Israel: Ancient city in Golan was important center of Christianity
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Archaeologists in Israel have recently discovered that the ancient city of Hippos in the northern Israeli region of the Golan was a major center for Christianity during the Byzantine period, Israel365 reports. Although Hippos was closely connected to Greco-Roman culture and was known as a religious center for the pagan Seleucids, archaeologists have discovered the remains of seven Byzantine-period churches there.
In a particularly interesting discovery, excavations carried out earlier this year uncovered four mosaics with seven inscriptions in Greek at one of Hippos’ seven churches known as the Martyrion of Theodoros or the “Burnt Church,” Israel 365 said.
One mosaic has an inscription to “Megas” as the “most holy bishop,” Israel 365 said. Another inscription on a mosaic in a side chapel reads, “Offering in favor of salvation and succor for Urania and Theodoros. Lord God, accept! Amen! In the time of indiction 4 and year 619.”
A third reads “Offering of the priest Symeonios, goldsmith, custodian [?], He [the Lord] will protect him and his children and his wife.”
Notably, researchers believe that although Christians in Byzantine-era Hippos likely no longer spoke Greek on a daily basis, Greek was still the language used for worship and religious ritual, Israel 365 reports.
“In the ecclesiastical world, it was unthinkable to come up with the idea of using a language other than Greek – even if one was aware that this language was no longer mastered to the extent actually required,”Prof. Gregor Staab, an epigraphist from the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of Cologne said in an interview with Haaretz. “The original language of Christian liturgy and prayer to God was Greek, so it had to be considered impossible to deviate from using it in the Christian context (and so in the mosaics too).”