Cave in Jordan Said to Have Been Used by First Christians
The cave contains a circular structure that may have been an apse, and the floor of the later church above contains a mosaic that refers to the “70 beloved by God and the divine”—a reference, the excavators say, to the first followers of Jesus, who went to that area of Jordan to flee persecution.
Although this may be true, there are some who are strongly arguing against this cave being the first church. After the discovery of the cave in Jordan, there was another cave beneath St. George's Church in the city of Rihab.
The archaeologist said he found a circular worship area inside the cave with stone seats separated from a living area that had a long tunnel leading to a source of water.
There's a tile on the floor of this church that reads "the 70 beloved by God and the divine". Archaeologist al-Housan believes this is referring to the 70 followers who fled Roman prersecution in Jerusalem during the first centry AD. Al-Housan also commented that the followers established a church in the cave to use as a place of worship in order to avoid prosucution.
Scholars widely believe that organized churches didn't exist until at least the third century A.D.
Early churches include aspes, which are semi-circular sections of t he sanctuary facing to the east, similar to Jewish synagogues, which face Jerusalem. Al- Housan says he discovered this aspe in the cave below St. George's church.
"It sounds rather anachronistic," he said, adding that during the first century, the term "church" or "ekklesia" was used for the assembled body of believers—not the building or catacombs where they were assembling.
Biblical scholar Steph Pfann says he doesn't see how an underground cave can present itself as a church. Although this may be true, an exavation near Har Megiddo (otherwise known as Armageddon), discovered something similar in 2005.
The final place that is believed to be the first church is actually located below a prison site in Isreal. The fact of the matter is, it's there's not enough evidence to pinpoint the location yet.