I knew it!

Former director general of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities calls the “oldest church in the world” claim “ridiculous”. According to him, the guy who found the cave is something of a fabulist, and there is no evidence to support the sensationalism.

Israeli archaeologist Stephen Pfann isn’t quite so blunt, but he too thinks the cave=church theory is shaky at best.

“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.

“If they are talking about a cave, it could have been a hiding place. In time—if there were martyrs there or something significant that took place there or a well-known individual who was among the disciples of Jesus—then you would have had reason to commemorate the site, which could later be used by the church’s monks.”

“But the cave that’s there is one that doesn’t necessarily commemorate anything … I don’t know how you can take an underground cave and say it could present itself as a first-century church.”

Ainorite?! I love it when supersmart people agree with me and they lay out the case in a thoughtful manner I can just quote as if I’d done the work. :boogie:


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Comment by Hans
2008-06-19 18:43:11

I would think you’d want to have more evidence of ritualistic religious activity than just some stones placed in a circle to make the claim of discovering the oldest church in the world.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-06-24 09:00:11

I couldn’t agree more. I think the excavator was trying to make the newspapers rather than a sound argument.

Comment by Livia
2008-06-20 02:48:39

Yeah, a cave with a stone circle sounds a little too pagan to be considered a church.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-06-24 09:01:18

Or even just too common an arrangement to be narrowed down easily.

On an unrelated note, nice name! :D

Comment by Jessica Weglein
2008-06-26 11:23:58


Because of your history interest, I thought you might like to know that Giraud and Carolyn Foster recently donated 61 pieces of ancient South Arabian art to the Walters Art Museum. The Fosters had collected these objects when Giraud was the personal physician of Imam Ahmed, the last king of Yemen, in the early 1960s.

The Walters will open an exhibition called Faces of Ancient Arabia: The Giraud and Carolyn Foster Collection of South Arabian Art on July 20, and it will include almost 100 ancient sculptures, statues, relief carving and inscribed blocks as well as world-renowned contemporary Yemeni art. This is a great opportunity to see the art and history of a rich culture of the ancient world, largely unknown to many Westerners.

For more information if you would like to include this in your blog, visit the Walters’ Web site at http://www.thewalters.org or contact me at jweglein@thewalters.org. Thanks!

Comment by livius drusus
2008-07-02 11:13:33

Very interesting indeed, thank you. I’ve been reading a lot about Yemeni artifacts lately. They’ve been in the news.

Comment by Mike M
2012-07-29 22:45:21

A tad off topic (sorry about that,) but I know exactly how you feel when someone smarter than you, not only outright states your opinion on a matter, but actually uses the exact same arguments you have used to back up your opinion on a topic.

Case in point: The accusations against Joe Paterno of “actively covering up a child molester in order to protect the football program.”

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh all but blasted Coach Paterno for committing such a crime. His evidence: Two emails, both of which are ambiguous at best.

Noted scholar, academician, and skeptic Walter C. Uhler has made exactly the arguments I have made in defense of Paterno.

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