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Mansion in Jerusalem related to Jesus

Archaeologists find 2,000-year-old mansion which probably belonged to enemy of Jesus

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Archaeologists excavating at Jerusalem’s Mount Zion have uncovered the remains of a 2,000-year-old ruined mansion near the Second Temple erected by Herod. The discovery sheds light on the wealthy class of Jerusalem during Jesus’ day with some suggesting that it could have been home to one of Jesus’ enemies.

The mansion would have belonged to wealthy owners, signified by its size and features such as intricate carvings, a luxurious oven and a bathtub, and is similar to others found in King Herod's palace and a priest's residence.

It is thought that the home belonged to a member of the Sadducees class, a group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period who were typically wealthy, powerful and allied with the Romans.

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between Jesus and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead and there is reference to Jesus challenging the reliability of the Sadducees’ interpretation of Biblical doctrine, the authority of which enforces the power of the Sadduceean priesthood. Furthermore, Matthew depicts the Sadducees as “brood of Vipers,” and a perversion of the true Israel.

Dr Shimon Gibson, who is leading the expedition, believes the house could have belonged to the high priest Caiaphas or Annas who were both members of the ruling priest class.

“If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem – the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day – but to Jesus himself,” said James Tabor, who specialises in early Christian history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He continued: “These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life and the level of wealth that they enjoyed, would really fill in for us some key history.”

Little is known about the daily lives of priests at the time and archaeologists hope to build up a better picture of their lives from the newly-discovered mansion

“Jesus, in fact, criticises the wealth of this class. He talks about their clothing and their long robes and their finery and in a sense, pokes fun at it. So for us to get closer to understanding that, to supplement the text, could be really fascinating,” said Tabor.

Archaeologists believe this particular residence survived because of its location after the city was ruined. Mount Zion was left unoccupied until around 400 AD when people simply built on top of older walls. Around 200 years later Dr Gibson believes what remained of the house was covered with landfill material from the construction of a church called Nea Ekklesia of the Theotokos near the site.

By April Holloway

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