Archaeologists uncover an early testimony to faith in Christ as God

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports today on the discovery of an early Christian mosaic that calls Jesus “God.”

A prison built by the British on an archaeological site in northern Israel in the 1940s is finally going to be evacuated. The walls and barbed wire of Megiddo Prison will be replaced with an archaeological park featuring one of the earliest-known houses of Christian worship…

The salvage excavation [identified] a large structure that seems to have been a pre-church house of Christian worship, as well as unexpected clues about the complicated nature of early Christianity…

Dated to the year 230, very early in the Christian era, the mosaic bears three inscriptions in ancient Greek – one explicitly calling Jesus a deity.

— From “A Jew, an Early Christian and a Roman Meet in Archaeological Park to Be Built on Evacuated Prison” – March 9, 2023 at Haaretz.

Christian Mosaic

The inscription reads in Greek letters:

η φιλοθεοϛ
την τράπεζαν
The God-loving
offered her table
To the God Jesus Christ
as a memorial.

Akeptous is believed to be the name of a woman who paid for a communion table that served as a Eucharistic altar.

There are three nomina sacra (single letters signifying God's name) in the fifth line of the inscription. The characters •ΘΩ •ΙΥ •ΧΩ, each with an overstrike to mark the abbreviation, are the first and last letters of θεω Ιησού χριστω, literally “To the God Jesus Christ.” The dots are an additional scribal sign pointing out the nomina sacra.

Possibly surprising to readers who are unfamiliar with the history of Christianity, the mosaic inscription refers to Christ as “God” a full century before the Council of Nicaea.

The original paper on this discovery was published by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2006. Read it at Tepper Y. (Pl.) and Di Segni L. (Pl.), 2006. A Christian Prayer Hall of the 3rd Century CE At Kfar ʻOthnai (Legio): Excavations at the Megiddo Prison 2005. Israel Antiquities Authority (1-59).