Early Church in Jordan: A discussion

I was trolling the Drudge report (a wonderful habit which I refuse to break) when an article on a possible ancient church discovered in Jordan caught my eye. As I browsed the comments I discovered a noticeably nasty, yet seemingly unwarranted, anti-Mormon sentiment from the very first post.

As a practicing Mormon myself, I gave in to the desire to defend my faith, by golly, since no one else seemed to be doing it. And so begins my unwitting battle with the denizens of the internets:

1. Liars June 10th, 2008 – 7:10 am

Everyone knows the first church was built in Utah in 70AD.

24. Susan June 10th, 2008 – 9:52 am

Why do non christians even care about this article and post comments about it?

Atheist/ evolustionists and witches and many others seem to have some fascination for anything Christian and love to taunt us. That’s because they feel like second class citizens to us, perhaps have been hurt by us (not by Jesus however) and want revenge. Instead all of us should follow what the Bible says and treat others with respect, not name calling or insults.

The word Church is most definitely referring to Christians. So claiming that this may be the earliest known Church shouldn’t offend anyone. All those who commented here that the Christian church is not the first church are wrong. Churches refer to Christian worshippers, except for the Churches of Satan , Mormons and Scientology which at a later date appropriated it.

28. schex June 10th, 2008 – 10:28 am


Gee, so not only do the “Trinitarians” of Nicean yore have a monopoly on the word “Christian”, they’ve now extended their ever-grasping reach to the term “Church”.

As a Mormon Christian who attends a Mormon church, I find your closing sentence to effectively invalidate everything you said previously. You’re a close-minded person who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I have as equal a claim on the word “church” in my Christian religious heritage as you do in yours. Deal with it…

Regarding the article, I’d be interested to know if any documents were found, perhaps preserved in the same fashion as the Dead Sea scrolls. Perhaps these might address the rituals which may have been performed in the early church, or uncanonized writings by early Church leaders. Interesting stuff…

37. Opusmagnumdei June 10th, 2008 – 11:55 am

The concept of “church” didn’t even exist before Christ. Before then, there was mostly temple worship, even apart from Judaism. But, the first Christian churches, and I am referring to the church buildings not just the ekklesia, were not normally stand alone buildings, the ekklesia held their worship of the Eucharist in private home. However, it was not because they didn’t want a Sanctuary to be built, it was simply that they either didn’t have the money or that they were being persecuted and could not worship the way that they wanted to.

They wanted to worship at Temple with the Jews, but it was the Jews who kicked them out of temple and would not permit them to preach ‘Christ Crucified’ (as Paul says) and so they would attend their normal services from Friday night until Saturday night, but then they would preach in their homes and read from the Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament not the New Testament during liturgy of the Word and worship Christ present in the Eucharist following the reading of the Word.

Normally, they would read from the Scriptures all day long or until they needed to stop, then they would “re-present” Christ’s sacrifice in the form of the Eucharist following that. But the summit of their worship was in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and no one would dare receive the bread (the body) of Christ with sin on his/her conscience. They fully believed in the living presence of God in the bread broken on the altar – even if from their house-worship. And yes, believing in Christ IS work (JJ from ARKANSAS). For some the work comes easy, and maybe not for others. But the whole idea of worship is that you’re thinking of someone not yourself. There is nothing lazy about worship. The lazy man is a wretched soul indeed.

As for Mormon-ism, well, that’s just laughable. And I won’t even recognize it again.

ἐκκλησία does not mean ‘the called out’. Neither literally nor figuratively nor eschatalogically. Just not in any form despite its etymology. I get it – the ‘ἐκ’ puts it in the past tense. Not important. When the word was spoken by Christ, it had its own significance. But you are correct to say that it’s relationship refers to those who were ‘called’ by Christ. Those who are called by Christ (and who respond) are Christ’s beloved, His Living Body here on Earth. Furthermore, despite all this, the word ‘Church’ is NOT a verb. I hear kids running around in their little bible churches saying they are ‘church-ing’ for Christ. That is simply an unintelligible sentence. Not that I don’t get what they mean, I mean they don’t know what they are saying even if they think they do.

There is a Church, a Church which Jesus Christ founded upon Peter. That Church exists still today and has never fallen to Satan or the gates of Hell (as Christ promised it would not).

And the first words of the New Testament, from the book of 1 Corinthians, following Paul’s greetings is a command. The command from Paul, his whole reason for writing in the first place is that we should all be ONE, that is, One Bread, having One Mind (and heart) and being of One Body, having One Lord and One worship. All is in God and through God and under the foot of Jesus Christ. This one-ness is essential to the very meaning of Church. It is NOT church if it is not ONE. So, we understand that because it was God who formed the Church and it was his great apostle who commanded that we should be one, we now understand that to be Church we must be: One and Holy (1, 2, and 3 John, James).

Our other source of what it means to be Church is that when Paul was writing, he knew that his words should be ‘good for all and for all time’. This means universal. This is what universal means. The word of the day for universal was ‘Catholic’. We still use this word today. It was written in the Apostle’s Creed too.

So the Church is: One, Holy and Catholic.

The church was not meant to end with the Apostles either. We know this because Paul constantly wrote about how his faith was ‘passed on’ in thought, word, and deed. A living tradition, which the Church simply calls ‘Tradition’ began with Paul. The tradition which Paul spoke of was in binding authority (teaching) which Jesus gave to Peter and which Paul gave to Timothy (1 Timothy). The Living Word was held in our hearts, not in books. We are not meant to treat the Gospel the same way that the Jews treat the Torah. The paper and the ink with which they were written are dead things. God is not God of the dead, he is God of the Living, our worship is a living worship, our Scripture is the Living Word and Christ’s body is a Living Body. In this way, we understand that this ‘passing on’ of the Word, of Christ-in-us is not only any Tradition, it is an Apostolic Tradition.

So, finally, we understand that to be Church, the Church must be: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Anything else is NOT church, maybe it’s temple, or something I don’t even know about.

Peace of Christ be with you always.

66. bmoc2001 June 10th, 2008 – 2:17 pm

I find it interesting that they mention the beloved 70. In the book of Luke 10:1 we read about the 70 that Christ called.

“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.”

Being LDS I also find it interesting that we have the same groups of 70 in the Church today. Here’s a quote from http://www.lds.org /

“An Area Presidency consists of a president, who is usually assigned from the First or Second Quorum of the Seventy, and two counselors, who may be assigned from any Quorum of the Seventy. Some brethren are ordained to the office of Seventy but do not serve as General Authorities.”

Perhaps it is premature but I think the Mormons will find this discovery especially interesting as it once again affirms the structure of Christ’s original Church. This group of 70 has special significance in the LDS Church structure today. Almost immediately after organizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the 1800’s Joseph Smith was instructed to call groups of 70. I know of no other Christian Church on the face of the earth that has a specific groups of 70 called for this same purpose. Interesting. Please keep digging!

69. schex June 10th, 2008 – 2:30 pm


Well, if Mormonism is so laughable (though I’m not sure about your intended context here) and there is only true Catholic church, then wouldn’t the other 34,000 Christian denominations be equally “laughable”.

Ahh, but the key is that they have adopted the creeds of Nicea, circa 370 AD, and that this is the true “oneness” you spoke of. There is the small problem of dates, however, seeing as how the members of this newly discovered church from 70 AD, if indeed it was a church, could not have been part of this essential “oneness” required of Christians.

You claim the chain of authority has been unbroken from Peter on, yet the stark reality that most people are unaware of is that there were many “Christianities” at this time, and there were deep divisions throughout the church. Simply because Catholicism apparently won out, by the decree of a secular emperor seeking to consolidate his power, does not automatically lead to the conclusion that these prerequisites to Christianity and Church were the very word of God.

You might be interested to know that there are other interpretations of scripture that don’t support your Trinitarian doctrine. In fact, not once in your own canonized scriptures does the term appear. The concept of unity in PURPOSE (as found in John 17) is, however, quite prevalent.

Which leads finally to the fact that millions of Mormons have just as much legitimacy at expressing their interest in this archaeological find as Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else. The one difference seeming to be that they don’t have the inane and desperate desire to exclude others they have deemed unworthy. But since this was the original purpose of the Trinitarian doctrine since its very inception, I can’t say its unexpected.

73. Tex Taylor June 10th, 2008 – 2:51 pm


I am not sure I understand your entire argument in that last post.

Are you denying the Triune? If so, then while I agree it is not mentioned by name, there are a multitude of verses, both Old and New attesting to its existence.

74. Truth Seeker June 10th, 2008 – 3:00 pm

Schex wrote:
“Simply because Catholicism apparently won out, by the decree of a secular emperor seeking to consolidate his power, does not automatically lead to the conclusion that these prerequisites to Christianity and Church were the very word of God.”

The existence of the 2000 year old Catholic Church proves at the very least that it is not juxtaposed to the Will of God.

That decree of the secular emperor happened long after the early Church Fathers inform us of the existence of the One True Church. Research the Early Church Fathers ……. Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin Martyr etc……. most converts to the Catholic Church do so after researching the Early Church Fathers.

83. schex June 10th, 2008 – 8:43 pm


I am indeed denying the Triune, and to address another post I have read the writings of the early leaders of the church, even those “fathers” whose beliefs did not coincide with the “Roman Orthodoxy” who dominated the agenda at the Council of Nicea.

I do believe in a Godhead as described in holy write, composed of three separate personages, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each are individual in substance yet united in purpose. Read John 17, then reference all the scriptures you believe imply the existence of a Triune being. You may just come away with a refreshingly simple yet profoundly new understanding of the sacrifices involved in Christ’s atonement on the part of both the Father and Son (John 3:16).

Again, this is all based on differing interpretations of scriptures, yet I feel it is important for those of different faiths to understand that different beliefs can be just as valid and meaningful to the adherents who practice and live them.

84. JD June 11th, 2008 – 7:07 am

#69 Schex, you’ve been reading Dan Brown again. Shame on you!

The Council of Nicea was actually convened in 325 A.D. and was called by the Emperor Constantine to resolve the heterodoxy about the relationship of the God the Son to God the Father. Constantine, being only interested in maintaining the peace and order in his Empire, did not mandate any kind of orthodoxy, nor did he enforce any orthodoxy upon his subjects (he, in fact, did not become Christian until his baptism by the Aryan Eusebius of Nicomedia shortly before his death. He left doctrinal matters completely in the hands of the bishops (episkopos) of the Church to clarify the orthodox position.

The Council of Nicea affirmed the orthodox teaching of the Church that the Son was coeternal with the Father, that there never was a time before He existed and that He was consubstantial with the Father, embodying all the qualities of divinity. The Aryan position held, as many heretical sects afterward have held, that the Son was not of the same substance of the Father and was a created being IN TIME. God, being eternal, does not experience time the way we experiences it. We can say `I was’, `I am’, or `I will be’ because our being in time comes from God, the Creator, `I Am’, who exists in the Eternal Now, beyond time and infinitely complete in Himself.

Nicea was not the first ecumenical council called by the episkopos of the Church to resolve and clarify questions of orthodoxy. The first one actually is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: the Council of Jerusalem. The heterodoxy here concerned maintaining the Mosaic Laws of circumcision and ritual purity with regard to Gentile converts to the faith. James was the proponent of this position, Paul the dissenter. Cephas (Peter), being the visible head of the Church, made his pronouncement that the Mosaic laws of ritual purity do not have to be observed by Gentiles (Acts 15:7-11). With this pronouncement of authority from the Holy Spirit speaking through Cephas `the whole assembly fell silent’.

There were not `many Christianities’ in the first three centuries before Nicea, only one, because Christ did not say to Simon Peter that He would establish His Churches. If there are those who do not understand how teaching authority was passed down from Christ to the Apostles and then to the episkopos of His Church, read the pastoral epistles, I and II Timothy and Titus very carefully.

And since God is the Author of Holy Scripture, there can be only one true interpretation of it: the Church’s, given by Christ’s authority to bind and to loose. When Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch if he understood the Scripture he was reading, the Ethiopian replied: `how can I, unless someone instructs me’ (Acts 8:30-31).

The Truth is not merely an idea; the Truth is a person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father. And the Truth, as with the Church He established, is One.

98. schex June 11th, 2008 – 5:31 pm

And shame on you, for blindly proclaiming your sterilized version of church history. Fortunately for us heretics out there, there is more than one documented opinion on the matter. I refer you to the following, as recorded by the “fathers”:

TTC: Jesus to Constantine

State Church of the Roman Empire

The bottom line is that you, as a Nicene Christian, have placed your trust, your faith, in the founders of that creed. I do not believe that those founders, by what I know of their actions, are deserving of such honors. Instead, I have placed my faith elsewhere, in doctrines and organizations more amenable to my own understanding of the scriptures.

Also, your attempt at linking the resolution of the circumcision issue and the Council of Nicea is tenuous at best. Nowhere in the original church can be found the conflicts of interest present at Nicea. Was Peter seeking to better establish his political and financial hold over his parishioners, was Paul blatantly currying the Emperor’s favor? And if this was such a well established tradition, why the gap of 150 years till the next occurence?

Finally, to those of you who would deny the use of the word “Christian”, and even, laughably, the term “church” to those of us who are of a non-Nicean persuasion, your intentions are clear. You share with your precious “fathers” that same spirit of exclusion, of pride, vanity, and sneering derision. You, as men, place your mind-bogglingly obtuse philosophical construct of Trinity as a pre-requisite to salvation, denying, in effect, God’s authority on the matter.



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