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'Good Shepherd' Ring Discovered Off Coast of Caesarea Is One of the Earliest Images Used in Christianity

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A fascinating discovery off the coast of Israel is yielding spectacular treasures.

Two shipwrecks were found on the same site, leaving Roman and Jewish artifacts scattered across the ocean floor. These ancient discoveries are giving us a glimpse into the world of the early church.

The Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered ancient treasures from the two shipwrecks off the coast of Caesarea in Israel. According to Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, “The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm.” 

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The artifacts included a special gold ring engraved with the figure of the Good Shepherd. The theme of the Good Shepherd is throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament, says “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” 

The image is also one of the earliest images used in Christianity for symbolizing Jesus as humanity’s compassionate shepherd. Jesus even called himself a shepherd, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

The Good Shepherd ring was discovered near the port of Caesarea, a site of great significance in Christian tradition as it was one of the earliest centers of Christianity and housed one of the first Christian communities.

At first, only Jews belonged to this community and it was here, that the apostle Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea Acts 10.

Other valuables that were found included hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-third century CE and about 560 silver coins from the 14th Century Mamluk period. A bronze figurine in the form of an eagle, symbolizes Roman rule, and a figurine of a Roman pantomimus in a comic mask.

The underwater remains also included rare personal effects of the shipwreck victims. Among them was a beautiful red gemstone with a carving of a lyre. The lyre in Jewish tradition is called Kinor David (‘David’s harp.) According to , King David played his harp for Saul,“ Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.”

According to Eli Eskozido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Israel’s coasts are rich in sites and finds that are immensely important national and international cultural heritage assets. They are extremely vulnerable, which is why the Israel Antiquities Authority conducts underwater surveys to locate, monitor, and salvage any antiquities.”

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