An ancient Christian mosaic bearing an early reference to Jesus as God could be moved to a US museum.
Israeli officials are considering loaning the historic artefact, thought by some to be near the site of the prophesied Armageddon to the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
The Megiddo Mosaic, located in northern Israel, is believed to be the earliest Christian prayer hall in the world. It was discovered by local archaeologists in 2005 and is thought to date back to the third century. The mosaic contains Greek inscriptions, one reading “To God Jesus Christ.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) told the Associated Press 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.
The potential move has sparked controversy within academic and religious circles, with some arguing its 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.
The Museum of the Bible has faced criticism for its past acquisition practices and for promoting evangelical Christianity. In 2018 it repatriated an ancient clay tablet found in 1853 and stolen from an Iraqi museum over 30 years ago.
Addressing these criticisms, Jeffrey Kloha, the Museum of the Bible´s chief curatorial officer told the news outlet 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.