An ancient mosaic portraying Jesus feeding the five thousand was discovered during excavation of the ancient city of Hippos in Northern Israel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Israeli archaeologists spent the summer exploring the so-called Burnt Church in Hippos searching for historical evidence. Although the church was destroyed by fire in 700AD, the mosaic floor was in remarkable condition, preserved by a layer of ash.
The mosaic seems to show one of the miracles in the New Testament, where Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 people who gathered on the banks of the water.
The Burnt Church was discovered in 2005 by a team from the University of Haifa but they only began the dig this summer.
Head archaeologist Dr Michael Eisenburg said: ‘’There can certainly be different explanations to the descriptions of loaves and fish in the mosaic, but you cannot ignore the similarity to the description in the New Testament.
For example, from the fact that the New Testament has a description of five loaves in a basket or the two fish depicted in the apse, as we find in the mosaic.’’
Eisenburg thought the generally accepted location of the miracle may have to be reconsidered, he continued:
‘’Nowadays, we tend to regard the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha on the north-west of the Sea of Galilee as the location of the miracle, but with careful reading of the New Testament it is evident that it might have taken place north of Hippos within the city’s region.
According to the scripture, after the miracle Jesus crossed the water to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee, to the area of Tabgha/Ginosar, so that the miracle had to take place at the place where he began the crossing rather than at the place he finished it.’’
The mosaic shows two fish and a basket of five loaves, However, Eisenburg explains, the mosaic at the Church of Multiplication only depicts two fish and a basket of four loaves, while all New Testament tales of the miracle say there were five loaves of bread, like in the mosaic in Hippos.
Dr Eisenburg continued:
‘’In addition, the mosaic at the burnt church has a depiction of 12 baskets, and the New Testament also describes the disciples who, at the end of the miracle, were left with 12 baskets of bread and fish.
There is no doubt that the local community was well familiar with the two miracles of Feeding the Multitude and perhaps knew their estimated locations better than us.’’
Hippos, once a Greco-Roman city, overlooks the Sea of Galilee and was abandoned when an earthquake destroyed the city around 600AD.