After the discovery of a 660-pound block of basalt with three smooth compartments engraved on the upper part in the ruins of what could be the city of Bethsaida, archeologists are wondering if they have unearthed a chest that once held the relics of the apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.
There is a controversy as to the location of Bethsaida behind this hypothesis, as Le Figaro reported in its online issue on August 3, 2018.
Professor Mardechai Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College, who is running the excavations, remains cautious: “I am not saying that el-Araj is Bethsaida, but I think it is more likely than the other site,” he explained to the newspaper Haaretz.
Indeed, other important discoveries have been made on the site of el-Araj, including baths from the Roman period and the remains of a richly decorated church from the Byzantine era.
And now, this reliquary, discovered not in the church ruins, but “in the debris of a two-story Ottoman house built by a rich land-owner from Damascus who owned all the land in the area at the end of the 14th century,” explained Mordechai Aviam.
The archeologist says the block of basalt is shaped like a reliquary and could very well have been sculpted in such a way as to be inserted under the altar of the Byzantine church of Bethsaida that was once dedicated to the apostles.
Mordechai Aviam’s arguments certainly have not yet convinced his peers, and archeologists still have an important amount of investigating ahead of them; but this discovery does at least go to show that 2000 years after their martyrdom, the traces first companions of Christ leave no one indifferent.