Is this really the biblical city where Jesus walked on water?

Archaeologists disagree on where the biblical city of Bethsaida was located.

In the story told in the Gospels, Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida. (Image credit: Culture Club/Getty Images)

Archaeologists are debating the biblical city where Jesus performed some of his most renowned miracles, according to the Gospels.

The village of Bethsaida is mentioned in the New Testament as the place where Jesus, who is thought to have been born around 4 B.C., healed a blind man and that it existed near the Sea of Galilee, where the Gospels famously account of Jesus walking on water.

Today, two archaeological sites — et-Tell and el-Araj — about 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) apart are regarded the primary possibilities for Bethsaida, but archaeologists disagree about which one is the biblical city.


Since 1987, a team led by Rami Arav, a religious studies professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, has excavated at et-Tell, a site his team believes is Bethsaida.

They've been slowly uncovering a metropolis that dates back over 3,000 years and was inhabited for millennia for decades. The evidence for et-Tell being Bethsaida was so strong that the Israeli government recognised it as Bethsaida in 1995. The location and size of the site both had a role in the decision.

However, when more artefacts from the other competing site, el-Araj, have been discovered in recent years, the government has weakened its backing, instead creating the Bethsaida Valley Nature Reserve to encompass both et-Tell and el-Araj.

(Image credit: PhotoStock-Israel / Alamy)

Some archaeologists are concerned that et-Tell didn't appear to be particularly huge during Jesus' lifetime; this is an issue because ancient accounts claim Bethsaida was quite large.

The Iron Age (1200 B.C. to 550 B.C.) remains at et-Tell are "very substantial," indicating that it was a large city at the time; however, the remains from the early Roman period, when Jesus lived, are "relatively scanty," indicating that it had become a small settlement, according to Jodi Magness, a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who is not affiliated with excavations at either site She did warn, however, that no inferences should be drawn until both sites' remains have been properly detailed.

Arav disagrees, claiming that the Roman findings at et-Tell are significant and include a Roman temple, which he believes was built after Bethsaida was raised to a city and renamed Julias in honour of Augustus' wife, Julia (also known as Livia).

"We uncovered figurines proving that the temple was devoted to Julia/Livia, Augustus' wife," Arav wrote in an email to Live Science. He also discovered a city wall enclosing et-Tell that was built by Philip, King Herod's son. The fact that Philip went to the trouble of erecting a wall around the place implies that it was large and important during Jesus' lifetime.

Originally Published Here.

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