Archaeologists may have accidentally discovered the oldest surviving image of the Virgin Mary. Biblical scholars say a wall painting recovered from the site of one of the earliest known Christian churches in the world could actually be the earliest depiction of the Virgin Mary. The image from the Dura-Europos site near the village of Salhiyé in Syria features a woman by a well, originally thought to be a Samaritan woman who Jesus met in John 4. But biblical scholar Dr Michael Peppard

says the ancient painting, thought to date back to the third century, could be the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announces she will give birth to Jesus. Reviewing Dr Peppard’s argument, scholar Mary Joan Winn Leith said: “While this was originally interpreted as the Biblical scene of the Samaritan woman who speaks with Jesus, further analysis suggests it portrays the Annunciation — making this painting the earliest depiction of the Virgin Mary.” READ MORE