London, June 11 : Archaeologists in Jordan have discovered the world's oldest underground church, dating back almost 2,000 years.
The team of archaeologists said that if tests confirm that it dates back to between 33 AD to 70 AD, it would make it the earliest known place of Christian worship by around two hundred years.
The oldest church was found underneath the ancient Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab, northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," Telegraph quoted Abdul Qader al-Husan, head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, as saying. "We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians - the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ," he added.
The team has found a mosaic in church that described these Christians as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine".
Citing historical sources, Al-Husan revealed that these Christians lived and practised religious rituals in the underground church and only left it after Christianity was embraced by Roman rulers in the fourth century AD.
There is no clear holder of the title of oldest Christian church with various sites claiming the title without definitive evidence.
In 2005 Israeli archaeologists claimed to have found the earliest Christian church when they discovered a floor mosaic dating from the first part of the third century.
It was found inside the perimeter fence of a top security prison built by Israel in Megiddo or, to use its ancient name, Armageddon, where, according to the New Testament, the final battle between good and evil will be fought before the return of the Messiah.
The researchers had also discovered a pottery dating back to between the 3rd and 7th centuries, which they say suggests these first Christians and their followers lived in the area until late Roman rule.