A Greek Inscription: “Jesus Is Present” Of The Late Roman Period At Beth Loya -- By: Titus Kennedy

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 14:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: A Greek Inscription: “Jesus Is Present” Of The Late Roman Period At Beth Loya
Author: Titus Kennedy

A Greek Inscription: “Jesus Is Present” Of The Late Roman Period At Beth Loya

Titus Kennedy

Titus Kennedy earned a B.A. from Biola University, M.A. from the University of Toronto in Near Eastern Archaeology, M.A. in Biblical Archaeology from the University of South Africa, and is pursuing a Doctorate in Biblical Archaeology at the University of South Africa. You may reach Titus at [email protected]


At the site of Khirbet Beth Loya, located in the Judean Hills east of Lachish and west of Hebron, a short but important ancient Greek inscription was carved into a rock wall of one of the underground caves. Although the ancient name of the site is unknown at this point, according to discoveries it was a prominent Christian site in the Byzantine period, and possibly earlier. The Byzantine church there is a single apse basilica that was erected ca. 500 AD, remained in use for over 200 years until it was apparently abandoned, and eventually the area was overtaken by a Muslim cemetery.1 Several elaborate mosaics, including Christian inscriptions, designs, and depictions of biblical scenes cover the church floor.2 The site, however, was also occupied earlier, in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.3

The Inscription

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many subterranean installations were carved out of the soft rock on the site.4 In one of these subterranean caves near the Byzantine era church, an ancient Greek inscription mentions Jesus. The entrance to the cave is now obscured by foliage, but on the wall opposite the entrance, an inscription carved into the limestone can be plainly seen. The letters are much taller and deeper than is usual, which may indicate that it was meant to be plainly seen from anywhere in the small cave. The short inscription, which is all on one line, begins with a simple cross and reads ΙΕCΟΥC ΟΔΕ (or in miniscule ιεσους οδε).

It may be translated as “Jesus is present,” with a cross preceding it to indicate that the Jesus mentioned is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. While ΟΔΕ can be translated simply as “here,” in this case the translation of “present” is more exact since the inscription refers to a person. According to the Greek lexicon of Liddell and Scott, in some cases “ὅδε refers more...

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