SVOTS: Uncovering the world of Jesus in Bethsaida

Dr. Nicolae Roddy (left) explains the day’s dig in Bethsaida to Fr. Aaron Warwick and Elizabeth Siniscalchi

Imagine walking in the footsteps of Jesus and His followers.  Now imagine uncovering firsthand the very buildings they would have seen and discovering objects they would have used in their daily lives, including domestic wares and implements for fishing.

“Such were the experiences of Saint Vladimir’s seminarian Elizabeth Siniscalchi and alumnus Priest Aaron Warwick [M.Div., ’09], both of whom participated in the 2014 season of the Bethsaida Excavations Project under my supervision,” said Nicolae Roddy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Old Testament at Creighton University, Omaha, NE and Co-Director of the Bethsaida Project since 1996.

Seminarian Siniscalchi, from West Palm Beach, FL, and Father Aaron, Pastor at Saint Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, Wichita, KS, joined Dr. Roddy, also a Saint Vladimir’s Seminary alumnus [M.A., ’89], to labor in sweltering 100-degree heat over a period of two-weeks in June and July.  They participated in the archeological dig to help bring the world of Jesus to greater light.

Elizabeth Siniscalchi, student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, uncovers the world of Jesus at an archeological dig in Bethsaida

Mentioned more than any other city in the New Testament with the exception of Jerusalem and Capernaum, Bethsaida, which means “House of the Fishermen,” is known from the Gospels as the hometown of the apostles Andrew, Peter, and Philip.  Saint John Chrysostom knew of a tradition that adds James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to that list of fishermen as well.

The Gospels relate that Jesus performed miracles in the environs of Bethsaida, most notably healing a blind man and feeding a multitude of people. Because its citizens failed to discern the meaning of Jesus’ mighty works, the city was cursed, along with nearby Capernaum and Chorazin. Lost to history for roughly seventeen centuries, Bethsaida was rediscovered in 1987; it was found nestled at the foot of the Golan Heights near the northern shore of the large freshwater lake the Bible calls the Sea of Galilee, exactly where the first-century historian Josephus places it.

“A large courtyard-style house full of fishing implements was uncovered during the early years of the dig,” related Dr. Roddy. “This season a wide pavement leading from the Fishermen’s House down toward the mouth of the Jordan River and dating to the time of Jesus was exposed, and I’ve dubbed it the ‘Avenue of the Apostles.’ A large Iron Age city lies beneath, which is being excavated elsewhere on the 20-acre mound.”

Fr. Aaron Warwick, St. Vladimir’s Seminary alumnus, discovers the homeland of the First-Called Apostles at an archeological dig in Bethsaida

“I truly want to praise Elizabeth and Father Aaron for their contributions to this dig, not only for their hard work but also for the personal examples that they have set before other volunteers,” Dr. Roddy concluded. “I welcome the participation of other SVOTS students and alumni in seasons to come.”

At Creighton University, Dr. Roddy teaches courses in Hebrew Bible / Old Testament. He is past President of the joint Rocky Mountain / Great Plains Region of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). He is also Senior Editor for the Journal for the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies. In addition, Dr. Roddy is a Faculty Associate for the Goren-Goldstein Center for Judaic Studies at the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest, Romania. He has lectured at several universities in Romania and has made additional scholarly presentations in Israel, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, and Amsterdam.

For more information about the Bethsaida Excavation Project, contact Dr. Roddy at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).