Thursday, January 12, 2006


Has anyone been following the news reports in the media and in journals like Biblical Archaeology Review and Christianity Today about the discovery of the oldest Christian church in Israel?
Toward the end of the excavating season 2005 a mosiac floor was discovered inside a prison compound in Megiddo, Israel. According to Christianity Today, "the fish mosiac [on the floor] dates the building before the fourth century when Constantine popularized the cross."
To continue quoting from the Christianity Today article (Jan. 2006, p.17), "The pottery and mosiac style suggest a date earlier than A.D. 313, when Constantine announced the Roman Empire would tolderate Christianity. The building could be one of the world's oldest churches."
One of the media's articles (the CNN online article, I think) claimed the discoverey would rewrite early Christian history. If the building dates from this early date, then Christianity must have been more visible in those early years than scholars thought. Church historians had believed the persecuted believers met only in house-church settings. But if this new discovery turns out to be an actual free-standing building--and quite a large one at that with elaborate mosiacs on the floor clearly identifying it as a Christian structure--then the standard picture needs revision.
Currently the floor is being removed for safety and further study. I'm sure the site will be given more attention when the new digging season gets underway this spring.
I love reading reports like this because it helps me imaginatively revisit those early believers. What was life like for those people who had to risk their lives to worship God? Could I have found the courage to do what those people did?
Also, current biblical archaeology reports illustrate the on-going debate between "biblical minimalists" who think the Bible contains little history, and "biblical maximalists," who think the Bible can be used as an historical document. Recent discoveries have tended to support the maximalists--for example, King David's palace in Jerusalem may have been located this fall. This discovery flies in the face of claims by Israel Finkelstein (sp?), an important scholar on the minimalist team, that David was largely fictional as was Solomon and in fact the entire united monarchy.
You see, there's a lot of excitement right now in archaeological circles.
So, if the group has any interest in these matters, I'll try to post archaeology news as I run across it.
Best wishes,
Mason Smith



Blogger Andrew Harnack said...

Mason, thanks so much for posting! After reading your post, I decided to subscribe to Biblical Archeology and look forward to getting my first issue sometime after returning from Hawaii. Please keep us aware of anthing that looks interesting! I'll keep a lookout for any news too.

Friday, 13 January, 2006  
Blogger Alex Fassas said...

The tingle of new discovery as to the growing roots of the early church Is exciting. This reminds me of the numerous awe inspiring moments that my family had during our June 2005 visit to Greece and Turkey.

We had the opportunity to visit Corinth, Ephesus, Thesolinka, Patmos and other ancient sites. All places that the Apostles had tread, spoken, wrote to, eaten, slept, created relationships and true caring of one for another. It is wonderful to be able to experience and get a sense of the style of community that existed nearly 2000 years ago.

But, the real joy, came in being able to walk and experience the places that for myself and many, we have only read about in His Word. Thanks for this news and the opportunity that it brings for me to remember and share my own personal visit to antiquity.

Saturday, 14 January, 2006  

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