Recent excavations at what is believed to be the site of Bethsaida in Galilee have uncovered finds from the first century and earlier times. Among the remains discovered is a paved road of the Roman period that was very likely used by Christ and his disciples. The excavation site was  identified as possibly that of Bethsaida in 1987 by the University of Nebraska’s Dr. Rami Arav, who has been Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project for more than 20 years.

Leader of the excavators, Dr Nicolae Roddy of Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, said,  “We uncovered a paved street from the time of Jesus’ disciples, which runs westward through the residential area from the corner of the Fisherman’s House [an excavated structural feature so-named because of the fishing implements associated with it] down toward the Jordan valley. I tell people that Andrew, Peter, and Philip almost certainly walked on it because they would have had to have gone out of their way to avoid it!”

Situated on the northern shores of the Sea  of Galilee, the fishing village, Bethsaida (house  of fishing), was the home of the Apostles Peter,  Andrew and Philip (John 1:44) and perhaps also James and John. From Mark’s record (1:21, 29),  Andrew is said to be living at Capernaum with his brother Peter, so it appears they must have moved  from Bethsaida sometime later.

Bethsaida was located in Galilee, a region of dense and prosperous settlement. Josephus estimates the population of Galilee as three million  (G A Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, Fontana Library, 1966, p 274) and this  seems likely from the large crowds reported in the  Gospel narratives: the feeding of five thousand, for example (John 6:2–10). Josephus also says that Galilee invited enterprise and energy; such was the character of its people and the productivity of the land (Wars 3.3.2).

Galilee exported olive oil, cereals and, of course, fish from the lake. Traversed by several major routes of the Roman Empire, it was far from being a rural  backwater, but cosmopolitan and open to new ideas, as the phrase “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matt 4:15)  implies. Certainly, Galilee proved a fertile ground  for Christ’s work and was the source of his first disciples.

Other finds at Bethsaida that relate to the Roman period and the time of Christ include the  remains of a Roman temple. The temple was probably  constructed by the Tetrarch Philip, who rebuilt the town, giving it the name Julias in honour of Julia, the daughter of the Emperor Augustus (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, 1980  pt 1, p 190). A well-preserved incense shovel, used in connection with temple rituals, a wine cellar and numerous pottery shards and fishing implements of the Roman period have also been discovered at the site.

Discoveries at the site have also uncovered evidence of ancient occupation. Among the ancient finds are a massive four-chambered city gate complex with equally massive defensive walls, a palace and evidence of destruction from the Assyrian  invasion of King Tiglath-pileser III in 732 BC.  Archaeological excavations in Israel continue to yield evidence which supports the accuracy of  the biblical narrative. Without doubt, the many discoveries of recent years and continuing advances  in archaeology confirm that our confidence in the Bible’s record is not misplaced.