There were published reports in the past month that the oldest church in the world has been discovered.
Archaeologists discovered the church, a small chapel, beneath the altar of the St. Georgeous Church in the Jordanian town of Rihab. St. Georgeous Church, itself ancient and now in ruins, was built about two hundred years after the death of Christ.
The First Church in the World.
But the small chapel, discovered beneath its altar, is believed to have been used between 33 AD and 70 AD. That would mean that the veneration of the Christ was done, in groups, shortly after his death. What is more remarkable is that this chapel, and the small group of Christians who found sanctuary there, are not recorded in the biblical narrative.
The evidence is speculatory, though, and, just so you know, it is very difficult, in the modern age of biblical archaeology, to prove the trueness of any artifact. There is just too much at stake.
The evidence, however speculatory, is fascinating. On the floor of St. Georgeous is the following inscription: “70 Beloved by God and Divine.” And the inscription seems to suggest that 70 met beneath this ancient church, and later, their ancestors, shielded from the Romans, until the conditions were favorable, and they were able to come out of hiding. It was then that St. Georgeous was built. The 70, to which the inscription refers, are believed to be 70 disciples who fled Jerusalem amidst persecution, and found haven here.
The chapel has also produced a circular sanctum with stone seats, sleeping quarters, and a deep tunnel which leads to an underground water source. Archaeologists have also found coins and inscriptions, and iron crosses. Even more compelling is that this chapel is one of thirty ancient churches discovered in the area. So while the evidence is circumstantial, one could easily argue that it predated the remains of the church above.
The bible is a controversial document. But stone and dirt and earth is difficult to dispute, and whether this cave was used just years after Christ was crucified, or even a century after the date it has been given, it is well outside of any contrived history. Until this church, the earliest church dates from the third century, and if this all of this evidence proves the theory of the archaeologist, this would place a significant amount of weight upon the historicity of the biblical narrative.
Those who used this chapel as a haven of worship gathered to worship the Messiah for who he was, perhaps within a few years of watching him die. This site, and their sacred place of worship, doesn’t prove our faith, but it does prove commonality, and a very rich heritage. And that is powerful.