A team of Israeli archaeologists has uncovered an impressively detailed mosaic in an ancient city called Hippos-Sussita. Dating back approximately 1,400 years to the Byzantine period, the mosaic once sat on a church floor and may depict one of Jesus’ most famous miracles — ‘Feeding of the 5,000.’
The colorful mosaic once sat on the floor of a Christian church built in the second half of the fifth century — the early sixth century CE.
“The church was probably burnt down during the Sasanian conquest in the beginning of the seventh century CE,” said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, head of the Hippos-Sussita excavation team from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
“The fire caused the church mosaic floor to be conserved in an amazing way, since the roof was burnt down and collapsed on the floor of the church and covered it in a layer of ash, thus protecting it from being damaged over time.”
The mosaic is well-preserved and laden with decorations, including dedication inscriptions and depictions of baskets with loaves and fish.
“The descriptions in the mosaic along with the location of the church, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, immediately raise the connection to the Feeding the Multitude (the 5,000) miracle performed by Jesus in the area,” the archaeologists said.
“According to the New Testament, Jesus performed the miracle in an isolated area, probably in the northeast part of the Sea of Galilee, where he used five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude of 5,000 men without counting the women and children,” they added.
“Later, as the story goes, he performed the miracle of walking on water and reached the north-west of the Sea of Galilee.”
“At this place, around current day Kibbutz Ginosar/Tabgha, the Church of the Multiplication was built already in the fifth century CE, and according to the early Christian tradition, is where the miracle took place.”
“There can certainly be different explanations to the descriptions of loaves and fish in the mosaic, but you cannot ignore the similarity to the description in the New Testament,” Dr. Eisenberg said.
“For example, from the fact that the New Testament has a description of five loaves in a basket or the two fish depicted in the apse, as we find in the mosaic.”
The mosaic also contains two dedication inscriptions in Greek.
“The first tells about the two fathers of the church, Theodoros and Petros constructing a sanctuary for a martyr, while the second one, which is located inside a medallion at the center of the mosaic, exposes the name of the martyr — Theodoros,” Dr. Eisenberg said.
“The people who ordered the mosaic wanted to create an extremely prominent and dense colorfulness, which includes geometric patterns and depictions of birds, fish and fruit placed densely throughout the mosaic.”
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