New Evidence of the Early Establishment of Christianity in Galilee

February 08, 2021

The recent discovery of a Greek inscription in Galilee supports the traditional thesis of an implantation of a church dating back to the early days of Christianity.

In its January 20, 2021 digital edition, The Times of Israel provides an update on the recent discovery made by researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) at the excavation site of Taybeh, a small town in the West Bank under administration of the Palestinian Authority located 30 kilometers north of Jerusalem and 12 kilometers northeast of Ramallah.

A Greek inscription has been brought to light in this locality that has been entirely Christian since the early days of the Church.

The carved stone, removed from its original location, served to support the structure of a more recent building, probably dating from the end of the Byzantine period—a building consisting of two rooms.

The archaeologists had no difficulty in restoring the text. It reads, “Christ born of Mary. This work of the most God-fearing and pious bishop [Theodo]sius and the miserable Th[omas] was built from the foundation—. Whoever enters should pray for them.”

According to IAA researchers, the inscription was originally placed at the entrance of a fifth-century church, hitherto unknown. The religious building reveals the patronage of the bishop St. Theodosius the Great (+529) - also called the Cenobiarch – a disciple of St. Simeon the Stylite, considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

“The inscription greets those who enter and blesses them: this confirms that the building is a church, and not a monastery, as churches greet believers as they enter, which is not seen with monasteries,” says Leah DiSegni, researcher at the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“The significance of the inscription lies in the fact that until now we were not sure that there were churches from this period in the area; now we have the proof,” adds Walid Atrash, archaeologist at the IAA.

Taybeh is located in the heart of second Palestine, a Byzantine province dating back to the 4th century, which local traditions consider to be one of the cradles of Christianity.