Those Indefatigable Byzantines! -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 12:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: Those Indefatigable Byzantines!
Author: Gary A. Byers


Those Indefatigable Byzantines!

Gary A. Byers

The Byzantines were prolific builders throughout Palestine. They preserved the names and identities of many significant Biblical sites, providing an important line of evidence for modem archaeological investigation.

The Byzantine period (AD 324-640) represented Palestine’s greatest population density prior to the 19th century. This

The site of Peter’s house at Capernaum is marked today by a modern church. Ancient references and archaeological evidence bolster the identification of a first century house here as that of Peter. It was located only 40 m (130 ft) south of Capernaum’s ancient synagogue (see Mark

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was one of four monumental churches constructed under the direction of Constantine and his mother Helena. It was constructed over a cave that had an early tradition as the site of Christ’s birth. Evidence of that initial church can still be seen in the mosaic floors within the nave.

The octagonal Byzantine church over Peter’s house at Capernaum. While the site was a house compound in the first century AD, the central structure was later made into religious shrine. In the Byzantine period a church was constructed above the earlier

period was named after the Turkish city of Byzantium, capital of the eastern Roman Empire under Constantine. Byzantium was renamed Constantinople (today known as Istanbul) by Constantine. Palestine’s Byzantine period began with Constantine’s rule as the Roman Emperor (AD 324) and ended with the Moslem invasion of the region (AD 640).

Even though it is after the Biblical period, and a time in which the church became highly institutionalized, the Byzantine period is still important to Biblical studies—especially in relation to geography and religious architecture. Religious structures helped identify and preserve the locations, names and traditions of many Old and New Testament sites.

Christianity’s earliest church buildings were constructed during this time. In New Testament times churches were primarily associated with houses (Rom 16:5, 1 Cor 16:19, Col 4:15, Phlm 2). Called domus ecclesia (Greek “house churches”), a few have been identified in archaeology. This includes Peter’s house-turned-shrine (with the later Byzantine church built above it) at Capernaum (Mk 1:29). Apparently a typical first century AD village house with several buildings i...

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