A British professor of archaeology and history believes a strong case can be made that an ancient site beneath a convent in Nazareth could be the boyhood home of Jesus Christ.
However, the scholar from Reading University believes there is a compelling case to be made for the dwelling he has been studying for 14 years.
Dark examines the possibility in his new book, “The Sisters of Nazareth Convent.” The final chapter of his book asks, “Is this the house of Jesus? Memory, materiality, and the long-term transmission of topographical knowledge.”
According to his publisher, Routledge, Dark specializes in the archaeology and history of first millennium AD Europe and the Middle East; the archaeology and history of religion, including early Christianity; and archaeological method and theory.
According to a news release in March 2015, Dark identified a Byzantine church with a crypt or cellar containing the first-century house. The church is consistent with the description of the late seventh-century pilgrim account, called “De Locis Sanctis” (concerning the holy places) of the religious sanctuary.
The house and remains of the church are preserved in the Sisters of Nazareth convent in Nazareth, according to the news release.
Dark first speculated in 2015 that the hillside stone-and-mortar house, dating to the first century in northern Israel and first identified during the 1880s, might have been the Nazareth home where Jesus was raised, the Times of Israel reported. Over the next 50 years, the site was excavated by the nuns of the convent, according to CBS News.
The project was started and directed by the superior of the convent, Mère Giraud, the network reported. It is one of the first examples of an archaeological project directed by a woman.
“This is certainly a site which sheds a lot of light on what it was like in first-century Nazareth, and there is no reason to discount the possibility that the people who built the Byzantine church there might have been correct in identifying the first-century house as Jesus’ childhood home,” Dark told Fox News in an email Tuesday.
After the nuns halted their excavations, it was then investigated by Henri Senès, a Jesuit priest and former architect based in the Pontifical Biblical Institute at Jerusalem, Fox News reported. Senès worked there from 1936 and 1964, making detailed drawings of the structures the nuns discovered but never publishing any research about the site, the network reported.
The house and church are located near the Church of the Annunciation, the spot where many Christians believe the angel Gabriel informed Mary that she would have a child, CBS News reported.
Dark said the building appears to be “a typical family home of its time and place.”
“There was nothing unusual about it. It’s not pitifully poor, but there’s no sign of any great wealth either. It’s very ordinary,” Dark told CBS News. “If this is the childhood environment of Jesus, there’s no reason to believe he grew up in anything other than a very typical Galilean rural home of its time.”
For doubting Thomases, Dark said there are a few clues that point toward his theory.
“Whoever built the house had a very good understanding of stone-working, Dark told CBS News. “That would be consistent with the sort of knowledge we would expect of someone who might be called a tekton” (an ancient Greek word for a craftsman that was used to refer to Joseph). “By itself, that’s not got flashing lights saying, ‘This is where Jesus lived.’ But it’s underneath a fifth- to seventh-century Byzantine church.”
Dark added that the church was enormous and elaborately decorated, indicating that “this particular place was considered really important.” However, he concedes that despite the evidence backing up his theories, it was “by no means a conclusive case.”
“On the one hand, we can put forward a totally plausible case that this was Jesus’ childhood home. But on the other hand, actually proving that is beyond the scope of the evidence. It’s debatable whether it would ever be possible to prove that,” Dark told CBS News. “I’m an archaeologist. I’m not making up stories, I’m working off evidence. What’s there on the ground is very consistent, very convincing.”
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