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Old September 7th, 2017, 08:08 PM   #1

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Dura-Europos domus ecclesiae? Archaeology, Iconography & MSS


It may be of interest to discuss a number of aspects of archaeological, iconographic and manuscript discoveries that have been made in the last century at Dura-Europos. Perhaps one way to start this is to provide a brief background.


Dura-Europos
Dura-Europos (Greek: Δοῦρα Εὐρωπός), also spelled Dura-Europus, was a Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman border city built on an escarpment 90 metres (300 feet) above the right bank of the Euphrates river. It is located near the village of Salhiyé, in today's Syria. In 113 BC, Parthians conquered the city, and held it, with one brief Roman intermission (114 AD), until 165 AD. Under Parthian rule, it became an important provincial administrative center. The Romans decisively captured Dura-Europos in 165 AD and greatly enlarged it as their easternmost stronghold in Mesopotamia, until it was captured by Sassanians after a siege in 256-7 AD. Its population was deported, and after it was abandoned, it was covered by sand and mud and disappeared from sight.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos
The Dura-Europos "House-Church"
The Dura-Europos church (also known as the Dura-Europos house church) is the earliest identified Christian house church.[1] It is located in Dura-Europos in Syria. It is one of the earliest known Christian churches,[2] and was apparently a normal domestic house converted for worship some time between 233 and 256, when the town was abandoned after conquest by the Persians.[3] It is less famous, smaller, and more modestly decorated than the nearby Dura Europos synagogue, though there are many other similarities between them. Although the fate of the church structure is unknown after occupation by ISIS, its famous frescos were removed after discovery and are now preserved at Yale University Art Gallery.

[1] Snyder, Graydon F. (2003). Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine. Mercer University Press. p. 128.
[2] The people are holy: the history and theology of Free Church worship by Graydon F. Snyder, Doreen M. McFarlane 2005 ISBN 0-86554-952-4 page 30
[3] Floyd V. Filson (June 1939). "The Significance of the Early House Churches". Journal of Biblical Literature. 58 (2): 105–112. JSTOR 3259855. doi:10.2307/3259855.
SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos_church
The Iconography: Series of Murals (to be examined)

These murals have the following captions which, to my knowledge, were not furnished in situ but by the academic team associated with the discovery. These captions are (from WIKI) The Good Shepherd; Healing of the paralytic; Christ and Peter walking on water; Women at the tomb; The Samaritan Woman by the Well. More recent publications have offered alternative captions. Photographs of the murals can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-E...church#Gallery ... perhaps these could be discussed?


Manuscripts: particularly DP24

For a quote from "The Discovery of Dura-Europos", Clark Hopkins, Yale University Press 1979, see below.
Dura Parchment 24, designated as Uncial 0212 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), is a Greek uncial manuscript of the New Testament. The manuscript has been assigned to the 3rd century, palaeographically, though an earlier date cannot be excluded. It contains some unusual orthographic features, which have been found nowhere else.
It is possibly the only surviving manuscript of the Greek Diatessaron, unless Papyrus 25 is also a witness to that work. The text of the fragment was reconstructed by Kraeling and Welles. Dura Parchment 24 is currently housed at Yale University (P. Dura 24), New Haven catalogued there as Dura Parch. 10.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura_Parchment_24


SOME PRELIMINARY COMMENTS

Archaeologists seem to classify Christian archaeology into a descending sequence of three structures: a church, a church-house and a house-church. No early exemplars of the first two structures - Christian churches or Christian church-houses - have yet been found. There is some opinion that the discovery of the Christian house-church at Dura-Europos is the sole exemplar of "Early" Christian structures.

The claim that this archaeological structure - the domus ecclesiae or "house church" - of the Christian persuasion seems to me to rise or fall on the claim that one or more of these murals represent specific scenes from the new testament. There is no doubt that some of the murals may represent images sourced from scenes in the Hebrew Bible (or LXX). One image not found on WIKI, is apparently that of David and Goliath. The names are apparently explicit. I haven't looked at that one in detail and will find a picture.

The fragment DP24 is very unusual in that, to my knowledge, it is the only "Early Christian" related papyri fragment that is not dated soley by palaeographical methods. DP24 has a very strong claim for a terminus ad quem provided by an archaeological context. The construction of a siege wall by the Romans defending the city c.256 CE from the Persians.


SUMMARY

At the moment I am not convinced that an exemplar of a Christian "house-church" was discovered at Dura-Europos. For example, a Jewish synogogue was also discovered there (as well as other structures). What if all the mural images are Jewish? What does a Jewish "house-church" look like?
I will conclude the OP with a quotation from Clark Hopkins concerning the discovery of DP24.

https://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Dur.../dp/0300022883

Click the image to open in full size.

[p.106]

...in one of the baskets of finds from the embankment, behind (west of) Block L8 and not far from Tower 18, a piece of parchment scarcely three square appeared. Susan [Hopkins], compiling the catalogue, entered it on the daily register and made the usual attempt to decipher and identify what she could. The little piece, not badly crumpled, was written in clear, legible hand, as far as the complete letters were concerned.

[p.107]

It was one of those chance finds, a fragment of parchment two blocks away and on the other side of the Great Gate from the Christian building. How it got into the debris at that point remains a mystery, and how it happened to be preserved and then discovered is another. Since it was impossible to sift the great mass of the embankment, we depended on the sharp eyes of workmen. A small piece of parchment, dirt brown, appearing in the shovel dirt and dust required good fortune as well as sharp eyes.

The find was made on March 5, 1933, and there was an enthusiastic but unsuccessful searching in the Bible to find the appropriate passage. We found readings close and tantalizing. Clearly we had some sort of gospel text, something indubitably connected with the Christian community. Susan made the transcription, as we took photographs and sent parchment and copies on to Yale, still not recognizing its extraordinary significance.


The Discovery of Dura-Europos,
Clark Hopkins,
Yale University Press
1979
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cepheus View Post
https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...e/n15/mode/2up

Page 3 [per book, not ereader], description of artifact location P. Dura 24: Start 4th sentence from bottom: "layer of mud bricks...which embankment was covered..."

Comment: according to this source the frag. was in an embankment, sealed with mud bricks at the 256 CE date: set as terminus ad quem

https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...e/n17/mode/2up

***

Page 6 [per book, not ereader], date confirmation of P. Dura 24:
Start 1st paragraph: "The date which paleography suggests for the fragment is confirmed and rendered more precise by archeology."

Comment: no access to area of find due to mud bricks set at time of embankment build. It would seem that the fragment has a pristine provenance from the terminus ad quem. I would assess this dating as having at a very high confidence level. Further, [bottom of 1st paragraph, continue with 2nd paragraph, it is plausible, due to the location of the find and the construction of the chapel that an earlier dating of "222 and 235 A.D." is reasonable.

https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...e/n17/mode/2up

***
Page 11 [per book, not ereader], id of text, char. diatessaron.

https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...e/n23/mode/2up

***
Page 38 [per book, not ereader], facsimile of P. Dura 24.

https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...e/n49/mode/2up

***
Book/Source data for the above:

Comment: Carl Herman Kraeling: Author of this source: He also worked on, The Synagogue, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report VIII.1 (New Haven, 1956)

https://archive.org/stream/MN41439uc...ge/n9/mode/2up

Also:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Herman_Kraeling

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Old September 7th, 2017, 08:56 PM   #2

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Too bad there won't be any more. ISIS destroyed Dura Europos.

I have the Simon James report. I still can't believe Conyard thinks those Leather Lamellar Fragments (which were probably imported from Sogdia and he wears inside out) were Thigh Guards.
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Old September 7th, 2017, 09:41 PM   #3

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Very interesting. If I have time I will check it out.
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Old September 23rd, 2017, 07:17 PM   #4

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Did DAVID AND GOLIATH battle it out at the local "Christian Baptistrey"?


Or is this structure simply a Jewish "house-church"?

Yale insists that there are "Christian" murals presented in the "house-church".

These other (supposedly "Christian") murals do not have captions in situ, like the David and Goliath mural ...

Yale cites the captions they have INVENTED:

"Jesus healing the paralytic" and "Jesus and Peter walking on the water".


Click the image to open in full size.

"Jesus healing the paralytic"



Click the image to open in full size.

"Jesus and Peter walking on the water".


Doth such invention a "Christian house-church" make?



DAVID and GOLIATH:

Baptistery wall painting: David and Goliath (with*Inscription)

David as Warrior at Dura-Europos ? ANCIENT JEW REVIEW
.... the oldest excavated Christian church – the third-century house-church from Dura-Europos, Syria – would have featured an image of David on its walls. The surprising part is which episode of David’s many-wiled life these Christians chose to depict: on the main panel of the southern wall of its baptistery, this community commemorated David by showing him poised to slay the fallen Goliath. (Fig. 1, in poor state of preservation; Fig. 2, archaeological tracing).

Art historian Kurt Weitzmann called this biblical scene “a choice rather unexpected in a Christian baptistery and not easy to explain.” In early Christian artistic programs, one finds the scene only on a few sarcophagi, although it appears later in varied media. We do not have to debate the identities of the figures (like we do with those in other parts of this building), since here their names are inscribed in Greek: ΔΑΟΥΙΔ (David), written along his raised forearm, and ΓΟΛΙΟΔ or ΓΟΛΙΘΑ (Goliath), written above his prostrate body. The scene captures the moment from the famous narrative (1 Samuel 17) in which, following a crippling slingshot strike, David has taken Goliath’s sword and stands poised to decapitate him.

But why this particular scene, displayed so prominently in a baptistery?

[my formatting]

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Old September 26th, 2017, 02:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
Did DAVID AND GOLIATH battle it out at the local "Christian Baptistrey"?



Art historian Kurt Weitzmann called this biblical scene “a choice rather unexpected in a Christian baptistery and not easy to explain.” In early Christian artistic programs, one finds the scene only on a few sarcophagi, although it appears later in varied media. We do not have to debate the identities of the figures (like we do with those in other parts of this building), since here their names are inscribed in Greek: ΔΑΟΥΙΔ (David), written along his raised forearm, and ΓΟΛΙΟΔ or ΓΟΛΙΘΑ (Goliath), written above his prostrate body. The scene captures the moment from the famous narrative (1 Samuel 17) in which, following a crippling slingshot strike, David has taken Goliath’s sword and stands poised to decapitate him.

But why this particular scene, displayed so prominently in a baptistery?

[my formatting]
[/INDENT]

Perhaps I`m being naive, but I would suggest that Weitzman should have imagined himself in the place of those responsible for this image. They were almost certainly a small group of Christians, situated in an exposed Roman outpost which had the weight of the Sassanian empire bearing down upon them. Frankly, I couldn`t think of a more inspirational image to put on my wall than that of my ancestor overcoming similarly overwhelming odds.
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Old September 26th, 2017, 09:30 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by concan View Post
Perhaps I`m being naive, but I would suggest that Weitzman should have imagined himself in the place of those responsible for this image. They were almost certainly a small group of Christians, situated in an exposed Roman outpost which had the weight of the Sassanian empire bearing down upon them. Frankly, I couldn`t think of a more inspirational image to put on my wall than that of my ancestor overcoming similarly overwhelming odds.
The question here is what evidence exists to indicate that we are dealing with "a small group of Christians" in a Christian house-church at Dura Europos? Above, I have presented what I believe this evidence to be. Feel free to add to it.

But as far as I can see the evidence consists of an artistic appreciation of the two murals depicted above at post # 4, with the captions "Jesus healing the paralytic" and "Jesus and Peter walking on the water". Supposedly two scenes from the New Testament.

That's the sum of the evidence as I see it. Is there any more? I don't see this evidence as compelling at all. The captions of these two murals are literary inventions of the discoverers - Yale Divinity College - and their trustees. I personally don't see Jesus in these murals and rightly or wrongly have compared this practice to seeing Jesus in a slice of toast.
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Old September 27th, 2017, 03:40 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kookaburra Jack View Post
The question here is what evidence exists to indicate that we are dealing with "a small group of Christians" in a Christian house-church at Dura Europos?
I was answering these specific questions that you posed.......
Quote:
But why this particular scene, displayed so prominently in a baptistry?
and
Quote:
The surprising part is which episode of David`s many-wiled life these Christians chose to depict
I think I suggested a reason for us not to find it surprising at all.

As for the other iconogrphy......the walking on water scene appears to be straightforward enough...a ship in the background, two characters standing in the foreground. They are all on the same surface which is either hilly solid ground or waves and water.
Matthew 14.29 ` "Come" he said. Then Peter got down from the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus`

The image is amateurish in comparison to the Jewish iconography next door, but so what? I suspect you`ll have your own non-Christian interpretation of this but I do think that this requires a Jewish/religious context as it appears in a place of worship.


The other image clearly shows a figure carrying a bed on his back and what appears to be a figure lying in a bed with another figure standing over him.

Mark 2.11-12 `"I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all`

Quote:
The captions of these two murals are literary inventions of the discoverers
There is no literary invention here, merely an attempt to associate early literary evidence with newly discovered iconography which can be firmly dated to 256 at the latest.
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Old September 27th, 2017, 06:37 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by concan View Post
I was answering these specific questions that you posed.......

and

I think I suggested a reason for us not to find it surprising at all.
The author cited goes on to say the same thing, but ...

Quote:
As for the other iconogrphy......the walking on water scene appears to be straightforward enough...a ship in the background, two characters standing in the foreground. They are all on the same surface which is either hilly solid ground or waves and water.

Matthew 14.29 ` "Come" he said. Then Peter got down from the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus`

The image is amateurish in comparison to the Jewish iconography next door, but so what? I suspect you`ll have your own non-Christian interpretation of this but I do think that this requires a Jewish/religious context as it appears in a place of worship.
Well above I have agreed that there is definitely a Jewish religious context which is essentially confirmed by the in situ captions for the "David and Goliath" mural. We also know there was a Jewish synagogue at Dura. Therefore I have suggested that the "house-church" was Jewish, rather than Christian, and supported by the known existence of a Jewish synagogue.

The question remains whether the image depicts Jesus and Peter "walking on the water" as claimed, or whether there are other possibilities that are as reasonable, or more reasonable, taken from the Hebrew Bible or the Greek LXX (and not the New Testament). Or indeed from another different literary source entirely. For example from the LXX, when Jonah was cast out of the boat and the storm subsided. However, if the figures depicted are not walking on water, but rather walking on land near a ship on a river or a sea, then the scene of this mural could involve any large number of alternative possibilities.



Quote:
The other image clearly shows a figure carrying a bed on his back and what appears to be a figure lying in a bed with another figure standing over him.

Mark 2.11-12 `"I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all`
But the figure carrying the bed is not walking out: he appears to be walking in to a place, carrying a bed, where there are more beds. This could just as easily represent a type of hospital in which a physician is directing assistants to move beds about.


Quote:
There is no literary invention here, merely an attempt to associate early literary evidence with newly discovered iconography which can be firmly dated to 256 at the latest.
The literary invention to which I refer are the captions that are being associated with the murals. There is no guarantee, as there is for the David and Goliath mural, which does have an in situ caption, that these captions are in fact representative of the images.

The problem to which I am referring here is compounded by the fact that the archaeologists have not yet found a pre-Constantinian Christian Church, or indeed a Christian "church house" in the Roman Empire. The "house church" claimed to be Christian at Dura (on the basis of the New Testament captions associated with these two murals) is the lone [archaeological] exemplar of a Christian "house church" (the smallest of the three supposed Christian church structures).

For these reasons I feel justified in questioning whether this is simply a Jewish "house church", occupied by Jewish people at Dura, who frequent the Jewish synagogue.

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Old September 28th, 2017, 03:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
The author cited goes on to say the same thing, but ...
Well I wasn`t aware of that and you have therefore misrepresented his opinion by excluding it from the citation.


Quote:
Well above I have agreed that there is definitely a Jewish religious context which is essentially confirmed by the in situ captions for the "David and Goliath" mural. We also know there was a Jewish synagogue at Dura. Therefore I have suggested that the "house-church" was Jewish, rather than Christian, and supported by the known existence of a Jewish synagogue.
Why did the artist write the names of David and Goliath on the mural if this was a synagogue? Surely there would have been no need. I would suggest that these particular Christians might have been non-Jewish converts who might have had little or no knowledge of the Old Testament.

Quote:
The question remains whether the image depicts Jesus and Peter "walking on the water" as claimed, or whether there are other possibilities that are as reasonable, or more reasonable, taken from the Hebrew Bible or the Greek LXX (and not the New Testament). Or indeed from another different literary source entirely. For example from the LXX, when Jonah was cast out of the boat and the storm subsided.
The problem with Jonah is that you are ignoring the elephant in the room....or more properly the whale that isn`t.

Quote:
However, if the figures depicted are not walking on water, but rather walking on land near a ship on a river or a sea, then the scene of this mural could involve any large number of alternative possibilities.
To my eyes there is no change in topography between the ship and the figures in the foreground. If however the entire scene is set on dry land, it could potentially be argued that we have Noah and the Ark. But the artwork is crude and it seems to me that the artist has gone out of his way to portray a stormy sea.


Quote:
But the figure carrying the bed is not walking out: he appears to be walking in to a place, carrying a bed, where there are more beds.
There is no clearly defined `in` or `out`. The act of the paralytic carrying what he had been lying on is clearly stated in the literary parable.

Quote:
This could just as easily represent a type of hospital in which a physician is directing assistants to move beds about.
Why should we expect to see such an image on the wall of a place of worship?




Quote:
The problem to which I am referring here is compounded by the fact that the archaeologists have not yet found a pre-Constantinian Christian Church, or indeed a Christian "church house" in the Roman Empire.
Should we then disregard every example of `earliest evidence` from every investigation?


Quote:
The "house church" claimed to be Christian at Dura (on the basis of the New Testament captions associated with these two murals) is the lone [archaeological] exemplar of a Christian "house church" (the smallest of the three supposed Christian church structures).
You are fully aware of the other images in this house church. While it is all very well isolating these images and suggesting that they could have any meaning, in this instance the whole has a more substantial meaning than the separated parts.In unison they can all be easily associated with New Testament parables.
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Old October 2nd, 2017, 10:55 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by concan View Post
Well I wasn`t aware of that and you have therefore misrepresented his opinion by excluding it from the citation.
That's not true. I am not going to quote the entire article. Neither am I obliged to summarise it for you.

Quote:
Why did the artist write the names of David and Goliath on the mural if this was a synagogue? Surely there would have been no need.
The Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos is a separate building.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos_synagogue

The David and Goliath mural is found in the purported "Christian house-church"

Quote:
I would suggest that these particular Christians might have been non-Jewish converts who might have had little or no knowledge of the Old Testament.
They had David and Goliath made explicit on their wall. They therefore must have known the story or "a story" of David and Goliath. Whether they were Christians or not is another thing.


Quote:
To my eyes there is no change in topography between the ship and the figures in the foreground. If however the entire scene is set on dry land, it could potentially be argued that we have Noah and the Ark.
Which IMO contributes towards the likelihood that this is a Jewish dwelling rather than a Christian dwelling, especially if its the only pre-4th century Christian dwelling ever actually discovered.

Quote:
But the artwork is crude and it seems to me that the artist has gone out of his way to portray a stormy sea.
The mural was somehow transported in a packing crate from Dura to Yale, and what do we know of the restoration process? It is issues such as this that IMO reduce the likelihood of drawing any firm conclusions about whether this structure was occupied by Christians, or whether was occupied by another religious group (for example a Jewish).



Quote:
There is no clearly defined `in` or `out`. The act of the paralytic carrying what he had been lying on is clearly stated in the literary parable.
But isn't reliance of this literary parable a presumption?

Quote:
Why should we expect to see such an image on the wall of a place of worship?
Because it was related to healing, perhaps by a good local physician?


Quote:
You are fully aware of the other images in this house church. While it is all very well isolating these images and suggesting that they could have any meaning, in this instance the whole has a more substantial meaning than the separated parts.In unison they can all be easily associated with New Testament parables.
The point is that they may also be associated with stories from other sources. There is nothing made explicit, except for David and Goliath.

Yale Divinity College has assumed these murals are associated with NT parables, but this assumption may not be justified IMO with any degree of certainty. Artistic appreciation is notoriously subjective.
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