Dura-Europos domus ecclesiae? Archaeology, Iconography & MSS

May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
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]

...

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.
Here is the section about restoration:


Dura-Europos is located in eastern Syria under the control of the Islamic State. In recent years, it has been heavily looted and damaged. “The fact that the site itself is basically gone now makes the fact that we have this collection preserved, on view, and cared for, together with the context provided by the excavation records, that much more important,” Brody said.

///

Following their discovery, conservators coated the wall paintings in polyvinyl acetate to prevent flaking. Considered a state-of-art technique at the time, the treatment proved to be unstable. In the 1970s, the paintings had deteriorated so much that they were transferred from their plaster backing to fiberglass.

“It was a drastic measure, but it was considered necessary,” Brody said.

In preparation for their installation in the art gallery’s Dura-Europos exhibit, the paintings were restored based on the photographs and drawings from the excavation.

“Normally, we would not perform such restoration of an ancient wall painting, but we decided it was necessary,” Brody said. “We didn’t try to make them look like new, but using the photographic documentation of the excavation, we tried as much as possible to make them look as they appeared in 1932 when they were discovered.”​

Back to the photographic evidence ...
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
RE: Plausibility of Peppard's "logical jump"


Anyway, let's got to what Peppard says. Is it plausible? Yes it is [like other interpretations of that scene].
Peppard cites the "Gospel of James". His plausibility is therefore directly dependent upon the dating of this text. The earliest supposed mention of this is the early third century by Origen. This supposed mention is being used to date the text to the early third century.

From WIKI:

Origen's Commentary on Matthew 10.17
in Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume IX. Retrieved 2008-09-18.​
But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or "The Book of James", that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee," might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her.​

I have my doubts about using the supposed writings of Origen (and other "Church Fathers") to date the appearance of these "Other Gospels". Often these "Commentaries of Origen upon Matthew" etc are sourced in writings by 4th and 5th century ecclesiastical writers, such as Basil, Gregory, Rufinus , Jerome and others. I have not yet been able t locate the precise trajectory of this reference Origen's Commentary on Matthew 10.17 .

If the "Gospel of James" was not authored until after the mid 3rd century then Peppard's association of this text to the mural of the "woman at the well" at Dura Europos is not plausible. We are thus dealing with IMO a conditional plausibility in the first instance.

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.
Thanks AlpinLuke. Needless to say I agree.
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
"The number of abecedaria found in the Christian building
is larger than any other structure in the city."
[3]


What's with the high incidence of abecedaria in the "Christian building"?
Abecedarium - Wikipedia

From the final report:
p.126

"The number of abecedaria found in the Christian building
is larger than any other structure in the city." [3]​
[3] p.90. Welles counts 6 .... 1.3.4.5.8.11 14 should be added as a 7th.​

Was the building originally a school?
What does the presence of abecedaria in a building normally suggest?

Have any academics addressed this?
 
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AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
"The number of abecedaria found in the Christian building
is larger than any other structure in the city."
[3]




What does the presence of abecedaria in a building normally suggest?

Have any academics addressed this?
Sorry for delay, I note now this.

keep in mind that in Ancient Rome basic education was really diffused. In public schools of low level the abecedarium was the instrument of the litterator in a "ludus letterarius" [a not stable elementary school, it moved, also in private homes]. Who was in conditions to afford a teacher, hired a pedagogus [wealthy families organized in this way the education of the children, it happened also that educated slaves, not rarely Greeks, did this].

So, my impression is that it's not impossible that the house was a temporary place for a ludus letterarius. This would mean that they had money to pay a litterator [or that they owned an educated slave ...]. At the end the structure is suitable to allow a certain number of persons to gather. And any wide home was a potential location for a ludus letterarius.
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
Sorry for delay, I note now this.

keep in mind that in Ancient Rome basic education was really diffused. In public schools of low level the abecedarium was the instrument of the litterator in a "ludus letterarius" [a not stable elementary school, it moved, also in private homes]. Who was in conditions to afford a teacher, hired a pedagogus [wealthy families organized in this way the education of the children, it happened also that educated slaves, not rarely Greeks, did this].

So, my impression is that it's not impossible that the house was a temporary place for a ludus letterarius. This would mean that they had money to pay a litterator [or that they owned an educated slave ...]. At the end the structure is suitable to allow a certain number of persons to gather. And any wide home was a potential location for a ludus letterarius.
Thanks for these comments, and the terminology.

Education in ancient Rome - Wikipedia

Ludus

Rome as a republic or an empire never formally instituted a state-sponsored form of elementary education.[14] In no stage of its history did Rome ever legally require its people to be educated on any level.[15]

It was typical for Roman children of wealthy families to receive their early education from private tutors. However, it was common for children of more humble means to be instructed in a primary school, traditionally known as a ludus litterarius.[14]:47 An instructor in such a school was often known as a litterator or litteratus, which was seen as a more respectable title.[14] There was nothing stopping a litterator from setting up his own school, aside from his meager wages.[14] There were never any established locations for a ludus litterarius. They could be found in a variety of places, anywhere from a private residence to a gymnasium, or even in the street.[15]

Typically, elementary education in the Roman world focused on the requirements of everyday life, reading, and writing. The students would progress up from reading and writing letters, to syllables, to word lists, eventually memorizing and dictating texts.​

Jennifer A. Baird writes about the House M8A - containing the alleged Christian "Baptismal Font", Christian "nomina sacra" and Christian murals - that:

"no less than five alphabets were found, four in Greek and one in Syriac"


It seems to me that it is not unreasonable to infer the building housed an elementary Greek (and Syriac) literary school for children. Was it common for illiterate adults to go back to elementary school? Perhaps in a multi-lingual society there may have been a demand?

The mural of David and Goliath is captioned in Greek letters with abbreviated terms for these two Jewish figures. This takes on more significance if it was part of the literacy progress. The students would identify David and Goliath by Greek language abbreviations.

We have seen that the hypothesis of Hopkins became the Yale paradigm, and that Yale are happy to contemplate the prestigious possibility that their mural collection from Dura Europos may now boast the first picture of the Virgin Mary, along with Jesus and Peter.

What do Yale have to say about the far more likely historical possibility that (of all buildings at Dura Europos) their building hosted an elementary literacy school?
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Estimates I can find around say that in Dura there were about 500-600 buildings and that the population was around 5,000 inhabitants. Even without a military quarter and active relations with the wider Palmyra, I expect that there was at least a ludus litterarium there [the only doubt I could have is if the teacher/s was/were local or if he/they arrived from Palmyra, paid by the citizens of Dura].

This makes me wonder a bit about the archaeological works in the site: in Italy when archaeologists excavate a Roman site they pay attention to these details [just to evaluate the diffusion of education in the Roman Civilization, which was remarkable, for that far past obviouly].

I have to go back to the reports of the excavations to obtain a comprehensive vision of the city.
 
May 2011
2,926
Rural Australia
Estimates I can find around say that in Dura there were about 500-600 buildings and that the population was around 5,000 inhabitants. Even without a military quarter and active relations with the wider Palmyra, I expect that there was at least a ludus litterarium there [the only doubt I could have is if the teacher/s was/were local or if he/they arrived from Palmyra, paid by the citizens of Dura].
The logical inference should be that the building in Dura which contained the largest number of alphabets would be the short favourite for the elementary school in that city.
It would therefore have accommodated children up the age of 10-12 and also perhaps people seeking Greek/Syriac multilinguism.
I can find no comment about the implication of this anywhere.

The building which supposedly housed the "Earliest Christian Chapel" also appears to have housed an elementary school.

Yale have claimed the earliest church, and the earliest renditions of Jesus and Peter. The Virgin Mary is now in the wings.
When will they tout the earliest Christian school?


This makes me wonder a bit about the archaeological works in the site: in Italy when archaeologists excavate a Roman site they pay attention to these details [just to evaluate the diffusion of education in the Roman Civilization, which was remarkable, for that far past obviously].

I have to go back to the reports of the excavations to obtain a comprehensive vision of the city.
I think it is important to note that Yale (via Hopkins) advertised the sensational discovery of the earliest Christian chapel to International Christian Archaeology Conferences in the 1930's well before even the preliminary report had been prepared. Hopkins' hypothesis - that he had discovered an "Early Christian Chapel" - has become the Yale paradigm. But the "discovery" did not go through the usual established channels because it was clearly sensationalised.

Hopkins first notes reveal how he viewed the "Discovery" - little did he know that later that year the Jewish Synagogue and its murals would be discovered.

p.231-233​
Report of Clark Hopkins, Field Director, to President​
James Rowland Angell, from Dura, dated Feb 10, 1932​
It was this striking scene of David and Goliath that confirmed​
the impression which had been growing on me as we advanced; we​
were in a little Christian chapel, the first certainly Christian​
work to be found at Dura. As if to set any lingering doubt to​
rest, a graffito framed in the red and black geometric design​
which had first attracted our attention in the sanctuary called
upon the reader to remember the Christ.
We could then go back and interpret with more confidence the​
scenes already revealed.​
[Final Report; my formatting]​


The essence of Hopkins' discovery was a graffito containing what he presumed to be nomina sacra.
The nomina sacra called out loud and clear to all biblical historians - as an "Early Christian Trademark"

Sensational discovery.

Except for the missing over-bars.
 
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Oct 2011
26,232
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I guess you think that at Yale they are defending their investment [they are the protectors of that past and their museum, actually gallery, gains money with those finds from Dura].

I don't exclude this, overall considering how Yale decided to deal with my requests: kindly accepted by Yale crew, but ignored by the specialists [I've already mentioned one of them].

But Yale has got a real advantage: the pivotal evidences are at Yale.
 

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