Monday, December 04, 2006

Church of the Lost Ark

Archaeologists working at Shiloh have dug up a very, very old Christian church.

The article linked above may overstate the claim -- if it comes from the late 4th century, this won't come close to the house-church at Dura, for example. By the mid-4th-century, Constantine and his mother had already been on a bit of a church-building spree in the Holy Land. Should this prove to be part of that, it will tell us little or nothing about the most primitive, pre-Constantinian, era of Christian worship. (On the other hand, it will probably be the remains of a well-funded and therefore beautiful building.)

More interesting than the date of this building is its location. Before the construction of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was kept at Shiloh. In fact, the team (supported by locals) may keep digging, in hope of finding evidence of the ancient Tabernacle.

So it is kind of cool to know that 4th-century Christians built a church on this Jewish sacred site (as well as the overtly Christian sites connected to COnstantine, such as the Holy Sepulchre). After all the studies are in, we may know a lot more about how they perceived themselves in relationship to the Jewish heritage of Christianity -- and perhaps even in relation to the Law.

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