other being nearby Et-Tell.a In the Bible, the village is famously the home of the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44). However, Bethsaida was abandoned in the fourth century, and was not mentioned again until an eighth-century Bavarian bishop traveled to the Church of the Apostles that was said to be built atop the site’s ruins. Over the past century, scholars have tried repeatedly to locate biblical Bethsaida and the Church of the Apostles. Recent discoveries suggest El-Araj may indeed be the site of both.

Since the start of the excavations, the team has found gilded glass tesserae, which appear in ornate churches of the Byzantine period. During the 2019 season, the team discovered the remains of elaborate mosaic floors. In 2021, more of the church’s mosaic was uncovered, along with walls that indicate the building measured approximately 88 by 52 feet. The team also found two fragmentary inscriptions, one mentioning the construction of the basilica and the other referencing major renovations carried out on the church.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.