Christian archeology is a branch of archaeology that deals with the study of the ancient monuments those belong from the Christianity. Christian archaeology became a discipline in 19th century. It is a source that tells the important events took place in the life of the biblical people. Though Bible alone is not sufficient to provide all of the information regarding them. This was the reason that the Christians particularly felt the necessity of developing a subject called as Christian archaeology. Thus Christian archaeology is the only tool the Christian use to prove the authenticity of the bible.
History of the Christian Archaeology:
People who have participated in making Christian archaeology prominent include Johann Jahan, Edward Robinson and Flinders Petrie. Besides them, the name of Albright is also important in this reference. He has made great efforts along with his students to prove the biblical authority, by exposing biblical sites.
Early Researchers of the Christian Archaeology:
As far as the scientific research in the field of Christian archaeology is concerned Onofrio Panvinio , an Augustinian monk is the person who took this charge. His work on the basilicas of Rome and the cemeteries of the early Christians is of great importance.
Antonio is also known in the Christian world as the “father of the Christian archaeology”. When he was just eighteen, he got attracted to the monuments in the Rome, since then till his death he dedicated his life for the research in the
Giovanni Battista De Rossi:
Many people kept engaged in casting light on the Christian archaeology via research work.
Many of them failed, but a few also got success too.
After the death of Bosani, no one worked on a scientific ground in this field.
De Rossi (1822-94) was just twenty when he got involved in this work.
His work was a result of proper scientific approach.
His effort in this regard was seen in the “ Roma Sotterranea”.
His big achievement was the production of a school of archaeologists who were trained on the scientific methods that were carried by him.
His capable disciples later made to publish several researches on the Christian archaeology.
The work of Jesuit Garrucci “History of Christian Art” that is composed of about six volumes has also been of great importance.
Though many of his illustration in the book were found inaccurate; but still his work is considered as a good effort in the line of Christianity.
Joseph Wilpert appointed the field of early Christian paintings for his research.
So far this line of research was mostly remained overlooked by the early researchers.
Following is his work in the field of Christian archaeology;
- Principienfragen der christliche Archaologie.
- Die Gottgeweihten Jungfrauen.
- Fractio Panis
- Malereign der katakomben Rom
He was a German priest who was living in the Rome. He wrote “Romische Quartalschrift” is known as one of his best works.
Sites of the Christian Significance:
Till this date, a number of the sites have been discovered and excavated by the archaeologists in the world. Let’s discuss a few of the sites that are of Christian significance.
Akko is famous as capital of the crusader’s kingdom.
The earliest layer of occupation of the Akko goes back to the Bronze Age.
The city of the Akko has also been mentioned in the ancient manuscripts.
During excavations, the remains of a fort have been found.
Researchers say that this maritime capital of the crusaders remained occupied by the people in different eras consecutively including the biblical period.
The city of Akko was declined in the Hellenistic era.
Akko is situated on the northern end of the bay of Haifa.
The bay is situated along the Mediterranean coast near the northern Israel.
The crusaders founded a kingdom in Jerusalem in about 1099 .
They further receded towards the Akko and after months of siege, they finally succeeded to surrender Akko .
Keeping in mind the strategic importance of the Akko port, the crusaders built a fortified wall along with the towers to make the city strong.
• Battle of the Horns of Hattin:
The Muslims succeeded to subdue the Akko along with its fortified wall in the Battle of the Horns of Hattin , in 1187. But the crusaders, again in 1188 laid a siege against the Muslims, and finally got success to partially take control of Akko .
So for the next 100 years the crusaders ruled on Akko.
• Significant Building:
There are remains of a place built for the kings of the crusaders in the northern part of the Akko.
Besides that, the quarters for the merchants were also erected there.
These quarters had one full segment composed of a marketplace, warehouses, shops, and houses for the merchants and their families.
Besides that, some public buildings like churches were also found here.
• Hospitalers Compound:
In the northern part of the Akko city, is located one of the most important remains of the crusaders, the headquarters for the knights of St.Jhon , the order of the Hospitalist .
This building is built over some 4,500 square meters area.
The whole building complex is fortified. There are many halls and rooms inside the building.
The complex has an advanced sewerage system under ground.
The streets built in the time of the crusaders are having courtyard and shops facing streets on the both sides.
• City Wall:
The city wall of the crusaders era has been demolished to a greater extent. A few segments were recovered that are madeup of the local kurkar sandstone.
Bethsaida is an ancient village that is located on the north of the sea Galilee.
Bethsaida is considered as a birth place of three Christian missionaries.
So historians believe that Jesus came to this village by himself and performed some of the miracles.
This village is situated on a tel , known as Et-Tel ,which is some 30 meters the ground , and covers some 20 acres of area.
Robinson a researcher claimed in 1838 that Et-Tel is mentioned in the new testaments, but most of the contemporary researchers denied this theory.
But the excavation conducted in 1987 has confirmed its identification as a historic place mentioned in the New Testament.
• Biblical Importance:
The excavations conducted at Bethsaida revealed that the village was founded in the biblical period in circa tenth century BCE.
During this time period this region was under the control of the Armaean kingdom of Geshur.
Some impressive structures along with the fortification were revealed during the excavation; that further confirmed that it was a capital city of the monarchs of the Geshur Dynasty.
The remains of a battle took place in this city were also found as some fired bricks, piles of carbonized wood and arrowheads were recovered from here.
• Structures found and Layout of the City:
The city is divided in two parts, the lower city, and the acropolis.
The upper city was fortified with a wall constructed of the basalt stone.
The main gateway of the city is a complex structure, composed of an inner and outer part.
It is one of the largest gates ever discovered from Israel that belongs from the biblical period.
On the gateway a figure of a horned bull was recovered along with a dagger.
That was a head goddess of the Arameans.
The name Tabgha is a corrupted form of a Greek word Hetapegon means seven springs.
This site is located in a narrow valley on the shores of the sea Galilee.
The site is famous for the monasteries, churches and shrines of the Byzantine period.
Foundations of a shrine were found that belongs from the 4th century CE.
This shrine was also discussed by a pilgrim Egeria in the 4th century. In 5th century, a complex containing a church and a monastery was built here.
Which were later destroyed in 7th Century by the Arabs.
According to a Christian believe, in this region there was abundance of water due to seven springs. Here in a garden, Jesus fed about five thousand people with bread loaves and two fishes.
A stone that Jesus used to place bread was later used as alter.
The pilgrims used to the smaller pieces of this stone to cure the illness.
THE FORTRESS OF BELVOIR:
Belvoir is known as a crusader’s fortress. It is located some 20 kilometers south of the Galilee Sea, on a hill in the Jordan valley.
In the past there was a structure on this hill that was the property of the feudal estate of a French Noble, who sold it to the Hospitalers in circa 1168 AD.
Who later built a strong fortress above the hill.
The plan of this fortress is square, which contains another square fortress within it.
CHURCH OF TIBERIAS:
On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee is located a city known as Tiberias.
The wall surround the city was built by a byzantine emperor Justinian.
From Tiberias the remains of a church were recovered.
• **Church** :
The complex building of a church is located within the fortified wall of the city.
It measures about 48 by 28 meters.
The triapsidal church is composed of an atrium, courtyard, basilical and many rooms.
The floor of the church is paved with a mosaic work, while the walls were constructed with the basalt stone. The crusaders added buttresses to the exterior part of the church to make it strong.
Further a bell tower to the façade of the church building was also an addition of the crusaders era.
MONASTRY OF KURSI:
There is a monastery from the byzantine era situated in Kursi, a small town in a fertile valley located in the eastern part of the sea Galilee.
During a construction work of a road in this area, the remains of an ancient monastic establishment came to the notice.
After that the excavation was conducted here during the years 1971-74.
• History :
According to the Christian traditions, this is a place where Jesus showed his miracle by helping out two men who were probably possessed by the demons.
In the memory of this event, a monastery was constructed here in the 6th century.
• Architectural Features:
The monastery is enveloped by a rectangular stone wall that measures 140 by 120 meters.
There is a watch tower in the entrance of the monastery.
Besides that, a special road was constructed that was connecting to the monastery with a harbor to welcome the pilgrims.
The church is 45x25 meter rectangular building.
The courtyard of the church is surrounded by the pillars, forming the atrium.
After crossing the atrium, one enters in the sanctuary. The floor is paved with the colored tesserae.
The walls of the aisle show the motifs like grapes, fish, birds, figs etc.
CRUSADERS FORTRESS OF CAESAREA:
Excavation conducted in the city of Caesarea in the 1950’s and 60’s brought forth the remains of a fort and a theater. The city of Caesarea is positioned in the meditaerarinan coast, between the Haifa and Tel Aviv. The city is named after a roman Patron Augustus Caesar.
- Roman period:
The historic reference of this city is found in the work of a historian Josephus Flavius.
The date of the foundation goes back to the time of the king Herod in the 1st BCE.
A temple was found situated on a high podium in the city.
Besides temple, some public buildings were also found there.
The palace of the king Herods is located in the southern part of the city.
Theater is also located in the southern part. The theater has semi circular vaults with a seating facility for thousands of the people.
An amphitheater was also built on the southern shore of the city. But it has been partially destroyed.
An aqueduct was also built here in the time of the Herodian.
- Byzantine Era:
During the byzantine era, Caesarea was an important center of the Christians.
There was a proper Christian academy built in the city.
Some residential quarters were found belong from this period.
They were built outside the roman city; and were surrounded by a protective wall.
A temple was built upon the remains of a roman temple, in the 6th century.
A government building was identified which was a huge elaborate structure.
There was a large hall in the center of this building served as a hall of justice.
A synagogue from the 5th century was recovered from the northern part of the harbor.
- Crusaders Era:
In the beginning of the 12th century, a conquest of the king Baldwin’s army took place in Caesarea. This city became a seat of the archbishop and franks.
Christians found a green colored vessel here in the ruins. They suggested that it is a part of a goblet used by Jesus in his last supper; with this reference they declared this city as to be the Holy Grail.
A cathedral from the crusader’s era was found, constructed on a podium that was built in the time of the Herod. It is dated back to the 12th century.
The whole city was strengthening by the addition of a new wall around it; that was constructed by Louis lX in around 1251 to 52.
These are few of the frequently asked questions about the Christian archaeology.
- Does archaeology support the Bible?
Bible is testament that serves as a reference for the biblical archeologists. Still the archaeologist have to rely upon the scientific ways, to find out the history of the biblical people. Bible itself serves as a historic script, but it cannot give a glance deep into the life style, economy, details of the kings etc of the people. So the archaeologist get informed about any historic event that took place in the history via bible, but they off course need to excavate and survey the sites for finding out the truth. So archaeology depends on the bible to extract the information of the historic events only.
- What are the contributions of the archaeology to the bible?
Archaeology is a scientific approach to unearth the cultural remains that are preserved in the stratified deposit. Bible is full of the historic events that were happened in the past. The Christians, who were eager to prove the authenticity of the bible, have made use of this discipline. Archaeology has helped a lot to finding out the way of life of the biblical people. Like about their weapons, utensils, seals, pottery, jewellery etc.
What are the major Covenants of the Bible?
There are several covenants in the bible. But five among them are the most important, to
understand the story of the bible. These are namely;
The Noahic Covenant