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Dig Finds Evidence Of Pre-Jesus Bethlehem

Thousands of Christian pilgrims streamed into Bethlehem last night to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's the major event of the year in that West Bank town. But Israeli archeologists now say there is strong evidence that Christ was born in a different Bethlehem, a small village in the Galilee.
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Bethlehem of Zebulun
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The hometown of the judge Ibzan, Bethlehem of Galilee was inhabited by Jews until some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. In the Jerusalem Talmud it is referred to as Beth Lehem Zoria, as it was part of the kingdom of Tyre at the time. During the Crusades, it was a small Christian town of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, later abandoned.
Due to its proximity to Nazareth, some historians believe that this is the Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, supports this claim. Until the late 19th century, ruins of a church and a synagogue could be seen there, and archeological findings show it was a prosperous city. Some scholars regard Bethlehem of Galilee as one of the birthplaces of Rabbinical Judaism.

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Thousands of Christian pilgrims have gathered in Bethlehem, to celebrate Christmas in the place where the Bible says Jesus Christ was born.
Festivities began with a traditional boy scout band before a midnight mass celebration in St Catherine's Church, next to the Church of the Nativity.

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Migdal
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Remains of Jesus-era synagogue found in Israel
The remains of a 2,000-year-old synagogue where Jesus may have preached were found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, archaeologists said on Friday.
The synagogue, one of the oldest ever found, was unearthed at Migdal, which Christians believe to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, a leading follower of Jesus.

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An ancient cave with human remains, three jars and clay bowls estimated to be 4,000 years old was uncovered near the Nativity Church in Bethlehem on Saturday.

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Roman-era catacombs were unearthed in Bethlehem Saturday during construction in an empty lot beside Bethlehem University.
The small underground cave system opens facing north, and held four stone coffins with engravings on each, housed in two separate dug out burial areas.
Head of Antiquates department in Jericho Wael Hamamrah estimated the artifacts, complete with skeletal remains and some pottery are between 1,800 and 1,900 years old.

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Was Jesus really born in another Bethlehem?
Israeli scholar believes Christ's birth was in Galilee town with same name
As millions celebrate the birth of Jesus, a question has arisen about the actual location the Son of God came into the world.
The Bible mentions Bethlehem in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but an Israeli archaeologist believes another Bethlehem, one situated in the region of Galilee and not Judea, is the likely place Christ was born.

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 20:15, 2007-12-27

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Christian tradition states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judea (now Palestine). This is about ten kilometres, south of Jerusalem. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was built by Constantine the Great, circa 330 CE. It is believed by many Christians and Muslims to have been built over the location of Jesus' birth. The exact spot of Jesus' birth is identified by a hole in a 14 point star in a underground cave beneath the church.
And, for centuries Christians around the world have accepted the Nativity story at face value - that Jesus was born in a stable in that little town of Bethlehem.

But a growing number of Bible scholars and archaeologists are rocking the foundations of Christian faith by suggesting they have identified a different birthplace for Jesus.
They claim to have amassed a considerable body of evidence for their theory.
In the view of a leading Israeli archaeologist, there was no town of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, and the Nativity took place elsewhere — at another Bethlehem much closer to Nazareth.

Bethlehem
Latitude: 32.73389 N Longitude: 35.18861E

Nazareth is the city in which Jesus spent most of his life.
The Galilean Bethlehem is also nearby to the Roman palace of Sephoris.

"There is a complete absence of information for antiquities from the Herodian period — that is, from the time around the birth of Jesus. The vast database of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) describes Bethlehem as an ‘ancient site’ with Iron Age material, and the 4th- century Church of the Nativity and associated Byzantine and medieval buildings. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, surveys showed plenty of Iron Age pottery, but with the single exception of a publication that mentions Herodian shards found in a corner of the church, there is surprisingly no archaeological evidence that ties Bethlehem in Judaea to the period in which Jesus would have been born" - Aviram Oshri, in Archaeology magazine.

A contemporary aqueduct running through the locality suggests that there was no settlement, since such works did not cross built-up areas.
Simply put, Bethlehem in Judea did not exist as a functioning town when Jesus is believed to have been born.

In the 1990s, as one of the IAA’s staff archaeologists, Mr Oshri carried out rescue archaeology at the rural settlement of Bethlehem in Galilee, and was surprised to find a substantial ancient community of the time of Christ.

"We know that Bethlehem of Galilee was a bustling centre of Jewish life around the time of Jesus’s birth. There were residential areas, and a workshop for making stone vessels used in Jewish purification rituals" - Aviram Oshri, of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

In the 19th century there were suggestions that the Galilee site could have been the “real” Bethlehem, but there was at the time no archaeological evidence to back them up. Since then, evidence of surprisingly strong early Christian interest has been found, including a large Byzantine period, 6th-century, church with mosaic floors, one of the largest in Israel. In it were found oil lamps with crosses on them and many pig bones.
An ancient mosaic floor he dug up several years ago in Bethlehem in Galilee is now on show in Israel's new international airport terminal near Tel Aviv, but otherwise his findings have gone largely unnoticed both inside and outside Israel.

"There is no doubt in my mind that these are impressive and important evidence of a strong Christian community established in Bethlehem a short time after Jesus' death" - Aviram Oshri.

"(It) raises the question of why such a huge house of Christian worship was built in the heart of a Jewish area" - Aviram Oshri.

He also excavated a large fortified wall surrounding the village of a kind more commonly found around cities, suggesting that its inhabitants regarded the protection of their community as an unusually high priority.

"To put it simply, this community did not want to budge. For a village, they were investing lots of money in public and religious buildings and in fortifications"- Aviram Oshri.

There is still the thorny point of the Gospel testimony, with both Matthew and Luke describing Bethlehem in Judaea as the birthplace of Christ, but Mr Oshri notes that it was also the legendary birthplace of King David more than 1,000 years before, and attaching the Nativity of Christ to the location would reinforce His reputed descent from David. It would also bring in the Old Testament prophecies, such as Micah v, 2 — “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that that is to be ruler in Israel” — that foretell the coming of a Messiah, albeit one who will “waste the land of Assyria with the sword”.

Mark 6:1 however contradicts Matthew by identifying Nazareth as Jesus' birthplace as his "hometown."

It seems that Matthew, writing several decades after Jesus' death, simply chose to switch Bethlehems.
Perhaps, Matthew, knowing that the Old Testament says the Messiah will come from the House of David, hoped to establish a credible link between Jesus and King David through the figure of Joseph.

To distinguish it from its more famous namesake, the village in Zebulun, in northern Israel is usually referred to as Bethlehem of the Galilee, or in Hebrew as Bethlehem Hagalilit.
The town was known in the Old Testament, mentioned by Joshua as a town of the tribe of Zebulon, and as the refuge of guardian priests who fled to Galilee after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Today Bethlehem Hagalilit is without any visible Christian presence: No churches are in evidence and its old stone homes are all occupied by Jews, mainly descendants of those who fled or died in the Holocaust.
Bethlehem of Galilee's only Christmas connection is a small private forest of Christmas trees that Yosef Yeger, the owner of a local hotel and restaurant, grows for sale to Christian Arabs in towns such as neighbouring Nazareth.
In contrast with the `tourist` Bethlehem.

The discrepancy in the archaeological evidence for the two places at the appropriate date is a powerful argument to say that Bethlehem HaGalilit was the town that Jesus was born in.

Adapted from Source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlehem%2C_Galilee
http://www.bethlehem-of-galilee.org/

-- Edited by Blobrana at 11:03, 2006-05-30

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