Did Archaeologists Find Bethsaida, Peter's House of Fish?

    When Peter was close to the end of his life, he was determined to remind the believers of the promises God gave them. He said, "According as his [God's] divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world" (2Pe 1:3-4).

    He told them he wanted them to remember these teachings long after he was gone. Sometimes we can read the Bible and forget how real the people were, people with real emotions, problems just like us. But to the people receiving Peter's letter, maybe he was too real and too common.

    A long time had passed after Jesus had been crucified, raised from the dead and then ascended for heaven. The religious persecutors of the day were ramping up their efforts to erase the influence of these radical Christians. Even among the faithful, new ideas about the good news were clouding truth.

    Peter was inspired to remind them, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (2Pe 1:16-17). 

    Peter was an eyewitness. He wasn't lying to them, and he wanted them to remember that. I wonder if he foresaw how important his life and his words would be to us two thousand of years later?

    So when Peter's name was discovered  on a mosaic floor in an archaeological site near the Sea of Galilee, we took notice.

    Scholars debate whether the home of Peter and Andrew was in Capernaum or Bethsaida. The towns are about six miles or so apart. But then, scholars also argue over the location of Bethsaida. Bethsaida means house of fish or house of fishermen. It was a fishing town as the Bible states. But is it at present day Et-Tell or El-Araj?

    Recent finds  seem to favor El-Araj. While both sites are in the right area on the northeast shore, Et-Tell is over a mile from the shoreline. El-Araj sits only yards away from it.

    But there is one more clue given us from a bishop named Willibald who traveled to Bethsaida around 724 AD. He said there was a church built over Peter and Andrew's house. Excavations at Et-Tell, over a period of thirty years, have never unearthed a church from the Byzantine era. There was a first century town there, however.

    Archaeologists struggle with high water tables at El-Araj because of its nearness to the Sea of Galilee. But they did discover a Byzantine church with a mosaic floor and an inscription “Chief and Commander of the Heavenly Apostles,” a title given to Peter by Byzantine writers. Evidence seems to be piling up for El-Araj as Bethsaida, the fishing town that was home to Peter, Andrew and Phillip. Now we just need the water to dry up so they can dig deeper and unearth the house.

    So what else happened at Bethsaida? Peter told Mark and you can read about that in Mark 6 and 8. Matthew wrote about it in Matthew 11. John spoke of it in John chapters 1 and 12, and Luke did too in Luke 9 and 10.

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    Image by Mikhail Preobrazhenskiy  courtesy of Unsplash.


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