Khirbet Deiry (Nes Harim) - Church

Inscription number: 
1
Selected bibliography: 
144-146, figs. 5-6 (phs.) (in Hebrew)
114, no. 156
Abbreviation for Journals and Series
Epigraphical corpora: 

SEG 60 (2000): 1722 (ed. pr.); 64 (2014): 1775

CIIP IV.1 (2018): 3183 (phs.)

Inscription type: 
dedicatory
invocation/prayer
Location: 

Findspot: In the apse of the southern chapel, set within a tabula ansata in the mosaic pavement, looking east. Found in 2008/2009 and since destroyed.

Pres. loc.: IAA inv. no. 2009-650.

Physical description : 

Mosaic inscription made of black tesserae on a white background, enclosed in a tabula ansata also traced in black tesserae, and rows of black tesserae separate the five lines of script. The tabula ansata measures 4 x 0.62 m; the height of the lines varies between 10 and 12 cm, except for the fifth line, only 9 cm high; the characters are 8-12 cm high. The western side of the frame skirts a late wall, seemingly built on the basis on an earlier chancel screen, indicating that the room served as a chapel rather than as a mere service room. A large break in the mosaic interferes with the five lines of script, causing gaps in the middle of each line and completely destroying the beginning and more than half of the last line.

The inscription opens with a cross. The characters are tall and narrow, with square epsilon and sigma (except for an oval sigma in the last line), double-pointed or almond-shaped omicron, and notable serifs, which take the form of flattened 'roofs' on top of some letters (alpha, delta, lambda). Nu and epsilon are ligated in line 2. Abbreviations are marked with a horizontal stroke, for the nomina sacra, or with a stigma, which also serves as an abbreviation of καί; a ligature of omicron-upsilon is used once, in line 4. This ligature is common in the sixth century, as well as the stigma for the abbreviations. While the drop-shaped omicron already appears in inscriptions from the mid-sixth century on, the type of serifs described above points to a slightly later date, perhaps the early seventh century.

Text: 

        ☩ Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ Θ(εὸ)ς [τοῦ ἁγίου Θ]εωδόρου διαφύλαξον τοὺς

        δούλο[υς σου Ἀντ]ώ̣νιν (καὶ) Θεωδοσίαν εἰλλούστριον

        (καὶ) ἀν[άπαυσον -
 -]Ν Θεωφύλακτον (καὶ) Ἰωάν(νην) πρεσβύ(τερον)

4      κ(ύρι)ε [μνήσθητι -
- (καὶ)] Μαρίας (καὶ) Ἰοάνου το̑ν προ-

        [σενεγκόντων μηνὶ -
- ἰν]δ̣(ικτιῶνος) ϛʹ· κ(ύρι)ε ἐλέισον Στέφα(νον).

Translation: 

O Lord [of saint Th]eodore, protect your servants Antonius and Theodosia illustres (?) and grant rest to [- - ], Theophylactus and John the priest. O Lord, [remember - - and] Mary and John who have offered [in the month of - - ] of the 6th indiction. O Lord, have mercy upon Stephen.

Commentary: 

The sixth indiction cannot offer an absolute date, but between the late sixth and early seventh century a sixth indiction fell in the years 587/8, 602/3 and 617/8. Of these three dates, the second and the third fit the palaeography of the script better than the first. The text shows several phonetic spellings typical of the period: exchanges of vowels (Ω for Ο and vice-versa, ΕΙ for Ι in line 2 and for ΕΗ in line 5), loss of the sound Ο in personal names ending in -ιος (Ἀντώνιν for Ἀντωνιον in line 2), and a possible shift of the sounds Ο/Α in line 2.

The couple Anthony and Theodosia were certainly the main benefactors of the church, although other donors are probably mentioned in line 4 if, as it seems most likely, the letters προ- at the end of the line are the beginning of the participle of προφέρειν, 'to offer'. If the church belonged to a monastery, Anthony and Theodosia were probably patrons of the monastery itself, but if it was a country church, the dedication to St. Theodore, protector of property, may hint to their identification as the owners of the estate where the church was erected. Line 3 probably contained three names, for the gap after the beginning of the verb ἀν[άπαυσον has space for 12-14 letters. The persons whose repose is invoked may have been relations of the benefactors Anthony and Theodosia, less likely clergy attached to the church, for the abbreviation ΠΡΕΣΒΥ appears to be singular: a plural πρεσβ(υρέρους) would most likely have been abbreviated ΠΡΕΣΒΒ. Line 4 also must have contained three names, considering the width of the gap. The missing verb was most likely μνήσθητι, the only verb common in invocations that requires the genitive. As to the last name, Stephen who invokes the Lord's mercy may well have been the mosaic layer. This or a similar invocations closing a dedicatory inscription not infrequently refers to the master builder or the mosaic layer who were at work in the church.

Given date: 
indiction
Date: 
602/3 or 617/1
Summary: 

Dated mosaic dedicatory inscription within a tabula ansata, in the apse of the southern chapel, 602/3 or 617/1.

Contents
Ecclesiastical titles: 
presbyter
Titles/epithets of patrons/dedicators: 
servant of God
illustris
Personal names: 
Antonius, Ioannes, Maria, Stephanus, Theodosia, Theophylactus
Saints names: 
Theodorus
Epithets of saints: 
hagios/hagia
Epigraphical formulae: 
Lord/Christ, have mercy...
Lord/Christ, remember...
those who offer/have offered/will offer
Epigraphical Abbreviations: 
stigmas for abbreviations and for καί, horizontal stroke over nomina sacra, ΝΥ and ΟΥ in ligatures