Two Jordanian archeologist workers works at the cave under an old church at the town of Rehab, Jordan, 10 June 2008. Jordanian Archeologists have discovered a cave underneath the Saint Georgeous Church in Rehab, Mafraq 65 km northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman which is described as the oldest Christian church in the world. PHOTOS:JAMAL NASRALLAH/EPA
We are very excited to announce our discovery of the World's First Church, which we discovered in Rihab, Jordan.
You can read more about it in this Jordan Times article:
Archaeologists unearth ‘first church in the world’ in Rihab
By Rula Samain
AMMAN - Lying underneath Saint Georgeous Church in Rihab, Mafraq, is what archaeologists describe as the first Christian church in the world.
“We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33AD to 70AD,” said Archaeologist Abdul Qader Hussan, head of the Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies.
The discovery was “amazing”, Hussan told The Jordan Times.
“We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians: the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ,” the scholar said.
The early Christians, described in the mosaic inscription on St. Georgeous floor as “the 70 beloved by God and Divine”, are said to have fled from Jerusalem during the persecution of Christians, to the northern part of Jordan, particularly to Rihab, he added.
Citing historical sources, the expert said the 70 lived and practised their rituals in secrecy in this underground church.
We believe that they did not leave the cave and lived until the Christian religion was embraced by Roman rulers.
“It was then when St. Georgeous was built,” said Hussan.
St. Georgeous Church, Rihab, Jordan
Until now, Saint Georgeous was believed to be the oldest “proper” church in the world, built in 230AD. This status was only challenged by a church unearthed in Aqaba, Jordan in 1998, also dating back to 3rd century and a church unearthed in Megiddo, Israel in 2005.
The findings in the graveyard near the cave offer valuable clues, according to Hussan.
“We found pottery items that date back from the 3rd to 7th century,” he added. The findings show that the first Christians and their offshoot continued living in the area till the late Roman rule.
“Going down a few steps into the cave, one would see a circle shape area, believed to be the apse, and several stone seats for the ecclesiastics,” he added.
Archimandrite Nektarious, Bishop Deputy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, described the discovery of the cave as an “important milestone for Christians all around the world”.
“The only other cave in the world similar in shape and purpose is in Thessalonica, Greece,” the bishop said in an interview in Amman.
The cave also embraces the living place of the first Christians. “A wall with an entrance is the only partition separating the altar from the living area,” Hussan said.
There is also a deep tunnel, which is believed to have led the 70 Christians to their source of water, the archaeologist added.
Officials in Mafraq say they will capitalise on the discovery to further promote the area.
Governor Zeid Zreiqat, who noted Rihab is rich in unique archaeological sites, said that together with the new discovery, these sites can be invested to attract religious tourism.
“We are working on developing Rihab to become a major tourist attraction in the near future,” he told The Jordan Times.
So far, 30 churches have been discovered in Rihab,” Hussan said. It is also believed that Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary have passed through this area, he added.
9 June 2008
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