by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario, November 2005
On October 30, 2005 a group of prisoners were working in the grounds of an Israeli located on the plain of Megiddo, where many important battles were fought (e.g. Judges 1:27; 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29 where we should translate parat as the River Jordan, rather than the Euphrates, 2 Chronicles 35:22). To the astonishment of Israeli archaeologists a prisoner Ramil Razilo unearthed the edge of a stunning mosaic A week later on Sunday November 6, 2005 CNN.Com announced that this was part of a very early Christian church building. The first guess at a date is in the third century, say about 250 AD. But the artistic design of the floor looks similar to the first century Roman mosaics in Paphos, Crete.
At the center of the 24 foot by 24 mosaic of geometric designs there is a circle around two fish. The sign of the fish came into use among Christians as a secret password in the second century (the spelling of the Greek word ‘fish’ makes an acrostic for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior).
The placing of the two fish at the center of this design is almost certainly a reminder of the two fish which Jesus used in the feeding of the five thousand. This is recorded in all four of our Gospels (Matthew 14:17; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:13; John 6:9).
To the north of the mosaic with the two fish there is a Greek inscription. "The God-loving Akeptus (perhaps from the Latin acceptus meaning accepted) has offered this table to the God Jesus Christ, as a memorial." The use of altars in elaborate Byzantine church buildings in place of the Communion table (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:21) did not begin till the fourth century, so this gives a latest date for the mosaics of say 300 AD.
To the east of the mosaic there are four, perhaps five, Greek or Latin names of women including Primille, Kuriake, Dorothea, Khriste. Jesus himself had women among his disciples (Matthew 27:55; Mark 16:1; Luke 8:2-3; 23:49; John 19:25; see Acts 1:14; 5:14; 8:3; 8:12; 9:2; 12:12).
A third inscription records that "Gaianos, also called Porphyrio, centurion, our brother, having sought honor with his own money, has donated this mosaic. Brouti carried out the work." It is possible a centurion had paid for the cost of the mosaics either in his own house, or in the place where an early house church gathered (for house churches, probably in Ephesus, see Romans 16:1-16)
We know from the New Testament that there were church gatherings in places within easy reach of Megiddo where these mosaics were found. The family of a Roman Centurion was baptized by Peter in Caesarea 20 miles (32 km) west of Megiddo (Acts 10). Paul found Christians in Tyre (Acts 21:3) and Sidon (27:3). It is possible that the newly found church was the seat of the Bishop of this whole area.
Helena, mother of the Empress Constantine, visited Jerusalem in 326 AD and ordered the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was completed in 335 AD. There is no evidence that she discovered what must have been the very impressive church in Megiddo. It is possible that the building was destroyed and covered over much earlier when the Emperor Hadrian (117-138) ordered the pulling down of all Christian places of worship.
The present site of these Christian mosaics in Megiddo is located within the enclosure of an Israeli prison. In view of the immense interest for tourists, it seems likely the prison will be moved elsewhere and we can be sure thousands of tourists will want to visit this astonishing find. As the excavations continue Christians will rejoice in the discovery of this ancient church just ten miles (16 km) to the south of Nazareth where Jesus was raised. And our Jewish friends might conclude that Jesus the Messiah is very much part of their ancient heritage.