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by Archaeology Newsroom

Dura Europos. The Earliest Christian Church

A house, which had been used as a place of gathering and worship of the first Christians, was discovered in Dura Europos, Syria, in 1931-1932. It was built in the early third century ad as a private residence of a rather wealthy and distinguished citizen. In 232-233 ad it was converted to a “Christian House” and no attempt was made the identity of the god worshipped there to be concealed. In the Early Christian period, before the erection of proper churches, the followers of the new faith used to gather and perform their religious rituals in private residences. The representation of soldiers in a wait drawing of the house, a decoration that belongs to the pre-Christian phase of the building, is quite tempting for a (daring?) proposal as regards the identity of the owner of the place. Thus, we might suppose that he had a career in the Roman army, as the soldiers drawing demonstrates, that he was a Christian, as the sheltering of the Christian community of Dura in his own house indicates, and that the Christian clergy and congregation did not mind to have military figures as their host. Although this scenario may seem imaginary, it can be justified, if it is considered as a reaction against the prevailing theory that Christianity at Dura was a religion of the civilian rather than the military population and that the army was cut off from the community. How ever, this could not be the case. The decoration of the earliest surviving “church” at Dura proves that the Christian and the military world could very well form a unity of common faith.