Biblical Archaeology Review 34:5, September/October 2008

Strata: Scholars Skeptical About World’s Oldest Church

On June 10, 2008, the news traveled almost instantly around the world. Not only the Associated Press and the BBC carried the story, but even Chinese View: The oldest church in the world had been found in northern Jordan, according to Jordanian archaeologist Abdul Qader Hussan, who declared the find “amazing.”

The next day Fox News asked BAR editor Hershel Shanks for television commentary. “Archaeologists will treat this with extreme caution, even skepticism,” he said. Shanks was soon backed up by Ghazi Bisheh, former director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, who called the claim “ridiculous.”

Actually, the claimed archaeological find packed a double whammy. According to The Jordan Times, the Jordanian archaeologists not only found the oldest church in the world, which they dated to 230 A.D., but beneath the church they found a cave-church “dating from 33 A.D. to 70 A.D.” that served as a chapel for Jesus’ original disciples who fled Jerusalem after the crucifixion. The earlier date (33 A.D.) is the assumed date of the crucifixion, and the latter date (70 A.D.) is the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

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