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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Oldest Church in the World?

In an underground cave in Jordan, archaeologists think they've found what might be the oldest Christian church. The space, underneath the St. Georgeous Church in Rihab, dates back to the first century and appears to have served as a refuge—and the site of rituals—for Christians fleeing persecution in Jerusalem. In an inscription on the floor, they call themselves the "70 beloved by God and the divine."
There are living quarters and a cistern, which would have provided water for the refugees, as well as what the archaeologists are calling a "chapel." It contains a circular area of seats known as an "apse," which has been found in another cave once used for Christian worship. If they're right about the date, which has yet to be confirmed, the chapel will be two hundred years older than what currently stand as the earliest examples of Christian churches. —Stephen Mapes