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12/17/2010

IS THE DURA EUROPOS CHURCH REPRESENTATIVE?


While some suggest anyone questioning the representational aspects of Dura Europos as imbecilic, the facts are clear. There is no reason not to accept the church at face value as one vital face of early Christianity. The better question is how often have house churches been overlooked because they did not meet some preconceived expectation of arrangement, location, decoration, or setting?

It is clear that the worship centers in this part of Syria were unconventional; the use of art in the synagoue goes against accepted understandings of worship decor. Yet, Francis Schaeffer in the 1970's was challenging the overly conservative view of the prevelance of the plain and simple in both Judaism and early Christianity. His thesis for the reclaimation of the arts by the faithful may have been an echo of what was a reality so long ago in Syria.

Perhaps, like the middle ages church came to recognize, as an area became cosmopolitan, diverse, and educationally differentiated the role of the image as instruction could not be ignored. The 'stories in stone and wood' presented by the cathedrals, the icons, and frescoes may have been used to good cause in the wanning days of the first and second centuries in places such as Dura Europos.
Unfortunately, most of this church was carted off to Yale where it is hidden in a musuem. The value of investigating the form and context of this church are largely ignored outside arcane archaelogical journals. What is clear is it was a lovely and unique chapter of early church history that has been overlooked and ignored. The presence of women in the imagery - and all that the presence of them in representational instructional art implies - has been gagged this many long centuries. The story they present may be one some do not want to accept. The implied inclusion and value of women a story they want silenced. Yet, it is one that needs to be heard and soon to restore the balance and equity of the Gospel ethos to the Christian community.

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