Dura-Europos domus ecclesiae? Archaeology, Iconography & MSS

May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
Wikipedia gives a clear reference:- William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (1875).

The logical and sensible thing to do is to find out if the reference quoted actually does say what is being claimed.

The referenced book is available on-line, and the relevant passage is easy to find.

It is thus a simple matter to find out that a mistake has been made in the Wikipedia article.

The city mentioned in the quoted book was not Dura-Europos, but Dara. They are not the same place.

This article talks about Dara - Recent Research on Dara/ Anastasiopolis
Thanks very much Moros. A real pleasure to hear from you once again. What have you been up to? I suspected it was a mistake and not Dura but as my day of research had been another long one I noted the wiki reference to be followed up. In terms of collaborative research by means of discussion I remain indebted to your contributions.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Wikipedia gives a clear reference:- William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (1875).

The logical and sensible thing to do is to find out if the reference quoted actually does say what is being claimed.

The referenced book is available on-line, and the relevant passage is easy to find.

It is thus a simple matter to find out that a mistake has been made in the Wikipedia article.

The city mentioned in the quoted book was not Dura-Europos, but Dara. They are not the same place.

This article talks about Dara - Recent Research on Dara/ Anastasiopolis
On archive.org the volumes of the work are available: Internet Archive Search: A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities

Now, the job is to find the accurate reference ...
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
About the frescoes I've found this [in French File:Dura Europos synagogue West wall.svg - Wikipedia]

Above the Niche there is the blessing of Jacob and above it David King of Israel. David is also on the right of the Niche [it's his anointing].
Thanks very much AlpinLuke. So it appears that "King David" appears in the central frame above the niche. (In addition to Samuel's Anointing)

I have been trying to compare the layout of the synagogue room to that of the church room. The synagogue appears to be a much larger room. It can fit murals three panels high whereas the church appears to have had murals only two panels high. The entry doors in the church are in the south wall, and in the synagogue in the eastern (?) wall. In both rooms there is a niche in the centre of the western wall. In the central frame above the niche in the church is a mural depicting the major figure of a Shepherd", carrying a horned sheep, behind a flock of (9?) horned sheep. Also present beneath this a smaller representation of Adam and Eve (and a snake?).


Who or what could the Shepherd above the niche in the church at Dura represent?

(1) Jesus as the "Good Shepherd" (the artist had read John 10 "I am the good shepherd". )

(2) Kriophoros - Dura did have a Greek heritage... Kriophoros - Wikipedia
In ancient Greek cult, kriophoros (Greek: κριοφόρος) or criophorus, the "ram-bearer," is a figure that commemorates the solemn sacrifice of a ram. It becomes an epithet of Hermes: Hermes Kriophoros..​

(3) King David - depicted as the shepherd of the people. (As mentioned above, this option is paralleled in the synagogue - David appears above the central niche)

(4) The Lord - Psalm 23:1 "The LORD is my shepherd " (Is this still a reference to David?)

(5) Other?
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Ok, found, right page, right column, at the bottom. [A dictionary of Christian antiquities : being a continuation of the 'Dictionary of the Bible' : Smith, William, 1813-1893. n 00036173 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive]

Theodorus Lector, a writer of the
sixth century, tells us {Collectan 2. in Magn.
Bibl. Pair. vol. vi. part 1, p. 505 ed. Col. Agr.
1618) that the Emperor Anastasius gave the
body of St. Bartholomew to the City of Daras in
Mesopotamia, which he had recently founded
(circa 507 A.D.).
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Thanks very much AlpinLuke. So it appears that "King David" appears in the central frame above the niche. (In addition to Samuel's Anointing)

I have been trying to compare the layout of the synagogue room to that of the church room. The synagogue appears to be a much larger room. It can fit murals three panels high whereas the church appears to have had murals only two panels high. The entry doors in the church are in the south wall, and in the synagogue in the eastern (?) wall. In both rooms there is a niche in the centre of the western wall. In the central frame above the niche in the church is a mural depicting the major figure of a Shepherd", carrying a horned sheep, behind a flock of (9?) horned sheep. Also present beneath this a smaller representation of Adam and Eve (and a snake?).


Who or what could the Shepherd above the niche in the church at Dura represent?

(1) Jesus as the "Good Shepherd" (the artist had read John 10 "I am the good shepherd". )

(2) Kriophoros - Dura did have a Greek heritage... Kriophoros - Wikipedia
In ancient Greek cult, kriophoros (Greek: κριοφόρος) or criophorus, the "ram-bearer," is a figure that commemorates the solemn sacrifice of a ram. It becomes an epithet of Hermes: Hermes Kriophoros..​

(3) King David - depicted as the shepherd of the people. (As mentioned above, this option is paralleled in the synagogue - David appears above the central niche)

(4) The Lord - Psalm 23:1 "The LORD is my shepherd " (Is this still a reference to David?)

(5) Other?
Comparing a structure recognized as an early Church with a Rabbinic Synagogue [in the Amoraic era, I would say] with a quite evident "cultural enlargement", we have to find not a few similarities: early Christians [according to the Tradition] came out from Judaism. Jesus didn't leave [according to the Gospels] particular recommendations about how to build a physical structure where Christians had the possibility to gather to pray. To say all, Jesus didn't seem to be really interested in religious buildings.

So, when time came that the early Christians felt the need for a physical place where to worship God ... which models were available? The "Pagan" ones and the Jewish one.

Curiously enough, in the synagogue we see the depiction of a Greek temple [cultural pollution]. Anyway probably early Christians would have preferred the Jewish model.
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
I will create a discussion in another forum about "parallelomania" in order to provide some background to my reference to this in relation to the murals at Dura which supposedly feature the first known artistic renditions of Jesus and Peter.
SEE: Parallels or Parallelomania (Josephus and Mark) How can we tell the difference?

Miracle Scene (1) Peter and Christ walking on water (caption authored by Yale c.1930's)

1561295976075.png

Why do we believe this is a mural of Peter and Jesus walking on the water? (Jesus is headless).

Is this a logical inference drawn from a textual parallel found in the New Testament only at Matt 14:29-31? This seems to be the only source for Peter walking on the water.

29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”​

A little later at Matt 14:35-36 we get the reference to Jesus healing the sick:

35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.​


Miracle Scene (2) Christ healing the Paralytic (or the sick)?? (caption authored by Yale c.1930's)

1561295892689.png

Does everyone see Jesus? Which healing miracle is being rendered here? The one above from Matt, or another one involving the paralytic?
If its the former, its out of order with the text. If its the later the paralytic is depicted twice, once walking away and once bedridden.

To what extent is it legitimate for Biblical Scholars to argue that there are significant parallels (denoting a historical dependence) between the text of the NT and their corresponding interpretation of the pictorial motifs rendered by the artist of these two mural scenes?
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Personally I would follow my approach:

which part of this parallel is merely contextual?
In which measure and how the historians who see a parallel are interpreting?
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
Personally I would follow my approach:

which part of this parallel is merely contextual?
In which measure and how the historians who see a parallel are interpreting?

In addition to the issue of these claims concerning the two miracle scenes, some biblical historians are now advancing further claims in regard to the mural entitled "Woman at well". They have somehow managed to convince themselves that this woman is the "Virgin Mary".

Is the Earliest Image of the Virgin Mary in the Dura-Europos Church?


Leith reviews scholar Michael Peppard’s argument that the portrait depicts not the Samaritan woman but the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear the Son of God, Jesus:

As Peppard explains, the third-century Dura Annunciation is based not on the Biblical Annunciation in Luke 1:26–38 but on the Gospel of James (a.k.a. the Protevangelium of James), a second-century apocryphal (i.e., not considered authoritative) gospel that narrates the life of Mary up to and including the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of James, Mary “took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with water and lo! a voice saying, ‘Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.”​

If Peppard’s interpretation is correct, this would make the portrait at the Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
In addition to the issue of these claims concerning the two miracle scenes, some biblical historians are now advancing further claims in regard to the mural entitled "Woman at well". They have somehow managed to convince themselves that this woman is the "Virgin Mary".

Is the Earliest Image of the Virgin Mary in the Dura-Europos Church?

Leith reviews scholar Michael Peppard’s argument that the portrait depicts not the Samaritan woman but the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear the Son of God, Jesus:​
As Peppard explains, the third-century Dura Annunciation is based not on the Biblical Annunciation in Luke 1:26–38 but on the Gospel of James (a.k.a. the Protevangelium of James), a second-century apocryphal (i.e., not considered authoritative) gospel that narrates the life of Mary up to and including the birth of Jesus. According to the Gospel of James, Mary “took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with water and lo! a voice saying, ‘Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.’ And she looked around on the right and on the left to see from where this voice could have come.”​

If Peppard’s interpretation is correct, this would make the portrait at the Dura-Europos church the earliest image of the Virgin Mary.​
Also at Yale they have considered Peppard's opinion [I've made a quick search and I've found what I expected ... obviously at Yale they have pondered such a "discovery"].
[Yale Art Gallery painting might be oldest known image of the Virgin Mary]

One of the paintings shows a woman drawing water from a well. There is no inscription on the painting identifying her. According to the gallery’s description, the painting depicts a scene recorded in The Gospel of John in which Jesus converses with a woman from Samaria.
...

Peppard calls the art gallery’s interpretation “certainly plausible,” but he notes that the Samaritan woman was usually shown in conversation with Jesus, not alone as she is depicted in the wall painting.
And a curator who reminds me something [I contacted her] adds
Lisa Brody, the gallery’s associate curator of ancient art, said that Peppard’s argument is solid.

“I’m interested to hear what other scholars of early Christian iconography will say, but his argument is convincing,” she said. “It’s certainly plausible, and I don’t have any quarrel with it.”
And we read something relevant for our discussion: there was a recent heavy restoration of the pieces, as we read at the end of the article.

Anyway, let's got to what Peppard says. Is it plausible? Yes it is [like other interpretations of that scene].

Is it a valid parallel? No it isn't, in my opinion
. First of all it's an interpretation based on an interpretation [that it's a depiction of a scene from the Gospels: the woman which takes water ... then we interpret further and we put the Virgin there]. Second point: Peppard introduces a text of reference without any evidence [or even clues] that at Dura they knew it. DP 24 is the only contextual reference to the Christian Scriptures know at Dura and DP 24 contains passages from the 4 "official" Gospels. Nothing from the Gospel of James [at least the scholars who examined it didn't note this. To say all, only Welles notes a reference to "the mother of the son of"]. Third point: the iconography is almost "mute". From a symbolic perspective I would expect something more evident for such an importan event.

In this case I would say that Peppard has made a too wide logical jump.
 

Similar History Discussions