Archaeologists say they have found the birthplace of Peter the Apostle after uncovering a mosaic that suggests a town in northern Israel is the lost biblical city of Bethsaida–the disciple’s childhood home.
Peter was one of the twelve main disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as one of his closest companions. Peter is also sometimes referred to as the “gatekeeper” of heaven based on Matthew 16:19.
By trade, Peter was a fisherman, along with his brother Andrew, who also became a disciple of Jesus, according to Overview Bible. Peter grew to become a gifted preacher and bold leader, though sometimes impulsive and emotional.
Peter was also called by other names. His original name was Simon (spelled Simeon in two Bible passages). Later, Jesus gave him the name Cephas, an Aramaic name meaning rock or stone. The Greek word for rock is Petros, the Latin word is Petra, therefore, rendered in English as Peter. Thus, we also get Simon Peter.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” said Jesus in Matthew 16:18.
Using this verse, the Roman Catholic Church states that Peter was the “first pope” and assumes that the Christian church, as a whole, was founded upon Peter and his successors, according to the pulpit commentary at Bible hub. However, there is reportedly no proof thus far that Peter was ever in Rome or transferred his alleged supremacy to that city.
According to the Bible, Peter was a Jewish fisherman from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Peter’s brother Andrew and the disciple Philip are also from the same town that is alongside the Sea of Galilee. However, the Bible also tells us that Jesus went into Capernaum and came to Peter’s house, where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever, and healed her. (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:29; Luke 4:38).
The debate then was whether Peter was born in Bethsaida or Capernaum.
The debate leaned toward Capernaum since the city of Bethsaida named in the Bible had been lost to archaeologists.
New evidence, which appears to corroborate where Peter the apostle was born, seems to indicate that el-Araj in northern Israel is the lost biblical city of Bethsaida, the Daily Mail reported.
The El-Araj Expedition, led by the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeology and New York’s Nyack College, has been excavating a site on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee since 2016, ArtNet reported.
The team uncovered a church at the site in 2019, which they believe is the Byzantine Church of the apostles that had been built to stand over the home of Peter and his brother Andrew. In the eighth century, Bishop of Eichstätt, Willibald described the church as being built over the house.
In 2021, they unearthed a mosaic that forms part of the church floor, Unilad
reported. However, at that time, it was covered by a layer of dirt and could not be read
However, after extensive work to clean up the Mosaic, it was finally translated this week by Professor Leah Di Segni of Hebrew University and Professor Yaakov Ashkenazi of Kinneret College.
The inscription calls for the intercession of the “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles.” This title, used at the time by Byzantine Christian writers, referred to Peter.
“This discovery is our strongest indicator that Peter had a special association with the basilica, and it was likely dedicated to him,” said Steven Notley, the academic director of the dig. “Since Byzantine Christian tradition routinely identified Peter’s home in Bethsaida, and not in Capernaum as is often thought today, it seems likely that the basilica commemorates his house.”