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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:54474
Doc. No:TL24428
Call number:‭3213795‬
Main Entry:Kara L. Schenk
Title & Author:Returning to Zion: The narrative of the Dura -Europos synagogue frescoesKara L. Schenk
College:The Johns Hopkins University
Date:2006
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2006
Page No:363
Abstract:This dissertation focuses on the fresco cycle of the Dura-Europos synagogue (244-245 CE). The frescoes were buried with the city of Dura (in eastern Syria) later in the third century CE and rediscovered in the 1930's. Although floor mosaics from ancient synagogues have also been unearthed, the Dura synagogue represents the only extant example of a late antique synagogue with monumental narratives in fresco. Over seventy years after its discovery, questions remain concerning the arrangement and meaning of the biblical narratives depicted there. This study takes up two central and interrelated questions. First, what significance would the image of the Temple from the early phase of decoration have had for the synagogue community in the period after the Jerusalem Temple's destruction in 70 CE? Second, how should we understand the choice, placement and presentation of the biblical narratives on the surrounding walls? In Part I, I consider the early Temple image at Dura in comparison to both the earliest known depiction of the Temple on the coins of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE) and to later synagogue floor mosaics with Tabernacle- or Temple-related imagery. I conclude that whereas the early image on the coins represented the revolt's focus on the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, the imagery in the synagogues served as means to orient the worshiper in the liturgical context of the synagogue, the institution that rose to prominence after the Temple's destruction. As indicated by Aramaic dedication inscription referring to a "house for the ark," the Dura Temple image functioned as a sign that linked the shrine holding the Torah scroll cabinet (the synagogue "ark") with the Temple that once housed the Ark of the Covenant. As a focus of prayer, the Torah shrine was also aligned with Jerusalem itself, site of the past (and future) Temple. In Part II, I offer an analysis of the biblical narratives that surrounded the early Temple image at Dura. Contrary to the conclusions reached by previous scholars, I argue that the Temple image created in the first phase of decoration can be understood as the narrative conclusion of the narrative sequences added in a second phase of decoration. It represented the placement of the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple as the high point of Israel's historical narrative. Moreover, it could also function as a typological reference to the eschatological or messianic conclusion of Israel's historical narrative in the restoration of this kingdom. Rather than describing the overall arrangement of the narratives as part of a carefully determined "program" held together by a specific theme or themes, I attempt to recapitulate the additive process whereby the Dura community recontextualized the symbol of the Temple as part of a larger narrative structure. I also suggest ways in which the liturgical context would have encouraged members of the synagogue community to see themselves in connection to the people of Israel, whose history was recounted on the surrounding walls. Such a context elided the distinction between past and present to reinforce the identity of the congregation as a people of the Covenant: descendants of the patriarchs, redeemed from Egypt and anticipating their arrival in the land. The establishment of the Temple on Zion represented the ultimate conclusion of their story.
Subject:Philosophy, religion and theology; Communication and the arts; Dura-Europos synagogue; Frescoes; Late Antiquity; Narrative; Syria; Art history; Religious history; 0320:Religious history; 0377:Art history
Added Entry:H. Maguire
Added Entry:The Johns Hopkins University