Mohammad abu Ghosh/AP
A worker leaves a cave under Saint George's Church in Rihab, Mafraq, Jordan on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 (AP).

Is a Cave in Jordan the World’s Oldest Christian Church?

June 13, 2008 06:02 AM
by Denis Cummings
Archaeologists revealed that they found what may be the world’s first Christian Church in Rihab, Jordan.

30-Second Summary

Archaeologists discovered a cave below the ancient St. Georgeous Church—itself one of the world’s oldest churches—that they believe is a Christian Church dating to 33–70 A.D.

“We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians: the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ,” said archaeologist Abdel-Qader al-Housan, referring to a mosaic inscription on the floor of St. Georgeous reading “70 beloved by God and the divine.”

Inside the cave, archaeologists found a circular worship area with stone seats and a long tunnel leading to a cistern. They also found pottery shards, inscribed with “Georgeous,” that date between the third and seventh centuries.

According to al-Housan, the Christians had fled religious persecution in Jerusalem to found secret, underground churches in Jordan and elsewhere.

Some hope that the findings will improve Muslim-Christian relations in Jordan. “When Muslims came to the place, it was the Christians who received them and they lived together,” said Archimandrite Nektarious of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in Jordan. “This shows our shared life. Unfortunately, today many people are trying to destroy the relations between the Christians and Muslims.”

Other scholars are skeptical of the findings, however, feeling that there is not enough evidence to determine the true date. University of Sydney archaeologist Kate da Costa adds, “And even if the cave can be proved to have been in use in the first (century) AD, there needs to be additional evidence that it was used by Christians.”

Headline Links: World’s first church discovered

Reactions: Hope for Muslim-Christian peace

Historical Context: Early Christianity

Opinion & Analysis: Are al-Housan’s claims true?


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