Dura-Europos domus ecclesiae? Archaeology, Iconography & MSS

Kookaburra Jack

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,964
Rural Australia
You seem to have excluded the DP24 fragment from your conclusions which in itself indicates that there were Christians present on the site before 256.
Even if we allocate a high degree of probability to the claim that DP24 (a harmony of gospels) can be dated before 256 CE, it does not tell us whether the Christian-related owners resided at Dura. It was not found in or near the presumed baptistry but a couple of blocks away on the other side of the Palmyrene Gate, close to the Jewish synagogue. Although it may be classed as background information and evidence, DP24 therefore cannot be taken as primary evidence that the religious room (currently prsumed to be a Christian chapel) is to be assessed as Christian.

The dominant and most influential primary evidence being used to indicate the unambiguous presence of Christians (in the religious room of a house) is neither the water basin or the murals but the two graffiti which are being claimed to "certainly" contain Christian "nomina sacra" (the Runes of Christ).
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
Surely the Jewish people at Dura did not all live in the synagogue? It follows that Jewish people lived outside the Jewish synagogue.
The point that was being made was that we have a Jewish synagogue already. IOW, why would a Jewish domus ecclesiae be necessary ?

Here:
Why would there be a "Jewish house church" when there was also a Jewish synagogue of similar size in Dura Europos? Further , the place lafks spefically Jewish elements known to be on all the other Jewish meeting places.
Bart makes a valid point here that you seem to be struggling with. Nobody here suggested that all Jewish people lived in the synagogue.

The additional point made by Bart Dale -- lack of specifically Jewish elements -- "seems" to have been, I'm guessing, addressed by your comment that:

Furthermore it is quite possible that there was more than one jewish sect at Dura.
If this comment was meant to address his point about standard Jewish iconography then it, IMHO, has missed its mark by a wide margin.

Christianity was initially a Jewish sect. We would ABSOLUTELY expect JEWISH iconography in a Christian DE.

However, the last thing we would expect in an Orthodox Synagogue would be murals that appeared to have Christian content.

Again, as Bart pointed out, we have an example of a Jewish Synagogue as a reference.
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
Even if we allocate a high degree of probability to the claim that DP24 (a harmony of gospels) can be dated before 256 CE, it does not tell us whether the Christian-related owners resided at Dura. It was not found in or near the presumed baptistry but a couple of blocks away on the other side of the Palmyrene Gate, close to the Jewish synagogue. Although it may be classed as background information and evidence, DP24 therefore cannot be taken as primary evidence that the religious room (currently prsumed to be a Christian chapel) is to be assessed as Christian.

The dominant and most influential primary evidence being used to indicate the unambiguous presence of Christians (in the religious room of a house) is neither the water basin or the murals but the two graffiti which are being claimed to "certainly" contain Christian "nomina sacra" (the Runes of Christ).
However, DP24 is unequivocal and primary evidence of the existence of Christianity in the area at this time. Which of course, is concan's point.

The secure dating of DP24 is significant for the claim that there were early Christians present in Dura-Europos at the time.

We can factually place this early Jewish-Christian sect in Dura-Europos at this period. Therefore, the theory that the DE is Jewish-Christian is rated statistically higher.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
Surely the Jewish people at Dura did not all live in the synagogue? It follows that Jewish people lived outside the Jewish synagogue.

Furthermore it is quite possible that there was more than one jewish sect at Dura.
And it is more possible that Christians of Jewish background followed Jewish practices with regard to nomina sacra as well. And isn't the Duros house church one of the earliest examples? Aren't you comparing what was the practice at a later date? If the typical examples you are basing it on are from later than Duros, then the conclusion made is invalid. Earlier Christian nomina sacra may have been Jewish in character, not surprising since Christians were originally a Jewish group.

(1) A third graffito “To God in heaven” fails to exhibit the abbreviated Christian form of god or heaven, and is typically Jewish.
And when were the examples of the Christian abbreviations you are basing your claims on written? If post Duros, then the conclusion are invalid.

And many Christians came from a Jewish background . Even at this late date there were some Jewish Christians.

(2) David and Goliath are explicitly inscribed on the mural in Greek.
(3) Sissaeus is a Jewish name.

These are Jewish elements.
Christians used the OT too, and were familiar with OT characters. You are desperately grasping at straws here. Your claim that Christians did no know or use OT characters, fundamental.to your argument, is false.



Confirmation bias. People have been known to see representations of Christ in a slice of toast.
And you ane your source are displaying just plain bias, and the confirmation bias they accuse of others of. It is up to your source to come up.wirh valid reasons why idenification is incorrect, not make an unsupported statement. Give an example where someone has seen Jesus in a piece of toast.


Artistic appreciation is a notoriously subjective evaluation of ancient historical evidence. Where’s Wally? Where’s Christ? The hundreds of pages written about these murals, with voluminous quotations from the New Testament must be set aside. The critical item of evidence, by which both the trough and the murals have been considered Christian, are two graffiti. These have been identified as certainly Christian on the basis that they contain Christian nomina sacra. Specifically, the runes of Christ.
The identifications of Jesus and Peter.walking on water is based on a number of details , and is based on a specific NT story - we see figures on th water , we see the boat with the other disciples, those.are specific details, and you have done is dismiss with the unproven comment "people see Jesus in a piece of toast".

The presence of nomina sacra in a Greek LXX manuscript denotes a Christian LXX whereas the absence of nomina sacra in a Greek LXX manuscript denotes a Jewish ms. AFAIK the Jews used only one sacred name and reserved it for G-D. The Christians had more than a dozen "sacred names".

Who says that and what are the facts to support the claims? What are the dates of the sources used to.make the claims? Were the examples before or after Duros.

And you admit that there was a variety in Christian nomina sacra. What was typically does not mean it was universal , and that some Christians did not follow Jewish practices . Since Christians were a Jewish sect and one time, it would not be surprised or unlikely that some Christians continued to follow Jewish practices.

Your sources "piece of toast" crack and claim that references to OT prove Jewish origin shows how bias your source is.

Note, you have to invent the term "Jewish house church" because the place is clearly not a synagogue, lacking the known features of a synagogue. There is nowhere else to have we have a "Jewish house church" , and the fact you have to use the word "church" at all shows how contrived the argument really is. Show another example of "Jewish house church".

Note you have to take all the evidence collectivelly together, not in isolation. A simple abbreviations might be subject to different interpretations, but combined with other elements becomes much more likely to be an abbrevition of Jesus name
If all.we had was just the inscription by itself, then it could be just the whitewash
maker,.hut combined with the imagery of New Testament scenes becomes much more likely to be a nomina sacra. If all you saw was IHS written on a wall, it could just as easily stand for Indian Health Services as the Christogram. But if you so.had picture of a cross, and a fish, and a man with a Halo around his head, the abbreviations is less ambiguous. You need to look at the total package together.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,406
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Culturally the conceptualization of "Church" is quite neutral. In origin it was a simple and mundane community sharing something. In Italian a derived term, "parrocchia", is used beyond the religious field, just because of the etymological origin.

Anyway, Jewish communities gathered in synagogues. If a Jewish community decided to gather in a common house, that was no more a Jewish community. Actually we could wonder if those Jews were changing religion.

A synagogue, even if odd as the one at Dura can be recognized because of the presence of the niche of the Torah. Real Jews didn't gather for religious purposes in a place without a Torah niche. Christianity begun as a sect of Jewish derivation. Since they gave more importance to the New Testament it's probable they thought that a Torah niche was even a problem for them.

This said, let's keep in mind that we miss a written documentation.

Let's remind that in England they thought that Stonehenge had built by ancient Romans.

DP24 is a great evidence [despite the attempts to decontextualize it] that Christians were present in the area in that time. But it's correct to say that we cannot connect it directly with the "house church". Anyway DP24 is there ... not a copy of the Jewish Talmud ...

At the end, since Yale ignored me, I keep all my doubts. After a first positive answer I got nothing more. I do think it was about the rules of the academical institution, but I keep my doubts.
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
Even if we allocate a high degree of probability to the claim that DP24 (a harmony of gospels) can be dated before 256 CE,...
DP24 has a terminus ante quem (TAE) of 256.

By definition we know it was produced prior to 256CE. Exactly when is the question.

The dating with respect to the TAE is secure with this artifact. No probability assessment is required for this evidence.

Brent Nongbri uses DP24 as the prime example of a securely dated manuscript in his latest book God's Library, Yale 2018. p
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
And the house church had frescoz with clearly Christin images, such Jesus heals the paralytic, .Petrr..and Jesus walking on water, that have no place in Jewish imagery.
Confirmation bias. People have been known to see representations of Christ in a slice of toast.
False equivalency KJ. I would describe your comment a gross misrepresentation:

Toast is not a mural.​
Random shapes are not human drawings.​
The "representations" are being evaluated by informed parties and not the uninformed public.​
A representation of Christ is not a fresco with some obvious narrative in play.​
A piece of toast is not two distinct narrative frescos.​
A piece of toast is not two distinct narrative frescos side by side.​
A piece of toast is not two distinct narrative frescos side by side in a building with other fresco narratives.​
etc. etc.​

Additionally:
Even if we allow the maximum dissonance in the symbolic coding of the images to suggest something that is indeterminate Christian or something other than Christian, there is still no evidence that the images--whatever they may be-- are found in Jewish Synagogues.
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
As a result of this discussion I have prepared a small (4 page) article:
The Runes of Christ at Dura Europos

ABSTRACT: The two key graffiti in the presumed "Christian Chapel" are discussed. The paradigm that these certainly contain Christian nomina sacra is challenged. Alternative interpretations based on known abbreviations in Greek inscriptions are presented. Perhaps this is in fact a Jewish house-church?
You left out a key piece of data by not mentioning that Hopkins said he had difficulties in evaluating the graffiti on site and explicity wrote that later evaluations may correct his initial assessment.

There is, then, mitigating elements that give us room to "explain" inconsistencies between Hopkins and the final report.
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,345
UPDATE:
You left out a key piece of data by not mentioning that Hopkins said he had difficulties in evaluating the graffiti on site and explicity wrote that later evaluations may correct his initial assessment.

There is, then, mitigating elements from Hopkins himself that give us room to "explain" inconsistencies between Hopkins and the final report.
To clarify what I am responding to specifically from your "The Runes of Christ at Dura Europos" pdf.

"Another resolution is to reserve judgement on the appearance of these overbars until some explanation is provided for their omission in the preliminary report." p 4.

It is a significant omission IMHO not to incorporate Hopkins statement from the prelim. into your paper.

Per Hopkins, difficulty reading graffiti. see xviii, prelim. Hopkins Introductory remarks.

ADDITIONALLY--
RE: Hopkins on the prelim. from the TDODE. see the following:
POST #547 Jan. 28, 2018
It was a prelim. The authoritative guidance would technically be the final report. Additionally, Hopkins was clear that we should rely on the final report singularly.

"Perhaps the best compliment of the Kraeling report is to say that all speculation now starts with his painstaking analysis, judgments based on a very sound review, a wide survey of ancient remains, and a thorough knowledge of biblical literature. The Discovery of Dura-Europos(TDODE), Clark Hopkins p. 212" Highlighting/underlining are mine.

Hopkins talks about how incomplete his work was and how even the photographs they took at the Dura site did not pick up details they knew were present. He also mentions the difficulties with his prelim due to the excavation itself. See, TDODE p. 211

Importantly, Hopkins himself defaulted to Kraeling as a "thorough scholar" and he himself read the final report. TDODE P. 211

Since Hopkins read the final report and offered no objections to the conclusions, then IMO we are on safe ground to look to the final report for the conclusive interpretation.

Also, the final report had multiple scholars working on the material. Hopkins mentions them by name and mentions Du Mesnil's comprehensive review of the material between the Prelim and the Final Report. See, TDODE, Clark Hopkins p. 211

Further, there was an expert scholar on Jewish art who reviewed the evidence presented in the reports. Hopkins talks at length about Erwin Goodenough. See, TDODE, Clark Hopkins p. 212

I personally read Goodenough's book, Jewish Symbols, where he mentions the Dura-Europos site (re: var., see book index). In regard to all of his references to the D-E site, on only one of them he offers a few minor criticisms but nothing major. Most of his focus and interest is in regard to the Synagogue. If there were any issues with the determination of the domus ecclesiae as Christian, this would have been the scholar to do it.

AMAZINGLY, there is a further substantive work by Goodenough that Hopkins talks about in his TDODE, p. 212, which was Goodenough's Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. Volumes 9, 10 and 11 which surveyed the Synagogue Jewish pictures at Damascus. He apparently had a new set of pictures taken because he was not satisfied with Kraeling's report and he wanted infrared exposures. This is substantial because if further reinforces my opinion that Goodenough did not have any problems with the interpretation of the building known as the domus ecclesiae as Christian. Otherwise, I have no doubt, he would have taken note of the art and evidence at the domus ecclesiae and would have voiced an exception to the conclusions in the final report.
 
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