"Ground zero of Christianity"

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November 11th, 2010

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UNO's ongoing archaeological dig in Bethsaida could be home to the first "house church" according to Simcha Jacobovitch (Photo courtesy Bethsaida Excavations Project)

Omaha, NE – Ground zero of Christianity: that’s what the Naked Archaeologist believes the University of Nebraska at Omaha has discovered in their ongoing archaeology dig site in Bethsaida.

Simcha Jacobovitch is a Canadian journalist and filmmaker, and producer of the Discovery Channel’s Naked Archaeologist, in which he explores ancient sites referred to in the Bible, just like Bethsaida, which is off the coast of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, and is referred to numerous times as the home of four of Jesus’ disciples.

“At Bethsaida, which is mentioned in the Gospels, in contrast to other places, you actually find archaeology from the time of Jesus, because it wasn’t built over,” Jacobovitch said. “So it’s very exciting, because it’s a time capsule.”

Jacobovitch said he believes the UNO team has discovered the first “house church” at the Bethsaida site, where the earliest followers of Jesus may have had their first Communion.

Jacobovitch’s suggestions are not always popular, though. He has produced some controversial work – one documentary in particular, The Lost of Tomb of Jesus, in which he, along with Hollywood producer James Cameron, suggested the grave site of Jesus and his family had been discovered, as well as a tomb of Mary Magdalene, projecting the theory that Jesus had married this infamous woman. That theory was ripped apart by academics and Biblical scholars, who called their claims “impossible” and said the production was a ploy for headlines. But Jacobovitch said, though he’s not an archaeologist, he is an investigative journalist and reserves the same right to pose questions.

UNO students digging at Bethsaida during the project's ongoing archaeological excavation

“People in that realm are not used to it,” he said. “When you’re dealing with the Bible, you usually have theologians, ministers, Rabbis. When you’re dealing with archaeology, you usually have academics, who have conferences where only academics attend.”

“But when you suddenly barge into biblical archaeology, not in a kind of, tell me whatever you want and I’ll believe you, but you come from the world of investigative journalism, which says, well, how do you know that? Then you’re going to get scoops, make friends, get critics.”

Jacobovitch said, “It’s the nature of the beast, that if you if you investigate, you’re going to get headlines and also going to get criticism.”

Simcha Jacobovitch will be in Omaha Thursday, Nov. 11 to present his documentary, Bethsaida: The Ground Zero of Christianity, at 7:30pm. It’s part of the 12th annual Batchelder Biblical Archaeology Conference at UNO, which continues through Nov. 13. Click here for more information on UNO’s Bethsaida Excavations Project.

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