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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Friday, July 07, 2006

Megiddo Prison to make way for pilgrims

Cleaning work on the Megiddo floor tiles earlier this year. (Antiquities Authority)

Megiddo Prison to make way for pilgrims

By Amiram Barkat

Prisoners are likely to be transferred from Megiddo Prison to make way for archaeologists and tourists, after the discovery of an ancient Christian prayer house - considered the oldest in the world - at the site last year.
In the spring of next year, the first stage of a new plan will be implemented and the four-dunam area of the prayer house will be placed outside the prison boundaries and opened to the public.
A plan to develop the site, which is in Wadi Ara, is shortly expected to be approved by the government.
It was drawn up by officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Antiquities Authority together with the Megiddo regional council. The plan was presented last week to Minister Ophir Pines-Paz who is in charge of the authority.
Within four years, the prison is expected to be moved from its present site to another location.
The building in which it is located, that dates back to the British Mandate, will be turned into a center for tourists interested in ancient Christianity and the nearby airfield will be expanded to allow for pilgrim flights.

Government funding

The government is expected to fund most of the construction, which will cost millions of shekels.
The ancient church was discovered in the course of an archaeological dig at the prison last year.
The oldest known Christian prayer sites date back to the middle of the fourth century, but experts who have visited the Megiddo site believe it goes back to the start of that century.
The date is based on shards and coins found at the site, as well as three Greek inscriptions on the mosaic floor of the church.

Roman officer

The Antiquities Authority describes the site not as a church but as a "prayer house" since it was apparently located inside a Roman officer's private home, according to one of the inscriptions. Christianity became a legal religion in the Roman empire in the year 313.
Other findings that are indicative of early Christian rites are the central symbol of the fish, found in the mosaic, (later changed to a cross) and the fact that in one of the inscriptions, Jesus is referred to as "the lord Christos," a term which later disappeared.
President Moshe Katsav showed pictures of the site to Pope Benedictus XVI who is expected to be invited to pray there when the site is opened.

From haaretz.com 7/7/2006 - http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/736350.html

Comments from Samuel Martin

When I saw this site last year, I referred some people to the information about it. It is an exceedingly important find because it helps us reach back farther into the Christian past here in Israel. What makes it so fascinating is that it appears to be dated prior to the time that the emperor Constantine and his mother Helena came to the country in 325 and began to influence many of the ideas after that time. Note, no crosses or other symbols which are today so familiar to us all. The fish is very prominent. What this find shows is the importance of looking back as close as we can to the time of the Bible and that finds associated with the period of the first decade of the 300’s will yield information which is more original than those associated with the time after 325.

This find also reminds of the importance of written records. These are the things that really stir up the passions of archaeologists. This is what they are really after.

When I see such things, it causes me to remember my dad and his passion for such things. Knowing him, I believe that when this story broke, he would have been on the first plane down here to give those who knew him and supported his work a first hand account of the find and the details concerning it. I hope in the future to be able to do the same thing concerning this site as it becomes more accessible.

One of the important things about archaeology here in Israel is the number of Christian sites that are being found. This one is but only the most recent. Many of you may have become aware of the site associated with John the Baptist in the Jerusalem region. http://www.baptistcave.org.il/eng/index.asp It seems that we are going to see more such Christian sites found in the future. Of particular interest will be ongoing and future excavations in the Jerusalem area. In this regard, you can follow ongoing developments of some of the projects taking place there by looking at www.tfba.org, which is an organization I know something about.

Archaeological Provenance and Archaeological Provenience

Living in Israel has given me a new perspective on these two concepts and their importance in understanding the past. For a definition of both, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provenance.

These concepts point to the importance of where things are in relation to space and time. In archaeology, this discipline is exceedingly important for helping us to understand where something that was found fits in to the puzzle which was the existence of the past. For example, if you were digging near a river and found an ancient encampment which had evidence of boats, fishing nets, fish remains, fish hooks, etc. You can determine that at some point in the past the people living there were involved in fishing in some way. For more specific details, more research is needed, but having these parts of the puzzle in place help you to draw conclusions. This is why this house of worship is so important because it takes us back to a time prior to 325 by its lack of utilization of crosses and similar religious motifs which are well known in later times, but are not in evidence in early sites like this one.

The same thing can be said about provenance when it comes to time. We know that in archaeology something found lust near the surface is not as old as something found below the surface. As you go farther down, the older things become, all other things being equal.

Living here in Israel has helped me to understand the importance of provenance in understanding the past, particularly in relation to our Christian heritage. For example, to understand the ancient history of Jerusalem, those who live nearer to Jerusalem, all other things being equal, are going to have a better opportunity to know the truth of the matter of the past simply by provenance.

This is a part of the reason why it will pay us to pay close attention to what is taking place here especially from an archaeological perspective. It is really exciting to see what is taking place with new finds appearing all the time. The best is clearly yet to come. Any person visiting Israel should make every effort to see this site if at all possible. Enquiries to your travel operator will let you know if they are including it on their itineraries.

For more information on this particular subject, you can do google images search on:

Oldest church Israel or Megiddo prison