This past Saturday (28-Jun), I came across this article from a UK-based online newspaper. The title of the article is a bit misleading historically, and a bit revealing about the ones doing the finding and writing. To the initial question: “Is this Christianity’s FIRST church?”, I am compelled to say, “Probably not.” After reading through the reasons why they (i.e., Abdel-Qader Hussein and Abdul Qader al-Husan) believe it is the first Christian church, my compulsion is substantiated. Thankfully, the article is tempered with the astute observations of Thomas Parker so that it does not become more (in the words of Jonathan Reed) “archaeo-porn”,* which is what characterized the Talpiot Tomb fiasco.
Here are some of the reasons–outside of the ones given by Parker–why I am not compelled by the findings of Hussein and al-Husan:
- The dating perimeters are a bit dodgy
- The use of the term “Christian” was not a ubiquitous designation during this period
- The use of the term “church” is far too ambiguous
- Conclusions about later “Christian worship” settings are being read back into earlier periods
- Lack of evidence (and even tradition) for what happened with the original 70
- The vast majority of “underground ‘Christians’ ” is dated post 70 AD
* See this article, where Dr. Reed apologetically admits the harshness of “archaeo-porn”, yet unapologetically maintains the implications of such a term.