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E04163: Greek inscriptions from the 'South Church' at Avdat/Oboda in the Negev desert (Roman province of Palaestina III), invoking the God of *Theodore, and *Theodore himself (probably the soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480). *Mary (the Mother of Christ, S00033) may also be mentioned in a scarcely legible passage. Probably second half of the 6th c.

online resource
posted on 17.10.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Carved on a stone in the left door jamb of the doorway connecting the north aisle with an annexed room. Dimensions of the inscribed field: 0.30 m x 0.18 m. Letter height 0.012-0.022 m. When recorded, the inscription was partially covered with plaster.

+ Ἀπᾶς Ζ Μα̣ρ̣κιανὸς Ι̣ΜΑ
Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Θεοδώ-
ρου τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν
εἰς τὼ ΟΙΜΙΝ κὲ δοξάζι.
Κ(ύριε) φύλαξον
τὼν γράψαστα

1. ΑΓΙΑCΖΜΑΡ--ΝΘΤΙΜΑ Negev 1981, Ἀπᾶς Ζ Μα̣ρ̣κιανὸς Negev 1978, SEG || 2. probably Χριστοῦ, CΑΝΗΧΙΡ--ΟΥΑΓΙΑCΟΝ Negev || 5. ΕΙCΤΩΟΙΜΙΝ ΔΟΞΑΖΙ Negev

'+ Apas Markianos (?) (- - -) O Lord, God of Saint Theodore, (- - -) our hearts to the (- - -) and wish (?) (- - -)! O Lord, protect the one who wrote it!'

Text: SEG 28, 1377.

Inscription 2:

This partially preserved inscription was carved on fragments of a chancel screen of greyish-white marble, found in the debris scattered over the church.

Fragment A: ] + ἅγιε Θεό[δωρε - - -]

'] + O Saint Theodore, [- - -]

Fragment B: βοή]θει + [- - -]

ΘΕ + + Negev

'[- - -] help! + [- - -]'

Fragment C: ] ̣Ιωσηφ[ - -

C + Ω Η Negev

'[- - -] Joseph (?) [- - -]'

Text: SEG 28, 1380.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita : S00480 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: Negev 1978, Plate 14.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. From: Negev 1978, Plate 16.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Avdat/Oboda Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


The inscriptions come from the South Church on the acropolis of Avdat/Oboda (sometimes termed the 'martyr shrine of Saint Theodore'), which was an impressive three-aisled basilica with a large apse at the east end of the nave, and smaller apses in two chambers flanking it. The site was excavated between 1958-1961 by the Hebrew University, and the National Parks Authority. The excavations were begun by Michael Avi-Yonah, and, from the second season onwards, continued by Avraham Negev. Negev first published the inscriptions in 1978, and offered another edition in 1981, in his corpus of the inscriptions of the Negev desert. He was, however, unsure how to interpret many of the scarcely legible lines. Here we follow the text as presented in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, where altered readings were suggested by Jean Bingen, based on the published photographs. For epitaphs from the South Church, see E04162.


The precise contents of the inscriptions can be disputed, especially the personal names in Bingen's edition. However, both Negev and Bingen agree that these texts were basically invocations of the God of Saint Theodore or just Saint Theodore, probably on behalf of donors, who offered the chancel screen, etc. This Theodore is certainly the soldier and martyr of Euchaita, who was widely venerated in the Near East. Arguably, line 1 could refer to *Mary, Mother of Christ (see the reading in Negev's 1981 edition). One more inscription with the name Mary preceded by a cross was found in the church (on a paving stone, I. Negev, no. 25 = SEG 28, 1378: + Μαρία). This is, however, too little to suggest that Mary received peculiar veneration in this church. Dating: The inscriptions must postdate the construction of the South Church, which is believed to have been in the mid-6th c.


Edition: Inscription 1: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 28, 1377. Negev, A., The Greek Inscriptions from the Negev (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1981), no. 26. Negev, A., "The Greek inscriptions from 'Avdat (Oboda)", Liber Annuus 28 (1978), 113, no. 26. Inscription 2: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 28, 1380. Negev, A., The Greek Inscriptions from the Negev (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1981), no. 31. Negev, A., "The Greek inscriptions from 'Avdat (Oboda)", Liber Annuus 28 (1978), 116, no. 31. Further reading: Negev, A., "Avdat, a caravan halt in the Negev", Archaeology 14 (1961), 122-130. Bulletin épigraphique (1962), 319.

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