Some of the world’s earliest known churches have been recently discovered in Jordan. These include a 4th century church at Umm Qays, 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 worlds oldest known purpose-built church. The Aqaba building dates from the late 3rd or early 4th century AD.
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. The Aqaba region is also mentioned in the Exodus journey. The first site in southern Jordan mentioned is Ezion-geber (Numbers 33:35). Ezion-geber and Elath (or Eloth) were port-towns located at or near Aqaba. They are best known in the Bible for their roles during the Iron Age, a few hundred years after the time of the Exodus. They are associated with Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and wars between the kings of Judah and Edom (Deuteronomy 2:8, 1 Kings 9:26, 2 Kings 14:22).