The Israeli government is contemplating moving an ancient Christian mosaic bearing an early reference to Jesus as God, to the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
The Megiddo Mosaic, discovered by local archaeologists in 2005 near the historic site believed to be the prophesied Armageddon, is thought to date back to the third century. It contains Greek inscriptions, one reading “To God Jesus Christ.”
The Megiddo Mosaic, located in northern Israel, is believed to be the earliest Christian prayer hall in the world. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said that it plans to consult with an advisory board before deciding on whether to go ahead with the potential deal.
Located on a site planned for a prison expansion for Palestinian inmates, the IAA says relocating the mosaic offers it the best chance of protection against the upcoming construction, but critics, including religious and academic scholars, have raised concerns over the proposed move, particularly due to the museum’s past controversies.
The museum has faced a backlash over its acquisition methods and has had to return looted items, including an ancient Mesopotamian tablet. Others argued that the relocation deepens ties between Israel and US evangelical Christians and will be used to promote the “Christian nationalist” views the Bible museum is accused of representing. Addressing these criticisms, Jeffrey Kloha, the Museum of the Bible´s chief curatorial officer, told the news outlet that the museum has previously “initiated returns where appropriate to countries of origin without obligation” and stated that all major museums have to grapple with heritage issues.