Saint NameStephen, the First Martyr : S00030
Abraham, Old Testament patriarch : S00275
Saint Name in SourceΣτέφανος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before400
Evidence not after600
Activity not before400
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBerosaba/Beersheva
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Berosaba/Beersheva
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - unspecified
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsVow
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceFragmentary limestone block. H. 0.43 m; W. 0.51 m; Th. 0.08 m (as specified by Figueras in 1985), or H. 0.31 m; W. 0.47 m (as described by Lagrange in 1904). High quality lettering. Over and below the inscription run ornamental bands. When recorded, the stone was reused in a house, in the east sector of Beersheva.
First recorded by Antonin Jaussen, Louis-Hugues Vincent, and Antonie-Raphaël Savignac during their expedition to the Negev desert in January/February 1904. The inscription was first published that year in a report of their expedition (written by the surveyors, but signed by Marie-Joseph Lagrange and Paul Séjourné as those who communicated it to the editors of CRAI), and in 1905, this time under the names of the finders themselves. Republished by Albrecht Alt in 1921, in his corpus of inscriptions of Palaestina III, and by Pau Figueras in 1985 (albeit with no Greek transcription: Figueras offers just a drawing with English and Hebrew translations).
DiscussionThe inscription clearly contains a reference to Stephen, the First Martyr, and a fragmentarily preserved name Abraham, which given the context, may be of the Old Testament patriarch. The two figures are associated with a topos (literally: 'place'). Jaussen, Vincent, and Savignac suggested that this topos was a 'religious building' or, less likely, a tomb. Their first supposition is, much the more plausible, as the word topos was often given to churches and religious monuments in the East.
As the inscription commemorates a construction (ἔκτισαν), it is clear that a building is in question. The building is said to have been constructed as the vow of a certain Severos and one more person. The name Severos appears in two more contemporary inscriptions from Beersheva: E04157: a lintel with the text of Psalm 117(118):20 followed by an invocation of Saint Stephen; and Alt's no. 10: a votive inscription where he restores the name in a lacuna, next to the name Flavia, perhaps Severos' wife).
In their comments on the inscription, Jaussen, Vincent, and Savignac note that Abraham could have been venerated in Beersheva, as a result of his stay in that place, and his naming of it, following his treaty with Abimelek (Genesis 21:22-33: 'Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they swore both of them'). However, as Jaussen and his colleagues were unsure whether the designation of the building as a topos, denoted a church or a tomb, they hesitated over whether the Abraham mentioned in line 3 was the Old Testament character or an ordinary man. It was Albrecht Alt who restored the epithet hagios/'holy' in the lacuna before the name of Abraham, and pointed out that we have here a clear reference to a shrine dedicated to the patriarch.
Alt, A., Die griechischen Inschriften der Palaestina Tertia westlich der 'Araba (Berlin – Leipzig: Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher Verleger, 1921), 14, no. 8.
Jaussen, A., Vincent, L.-H., Savignac, A.-R., "Notes épigraphiques", La Revue biblique (1905), 251, no. 7, and Plate IX.
[Jaussen, A., Vincent, L.-H., Savignac, A.-R.], "Rapport sur une exploration archéologique au Négeb", Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1904), 302.
Figueras P., Ketovot bizanṭiyot mi-Beʼer-Sheva' ṿeha-Negev [Byzantine Inscriptions from Beersheva and the Negev] (Negev Museum Publications 2, Beersheva: Muzeʼon ha-Negev, 1985), 13, no. 5 (drawing, English and Hebrew translations).
Figueras, P., "Hatequfa haromit-bizantit [The Roman-Byzantine period]", in: Y. Gradus, E. Stern (eds.), Sefer Be'ersheva' (Beersheva: , 1979), 39-52 (fig. 19: photograph).