A British archaeologist says a first-century dwelling found beneath a convent in Nazareth, Israel, could have been Jesus' childhood home.
Dr. Ken Dark of the University of Reading and the Nazareth Archaeological Project argues that although the evidence can't prove Jesus grew up in the house, it does suggest it's possible.
According to the Bible, Jesus grew up in Nazareth, before leaving his hometown to wander and perform miracles. Later, he traveled back to preach, then survived an attempt by the townspeople to throw him off a cliff. Nazareth is now a predominantly Arab city of about 60,000 people, the majority of them Muslim.
Dark and his group began excavating beneath the Sisters of Nazareth convent in 2006, according to Biblical Archaeology. He then discovered what is said to be a first-century courtyard house, complete with doors and windows, partially carved out of the living rock.
Much of what links the home to the possibility it housed Jesus is tied to its location.
"It is always very hard to link archaeological evidence to specific people," Dark told The Huffington Post in an email. He first used conventional archaeological methods to date both the house and a Byzantine church that was built over it, concluding that the church was once big enough to have attracted the notice of pilgrims centuries ago.
Dark's archaeological findings matched De Locis Sanctis ("Concerning the sacred places"), a text from the late 600s that gives an account of a Frankish bishop's pilgrimage to Nazareth. The Jerusalem Post reports that the text mentions a church in the city “where once there was the house in which the Lord was nourished in his infancy.”
Dark identified his site as the Church of the Nutrition, where the Byzantines believed Jesus had grown up.
"As it is a first-century house, then perhaps the Byzantines were correct in identifying it as where Jesus was raised -- but we have no way of telling if that was so," he explains.
Dark also unearthed limestone containers, which can be koshered, further suggesting a Jewish family had lived in the house.
Dark's findings appear in the latest issue of the magazine "Biblical Archaeology Review" under the provocative title, "Has Jesus’ Nazareth house been found?"
“Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds,” Dark wrote, according to the Jerusalem Post. “On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted.”
According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, the site has been known since the 1880s but had not been examined by professional archeologists until the Nazareth Archaeological Project started their work in 2006.