Christ Inscription Unearthed in Israeli Village
A 1,500-year-old Greek Christ inscription bearing the words “Christ born of Mary” has been discovered at an excavation at the ancient village of Taibe, in northern Israel. This finding has not only revealed the first Byzantine church in the ancient settlement of Taibe, but it represents early evidence of Christianity in the region.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Wednesday that a team of archaeologists were excavating ahead of the building of a new road inside the Muslim Arab village of Taiba in northeastern Israel’s Jezreel Valley. The researchers discovered the faded ancient inscription built into a wall at the entrance of an impressive Byzantinebuilding that was decorated with geometrically designed mosaic pavements.
IAA archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre told The Jerusalem Post that the team knew this was an area where many archaeological remains had already been found, but when they came across the “ Christ born of Mary” inscription, “we knew we had a church.” What they didn’t know at first, however, was that they had discovered the first Byzantinechurch in the ancient settlement of Taiba and evidence of early Christians in the area.
The Christ inscription was found when excavating a building in the Muslim Arab village of Taiba in northeastern Israel. (Tzachi Lang / Israel Antiquities Authority )
An Ancient Blessing Protecting All Who Enter from Evil
Dr. Leah Di Segni is a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem . According to the professor, the term “Christ born of Mary” is a greeting, or a blessing, cast over all those who entered the holy building. Di Segni added that the inscription confirms the building was a church, and not a monastery, because ancient churches “greeted believers at their entrance, while monasteries tended not to do this.”
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In the 5th century AD, Theodosius was the regional archbishop of the metropolis of Bet She’an, the center of the religious life and the capital of Palaestina Secunda, a Byzantine province from 390 AD until the Muslim invasion of circa 636 AD, which incorporated Taibe. Di Segni explained that Theodosius’ name appears on documents related to archbishops’ meetings, and that the words “Christ born of Mary” were widely used at the beginning of his documents. It is thought that the term served as a sort of blessing, spell, charm or incantation serving to “protect from evil,” and similarly, this is most probably why the words were originally installed above the church door.
Excavations at Taibe have unearthed this most recent Christ inscription. (Einat Ambar-Armon / Israel Antiquities Authority )
The First Byzantine Church in Taibe
The blessing originally stood above the entrance of the church but it was discovered in the more modern church walls, so it had been reused as construction material at some time in the past when the building collapsed and was rebuilt. Taibe was a Christian village in the Byzantine period between the 5th to 7th centuries and later became the site of a Crusader fortress. IAA archaeologist Dr. Walid Atrash points out that while archaeologists have explored the Jezreel Valley for many years, most of their findings relate to ancient Christians, but this discovery is “the first evidence of the Byzantine church’s existence in the village of Taibe.”
Putting this discovery into historical context, according to C.R. Conder and H.H. Kitchener’s 1882 book The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology , in ancient times Taibe was known as “Tubi,” and it was listed among the places paying tribute to Thutmose III of Egypt . This was confirmed when sarcophagus remains were found northeast of the village. This area later functioned as a graveyard during the Roman and Byzantine eras.
The Times of Israel says that the ruins of the Crusader-period church that were previously discovered at Taibe were the most significant archaeological Christian features at the village, but now, this carving is the “first evidence of a Christian presence from the earlier Byzantine era.” And even though Taibe is not mentioned in the New Testament , this singular inscription has finally “closed the circle, and now we know there were Christians in this area during this era,” said the researchers.
Top image: The phrase “Christ born of Mary” was found carved in stone on the Christ inscription discovered during excavations in Taibe, Israel. Source: Tzachi Lang / Israel Antiquities Authority
By Ashley Cowie