Ever wondered where Jesus' most loyal followers – his 12 disciples – came from? Archaeologists in Israel believe they've discovered the lost city of Jesus' disciples, where Peter, Andrew, and Philip lived, and it's called el-Araj today. Referred to as "Bethsaida" in the New Testament, it is also possibly the location of Jesus' miracle of the loaves and fishes. But was el-Araj Bethsaida?
Scholars don't universally agree, of course, but new archeological evidence points to the affirmative. Since physical proof of crucixion has also been uncovered in Isreal, now, archaeologists have to answer another question: Where are the disciples buried?
What's So Important About Bethsaida? Three Of Jesus' Main Apostles Hailed From There
Bethsaida gained biblical fame as the original city from which three of Jesus' 12 apostles hailed. According to John 1:44, "now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter." John 12:21 goes on to confirm Philip was from Bethsaida. There's been a great deal of scholarly back and forth regarding the location of Bethsaida, since John 12:21 mentions it being in Galilee, but other evidence refutes the existence of any historical Galilean settlement of such a name. For their part, contemporary scholars and archeologists believe that what was Bethsaida would have been east of the Jordan River.
The recent archeological findings at el-Araj seem to confirm this line of thinking.
Was There An Early Church In Bethsaida? Tiny Mosaic Tiles Found At The Site Point To Yes
It wouldn't have been any Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, but el-Araj might have contained an early church. Tiny tesserae, small pieces used to make up a mosaic, were uncovered during excavations there. And the thinking goes that they were possibly used to decorate a religious building. In 725 CE, a German bishop named Willibald trekked to Israel and described visiting a church in Bethsaida that was built over a house belonging to Peter and Andrew. The excavations happening at el-Araj might have finally unearthed the physical evidence of this visit.
Don't Believe False Headlines – Nobody Really Found The "House of The Apostles"
News reports have claimed that one of the buildings found in el-Araj was the house of the apostles Andrew, Peter, and Philip, but that's not the case. Rather, archaeologists think they might have found the apostles' home city, that of Bethsaida (which was given the name Julias by the Romans). Steve Notley, a researcher on site at el-Raj, told National Geopraphic that, simply put, the house of the apostles was included in headlines to falsely sensationalize an already sensational discovery. "We [the researchers] did not write the headline," explained Notley.
The Bible Gives Us Clues As To Bethsaida's Location, Which Brought The Archeologists To el-Araj In The First Place
So, what does the Bible say about Bethsaida in terms of its location? It says that it's a fishing village near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water. And, indeed, el-Araj is on the northern end of the sea. The Gospel of John also specifically placed Bethsaida in the larger region of Galilee.