Jesus is Here Cave

Photographs

Entrance into the cave prior to excavation.
The hewn inscription and accompanying images.
Overlay of the inscription.

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Video

Video Transcript

In October 2005 at the beginning of the excavations in the site of Beit Lehi one of the students from the Kimber Academy made a survey the area and found in Hellenistic water cistern dating to the 3rd century BCE when we entered this water system we couldn't believe what we saw. A large ancient Greek inscription starting with a cross mentioning the name of Jesus "Yasoos Hodus" [sic] in ancient Greek which means "Jesus is Here". Below the inscription we found a graffiti of cross with the abbreviation of the two ancient Greek He and Yall?? [sic] for Cristos... Christ and the above the inscription a graffiti of a boat with the person standing on the front of the boat holding the sail, probably Jesus, preaching in the Sea of Galilee, This was probably used as a hermit cell for one of the monks who lived in the site of Beit Lehi in the 5th century CE.

Description

What was possibly a hermit's cell (a monk living in seclusion) or a chapel was excavated in October 2005. Guarded by an ancient fig tree still standing today, it was originally a bell-shaped Hellenistic water cistern hewn from the soft limestone that characterizes the region. The carving method (resulting in a type of herringbone pattern) is typical of the Hellenistic period, and indicates the use of a chisel.

At some unknown time the cistern went out of use. Over the years it became filled with dirt, and during the Byzantine period it was transformed into either a hermit's cell or a chapel. This is evidenced mainly by the huge, slightly misspelled Greek inscription seen on one wall. Underneath the inscription is a chi rho christogram—comprising the superimposed first two Greek letters of "Christ," chi (X) and rho (P)—enclosed in a medallion (31.5 inches in diameter. The monogram was first used in Christian context by the Roman emperor Constantine I (reigned between 306–337 AD). A picture of a ship was etched into the wall above the inscription, featuring a person standing in its far left raising his hand in the manner known from Christian iconography and a mast on the right.