Janus' Home

19

Jews were faced with growing Christian communities whose members claimed that Jesus was the messiah and that the Jews' covenant with their god was no longer valid, i.e, Christians were the new chosen ones.150 In 240 C.E., five years before the synagogue's second and elaborate redecoration, another private home at Dura was renovated into a public religious space, this time for Christian worshipers.151 Its exterior architecture was unassuming because of a fear of persecution by Roman authorities, but the interior walls of the main meeting space were decorated with painted scenes from the New Testament, as well as some Old Testament motifs such as David and Goliath, and Adam and Eve.152 These paintings stress the ideology of Jesus as the messiah and savior of his people while at the same time rejecting the symbols of Judaism, such as the Temple.153 The Christian building also featured a typical Dura cult niche which would have held a copy of the New Testament.154 Most scholars seem to assume that the synagogue was redecorated before the Christian building, but it seems fairly clear from the evidence that the opposite is true. That the Jews at Dura were aware of and active in this direct threat to the legitimacy of their own religion is evident in the painted scenes which they chose to decorate the walls of the synagogue's assembly room.155 In fact, it is no coincidence that the Jews at Dura resisted decorating their place of worship in the style popular at Dura until just this moment in history when Christians began to assert themselves.

Ultimately, however, the Jewish community at Dura was only able to enjoy its refurbished meeting place and renewed identity for about a decade. In mid-late 256 C.E., Dura's residents (Roman soldiers and civilians alike) prepared the city for an imminent assault by Sasanian Persians.156 In order to fortify the western wall, they filled with dirt the buildings which ran the length of "Wall Street"; these included the Mithraeum and the Christian structure, as well as our synagogue.157 We can only guess at how this arduous process was completed, but most likely, Dura's populace formed a series of bucket brigades to move the dirt into each building as quickly and easily as possible. If such a system was implemented, the Roman forces would have installed soldiers at every stage to oversee progress of the work fortifying the city's walls. Unfortunately, the laborious process was futile and the Sasanians successfully conquered


150. Weitzmann and Kessler, 173.
151. Matheson, 28, 30; Perkins, 29.
152. Jensen, 182; Matheson, 28, 30; Weitzmann and Kessler, 84.
153. Goranson, 26; Matheson, 28, 30.
154. Hopkins, 116.
155. Weitzmann and Kessler, 172-173, 178-179. In particular, the scenes of the "sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob's blessings, and the prophecies that the Messiah was to be a scion of the house of David." And the four "wing panels" above and on either side of the Torah shrine signify: "salvation," "God's gifts in the past," "prophecy of restoration," and the "new covenant."
156. Jensen, 179; Kelley, 60.
157. Kelley, 60.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21