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An Early Christian Prayer Hall near Megiddo (Legio)

Yotam Tepper
Israel Antiquities Authority - Tel Aviv University Ph.D. candidate

A large structure with a mosaic floor, which served as a Christian prayer hall, was exposed in excavations conducted in 2003–2005 by the author on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Megiddo prison near Tel Megiddo. The structure is dated to the 3rdcentury CE. 

The mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns, a medallion with fish and three inscriptions in Greek, one commemorating an officer in the Roman army who contributed toward the construction of the mosaic; a second honoring the memory of four women, and a third mentioning a 
woman who donated a table (altar) as a memorial to the God, Jesus Christ. The fish that adorn the floor of the mosaic became a symbol in Early Christianity—the word fish (ichthys in Greek) making a combination of letters which mean "Jesus Christ, son of God, savior". 

The combination of the three mosaic inscriptions from the 3rd century which connect a Roman army officer with Christianity in a prayer hall is an extraordinarily find, which predates the recognition of Christianity as an official religion of the Empire. 

The finds at the Megiddo Christian Prayer Hall provide unique archaeological evidence for Christian presence in the Land of Israel prior to the reign of Constantine—a period which has so far been explored mainly according to literary sources. They also add a special touch to the symbolic significance of Armageddon in Christianity (Revelation 16: 16).



The early Christian prayer hall's mosaic (Photo by N. Davidov, IAA)

Reference

Tepper Y. and Di Segni L. 2006. A Christian Prayer Hall of the Third Century CE At Kefar 'Othnay (Legio). Excavations at the Megiddo Prison 2005. Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. 

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