January 24, 2023

Press Release

Museum of the Bible Hosts Archaeological Presentation on St. Peter’s Home in Bethsaida

WASHINGTON – Has the hometown of the Apostle Peter been found? The location of the New Testament village on the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida, has never been conclusively identified. Recent excavations and finds at Khirbet el-Araj (Bethsaida) suggest that the village has finally been found. Museum of the Bible will host a presentation on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, 6-8 p.m. eastern, by professors and archaeologists with the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology and Alliance University on their findings of an expedition to explore a fifth- to eighth-century basilica at el-Araj. Their findings suggest that the site was both the home of St. Peter and the New Testament location of Bethsaida.

Professor R. Steven Notley is distinguished professor of New Testament and Christian origins at the New York City campus of Alliance University and director of the graduate programs in ancient Judaism and Christian origins. Professor Dr. Mordechai Aviam is a professor of archaeology in the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee in the Land of Israel Studies Department, as well as the founder and director of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology.

For six seasons, the archaeological site of el-Araj (Bet HaBek) on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee has been under excavation.  Beneath the former nineteenth-century house of Abdul Rahman Pasha Bek, three distinct layers have been identified, one of which is a monastery dating to the Byzantine and Early Islamic period, described by the Bavarian bishop Willibald from his visit in 724, where he reports that it was built over the house of the apostles Peter and Andrew.

During the 2022 season, a complete Greek inscription was discovered that mentions “the chief and commander of the heavenly apostles,” a clear reference to St. Peter. Other evidence was also uncovered indicating the site is a good candidate for New Testament Bethsaida. This presentation will explore the most recent results from the 2022 season at Khirbet el-Araj and the relevant Byzantine pilgrimage itineraries. The professors will demonstrate that there is little doubt that the newly excavated basilica at Bethsaida/el-Araj should be identified with the basilica visited by centuries of Byzantine pilgrims to commemorate the house of St. Peter in Bethsaida.

More information and tickets (including for virtual attendance) are available online at https://www.museumofthebible.org/events/byzantine-bethsaida-and-the-house-of-st-peter. In-Person General Admission is $14.99, In-Person Students and Members are $9.99, Virtual General Admission is $9.99 and Virtual Students and Members are $4.99.