Do Bethsaida Excavations Prove Location at Last?

Bethsaida has been a place of interest for religious Christians for many reasons. According to the New Testament, this was a sacred location where Jesus performed many miracles, the Miracle of the Five Loaves and the Two Fish being the most commonly spoken about.

But, now, in 2017, historians are getting religious about this location as well. Not in a spiritual way, but in a purely archival vein. With fervor and gusto, archeologists have been digging up what is believed to be (and is now being corroborated as) the Biblical city of Bethsaida. And you are not going to believe what they’ve found!

el-Araj Competes for the Title

The location has long been debated among historians, and the current excavations are battling it out with startling discoveries to back up their claims. The first of these location proofs comes from a small city called el-Araj, a town in the Bethsaida Valley area of Israel. The archeological findings from this area include a Roman bathhouse. The reason this authenticates the location in archeologists’ eyes is because of a document penned by Josephus who wrote that Philip Herod upgraded Bethsaida from a simple town to a metropolis (causing the need for the bathhouse in this small area). Other findings from this dig, started in 2014, include period pottery and mosaic pieces such as gilded glass tesserae, pieces only used in large, important churches.

eTell Tells a Different Tale

In an excavation that has been ongoing since 1987, Professor Rami Arav disagrees with these claims. He's been conducting an excavation since 1987 in a slightly different area in the Bethsaida Valley, a town called eTell, and he is convinced that this is, in fact, the true location of the Biblical Bethsaida and not el-Araj. In his dig, Arav found items from the first and second centuries and pieces from the center Philip dedicated to his mother, Julia to back up his claim.

Both site leaders have reasons to believe that their excavation sites are the true location of Bethsaida. So, which is correct? Perhaps only time will tell. In the meantime, both are fascinating places to visit, and you can see these great Bethsaida attractions while you’re there!


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