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Ancient Byzantine church discovered near Jericho, biblical city conquered by Joshua

Jordan River
A gate, part of an abandoned church property, with a sign warning against land mines, is seen near Qasr Al-Yahud, Jesus' traditional baptismal site along the Jordan River, near Jericho in the West Bank, January 18, 2017. |

A large Byzantine church with mosaic floors dating back to the sixth century has been uncovered in the area of Jericho in the West Bank, the biblical city conquered by Joshua and the Israelites, according to the Old Testament account.

According to The Times of Israel, the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit, which oversees historical sites in Judea and Samaria, announced Wednesday that the church was found in the historic town located in the West Bank.

The outlet reported that the church is 250 square meters large, which would have made the building one of the largest Christian places of worship at that time. The church was still being used during the Early Muslim Period, according to the Civil Administration, and its mosaic floors showed “no indications of damage from destructive iconoclasm” even though Islam bans the display of icons and images in public places.

The nave of the church, a section set apart for the laity, is reportedly almost completely preserved and is covered with a mosaic depicting vine braids and animal figures.

The Civil Administration said the church was constructed with materials foreign to the area, including marble and black bitumen stone, that would have been difficult to transport.

The area where the church was located sustained a major earthquake in A.D. 749 that destroyed churches throughout the region, according to the outlet. The church was likely abandoned prior to the earthquake, it said.

The group said it “sees great importance in the discovery of antiquities” and will continue its archeological work “for the continued discovery of the area’s glorious past,” according to The Times.

The ruins of the church will be put on display at the Good Samaritan Museum along with the mosaics, the outlet reported. The museum is located near Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank.

Jericho has been an important religious site for Christians, Jews and Muslims throughout history and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East.

In the Bible, Jericho is most famously known for the story of Joshua and the Israelites' conquest of the city. According to the book of Joshua, Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, led his people into the Promised Land and began their conquest of the cities there. The Wall of Jericho was destroyed when the Israelites walked around it for seven days carrying the Ark of the Covenant.

In July, archaeologists started digging at Khirbet Tibnah in the West Bank, a site that is believed to be where Joshua lived and was buried.

The site was surveyed in the 1800s and is mentioned in a number of historic documents, according to The Jerusalem Post. Remnants from the biblical period, the Hasmonean period, the Roman period and the Ottoman period were found at the site throughout the 1900s.

Eric Metaxas, author of Is Atheism Dead? recently told The Christian Post that he believes that culture is at a “paradigm-shifting moment” as science and archeology increasingly point to the existence of God.

“We’ve all lived at a time when not only is the trend that science is pointing us away from God, but we’ve been living for over 100 years with the narrative that says, science is fundamentally at odds with faith, that reason is at odds with religion,” the Christian author, speaker and conservative radio host said.

“The one thing everybody kept saying — science is leading us away from religion. Ironically, in the last 50 years, precisely the opposite has happened. Science is leading us to God. It’s big news.”

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