An alternative theory of
the history of christianity
Article 72: The apparent exception of Dura Europos
""Demonstration and refutation
together with their fallacies
are useful in arguing with others;
and perception and inference
together with their fallacies
are useful for self-understanding"
-- Dignaga (India, about 550AD)
Introduction to Dura Europos
Dura Europos was an ancient town in the antiquity being here studied.
It was founded in 303 BCE by the Seleucids on the intersection of trade
routes along the Euphrates. It was rebuilt in the 2nd century BCE as a
great city, with rectangular blocks defined by cross-streets arranged round
a large central agora.
It later became a frontier fortress of the Parthian Empire. It was captured
by the Romans in 165 CE and abandoned after a Sassanian siege in 256-257.
After it was abandoned, it was covered by sand and mud and effectively
disappeared from sight.
The town was rediscovered during WWI, and archeological excavations
in the 1920's and 1930's by American and French teams, were continued
in the 1980's and to date. In the course of the excavations at Dura Europos
over a hundred parchment and papyrus fragments and many inscriptions have
revealed texts in Greek and Latin, Palmyrenean, Hebrew, Hatrian, Safaitic,
and Pahlavi. The excavations revealed temples to Greek, Roman and Palmyrene
gods. There were mithraea, as one would expect in a military city.
Jewish synagogue identified
"The world's oldest preserved Jewish synagogue was dated by an Aramaic
inscription to 244. It was preserved, ironically, when it had to be
infilled with earth to strengthen the city's fortifications against a
Sassanian assault in 256. It was uncovered in 1935 by Clark Hopkins,
who found that it contains a forecourt and house of assembly with frescoed
walls depicting people and animals, and a Torah shrine in the western wall
Christian house church identified?
It has been claimed also the the earliest identified Christian
church, or church house, or house church has been excavated, and
that in 1933, among fragments of text, a fragmentary text was unearthed
from an unknown Greek harmony of the gospel accounts -- comparable to Tatian's Diatessaron, but independent of it.
The apparent Dura Europos exception
The Dura Europus exception against the Eusebian fiction postulate is
twofold. One the one hand, it is claimed that that one of the structures
uncovered at the site is a primitive christian church, and on the other
hand, fragments of textual finds located at the site, were buried at the
time that Dura Eupopa was seiged, in the year of 256, and taken from
the Roman empire.
Dura Europus was then effectively abandoned, the population deported,
and was gradually buried under sand. A recent archeological report
concludes with the following mention:
"It seems now that this fresco, several ostraca in Pahlavi
found in the palace of the Dux Ripae (Figure 30/13), and the
tombs discovered in the town and along the river resulted
from temporary installation of a small Persian detachment in the town
after the victory of 256 (MacDonald; Leriche and Al Mahmoud, 1994)"
The Textual Fragment(s)
Uncial 0212 in the Gregory-Aland catalogue or Papyrus Dura 10,
are often referred to as a fragment of an unknown Greek harmony
of the gospel accounts -- comparable to Tatian's Diatessaron,
but independent of it.
It is not disputed that it may be such a fragment, but what is
disputed is the dating of the fragment to the time of the seige
when one of the walls subsided.
It is also entirely reasonable to consider that the manuscript
was brought to the city walls, and stored there out of the elements
at any later date than the seige, for example, after 325 CE.
Small parties of desert dwellers could have sought out this
remote location for hundreds of years after the seige.
The House Church
The structure is described not as a church, neither
a church house, but rather as a house church. The house
is question is presumed to be a christian church by analysis
of the the art work depicted in the alleged baptistry.
Additionally there was reported evidence of some written
Christian graffiti in this "house church".
However we see depicted in this art work "The Shepherd" and
not "The Christian".
The argument that the house in question
is not a christian house church perhaps as yet has not been made.
That the town remained totally unoccupied, a permanent ghost town
immediately after the departure of the Persian detachment, and for
thousands of years, is an unwarranted assumption.
It is not unreasonable to consider that both the manuscript
and the graffiti (if indeed they are christian) could have been introduced
to the city at a much later date, by unknown fringe desert dwellers, seeking
shelter in a desolation. Another possibility is outlined below.
Dura-Europa hosted Julian's Roman army in early April 363 CE
We are told by the historians Ammianus (23.5.1-15) and Zosimus (3.14.2)
that the Roman army lead by Julian (the Apostate) travelled to the region
called Zaitha (or Zautha [Zosimus]) near the abandoned town of Dura
where they visted the tomb of the emperor Gordian. This was Julian's
final campaign, and he was accompanied by the entire army.
Therefore it is entirely possible that post Nicaean literature was
deposited in the wall at Dura, and that christian graffiti was
scrawled on the walls, during this very brief Roman occupation of the
town, for possibly only a few days, in early April of the year 363 CE.
A further likely habitation of Dura-Europa in 363 CE
After passing though the vicinity of Dura Europa with the entire
Roman army in April 363 CE, Julian's army fell back from the
Persian frontier to the Roman empire, without proper order
due to the fact that Julian was killed in battle.
It would be expected therefore the outward route via Dura Europa
may have been used to fall back, and that a further and more
extended opportunity would have existed for fragments of manuscripts
and/or the graffiti to have been deposited at the deserted town
by the christian soldiers in the Roman army.
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