Ancient Church Found at Israeli Prison

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Crowds watch a pair of Israeli prisoners using sponges to clean mosaics in the ruins of what archaeologists say could be the oldest Christian church in Israel.

Researchers at the site say the church dates between the third and fourth centuries. The experts add that it likely predates the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity across the Byzantine Empire.

Other experts question the date and significance of the find. Former Israel Antiquities Authority curator Joe Zias told the Associated Press there is no evidence that Christians built churches before the fourth century. Even if the date is correct, he said, the newly discovered building most likely wasn't used that early for religious purposes.

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Photograph by David Silverman/Getty Images
 
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