A 1,500-year-old Ancient Greek inscription bearing the name “Christ, born of Mary” was unearthed in northern Israel, the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.
The archaeologists discovered the inscription engraved at the entrance of an impressive building from the Byzantine or early Islamic period, featuring mosaic pavements decorated with a geometric design.
The finding was unveiled in a salvage excavation led by Tzachi Lang and Kojan Haku ahead of the construction of a road inside the village of Taiba in the Jezreel Valley.
According to the press release, "the [Ancient Greek] inscription greets those who enter and blesses them. It is therefore clear that the building is a church, and not a monastery – churches greeted believers at their entrance, while monasteries tended not to do this."
“We did not know what to expect ahead of the work, but we knew that this was an area where archaeological remains had been found," Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre told The Jerusalem Post.
"When we came across the inscription, we knew we had a church,” she added.
Theodosius was the regional archbishop of the metropolis of Beit She’an to which Taiba belonged in the 5th century CE. His name appeared in documents related to archbishops’ meetings, Alexandre explained.
The words “Christ born of Mary” were widely used at the beginning of documents or other forms of text, serving as a blessing and protection from evil.
“As a blessing, the inscription must have originally stood at the entrance of the church, where people could see it. However, it was now found incorporated in the walls, therefore we know that the stone was reused as construction material. Likely the building collapsed and was rebuilt,” Alexandre pointed out.
The region of the Jezreel Valley (in the Northern District of Israel) bears many testimonies of ancient Christian life.
“This is the first evidence of the Byzantine church’s existence in the village of Taiba and it adds to other finds attesting to the activities of Christians who lived in the region,” said IAA archaeologist Dr. Walid Atrash.
Taiba itself was a Christian village in the Byzantine period (5th to 7th centuries) and later became the site of a Crusader fortress.