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AtlasToursJordanBiblical Jordan

Early Churches

Some of the world's earliest known churches have been recently discovered in Jordan. These include a 4th century church at Umm Qais, a possible 2nd or 3rd century AD "prayer hall" at Bethany beyond the Jordan, and the remains of a mud brick building at Aqaba that may be the world's oldest known purpose built church. This Aqaba early church dates from the late 3rd or early 4th century AD (exactly between 293 and 303).

The American archaeologists who excavated it believe it was a church because of its unusual layout, its many decorative glass lamps, its association with an adjacent Byzantine cemetery, and its parallels with similar early mud brick churches in Egypt.

Remains of the oldest known church at Aqaba

Another powerful manifestation of the faith and art of the first Christian centuries may be enjoyed today in Madaba city and its surrounding region in central Jordan. Between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, the prosperous ecclesiastical center of Madaba produced one of the world's finest collections of Byzantine mosaic art, many fine examples of which are well-preserved today, Several church floor mosaics may be seen in their original locations, while others have been preserved and moved for protection and display in the Madaba Archaeological Museum and the Madaba Archaeological Park.

The park houses Jordan's oldest mosaic floor (a 1st century BC floor from the Herodian palace-fortress at Machaerus). Madaba's masterpiece, in the Orthodox Church of St. George, is the 6th century AD mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the earliest original map of the Holy Land in any form to survive from antiquity.

The Mosaic Map of Madaba at Church of St. George

Madaba and its hinterland also were repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament, then called Medaba and featured in narratives related to Moses (pbuh) and the Exodus, David's war against the Moabites, Isaiah's oracle against Moab, and King Mesha of Moab's rebellion against Israel (Numbers 21:30, 1 Chronicles 19:7, Isaiah 15:2).

Mephaath, a Moabite city known for its pasturelands, is firmly identified at modern Umm Arrasas, southeast of Madaba (Joshua 13:18; 1 Chronicles 6:66; Jeremiah 48:21). Excavations here uncovered some of the finest Byzantine church mosaics in the Middle East, including a large carpet depicting cities in Palestine and Jordan.

The unbroken legacy of the birth and development of faith in the land of Jordan, including key episodes in the history of Christianity, continues today in the witness of Jordanian Christians who form a vital part of the country's population.

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