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First century inscriptions in Jesus’ language uncovered in Galilee, Israel

An archaeologist cleans one of the Aramaic inscriptions found in Israel’s Galilee region. (Miki Peleg/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archeologists have uncovered three first century inscriptions from Zippori’s graveyard, Gallilee, Israel. The inscriptions are said to be in Greek and Aramaic languages-languages believed to be spoken by Jesus Christ.
The inscriptions honoured men described as “rabbis” yet their identities still remain unknown.

Israeli Antiquities Authority announced the discovery on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 from Zippori’s cemetery. Zippori once served as the capital of Galilee.

Researchers have discerned three Aramaic and one Greek word while four were far too old to be understood. One word, in Greek, means “Jose,” a common Jewish name during the period, the three other words are Aramaic for “the Tiberian,” “forever,” and “rabbi.”

Greek inscription found in Israel
A Greek inscription was also found. Researchers say that though Aramaic was the spoken language, some Jews read and spoke Greek. (Miki Peleg/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Motti Aviam of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology said in a statement announcing the discovery that one of the inscriptions was particularly surprising.

“One of the surprises in the newly discovered inscriptions is that one of the deceased was called ‘the Tiberian,’” Aviam said. “This is already the second instance of someone from Tiberias being buried in the cemetery at Zippori.”
Aviam suggested that Jews were brought to Galilee for burial due to “the important activity carried out there by Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi,” the second century rabbi also known as Judah the Prince who was the editor of post-biblical Jewish oral traditions known as the Mishnah.

On the other hand, Aviam also suggested that the word Tiberian might also point to the birth place, Terberias, of the man who might have settled in Zippori.

The Aramaic word “le-olam,” that is, “forever,” was seen for the first time inscribed in Zippori, the researchers said.

“The term le-olam is known from funerary inscriptions in Bet She‘arim [in the Galilee] and elsewhere and means that the deceased’s burial place will remain his forever and that no one will take it from him. Both inscriptions end with the Hebrew blessing ‘shalom’ [peace],” Aviam said.

The discovery might have opened a new chapter in Palestinian-Israel debate and is important in proving the Biblical truth of existence of Jewish communities in the region since ancient times.

“The Jewish life in the city was rich and diverse as indicated by the numerous ritual baths (miqwe’ot) discovered in the excavation; while at the same time the influence of Roman culture was also quite evident as reflected in the design of the town with its paved streets, colonnaded main roads, theater and bathhouses. The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the late Roman period,” researchers concluded.

The findings of this excavation contradict the Palestinian Authority’s fervent denial of a Jewish connection to the Holy Land and insistence that Israel is “Judaizing” the country.