1,500 year-old marble slab discovery proves Jewish settlement near the Sea of Galilee

Marble tablet found near ancient village of Kursi proves Jewish settlement; Israeli archeologists studying New Testament

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A 1,500-year-old marble slab with Hebrew inscriptions was found near the Sea of Galilee near the ancient village of Kursi (Gergesa), where Jesus performed the ‘Miracle of the Swine’.

The discovery was made due to a drop in water level at a location where archeologists had conducted previous excavations. In 2006 part of a pier were found from the Byzantine period, archeologists from Haifa University returning to the same location to find the tablet.

Archeologists believe the marble slab was found at the entrance to an inner chamber of an ancient synagogue, proof of Jewish settlement in the region. Two Hebrew words from the eight lines of Hebrew were identified as “Amen” and “Marmaria”- archeologists giving the possible translation of ‘marble’ but may also refer to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The tablet is believed to be a commemoration tablet from a synagogue from the period of 500 B.C.E.

The slab is a unique find in that it was ordered from Greece, Dr. Artzi of Haifa University’s Maritime Studies Program stating “There’s nothing similar to such a detailed and expensive dedication in archaeological findings discovered in Israel so far,” and is the only find to date “ever found etched in marble and containing such elaborate phrasing.”

She also added “Until now we had no evidence that Jewish communities that disappeared over the years existed in that period on the Kinneret [Galilee] shores apart from the Migdal Synagogue…. It consists of eight lines, and you usually don’t find so many words in Hebrew letters carved in stone… The assumption is that whomever the inscription was dedicated to had enormous influence on the local people. There is no other dedication as detailed and previous among the archeological discoveries made in Israel up to now.”

Kursi is the location where Jesus performed the “Miracle of the Swine” when he ordered demons to leave a possessed man, the demon begging to be allowed to enter a herd of swine. Following the miracle, Jesus sent the man to tell the surrounding communities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him- and everyone was amazed” (Mark 5:20).

Archeologists have already made connections to the New Testament and Jesus’s visit to Kursi in hopes to understand the tablet better. Arzi stated “This is the first indication that there was a Jewish village on this spot, and it reinforces the theory, so far held in folklore, that this is the town of Kursi where Jesus performed the ‘Miracle of the Swine’.”