From Temple to Church:
Defining Sacred Space in the Near East
The 2020 Temple on Mount Zion Conference
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Sponsored by The Interpreter Foundation and Brigham Young University College of Humanities
In this paper, I propose to revisit the question posed by Hugh Nibley, “What Is a Temple?” in Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City and Provo, 1987), 355-90, and by John Lundquist, “What Is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology,” in Temples of the Ancient World, ed. Donald Parry (Salt Lake City and Provo, 1994), 83-117. This study has two parts: (1) to address the general issue of typology in light of ancient temples that challenge the points made by Nibley and Lundquist; and (2) to apply this refined understanding of temples to the issue with which Nibley’s essay began, namely the Early Christian transition from temple-based Judaism to the Constantinian basilica of the fourth century. I will argue that some Christians of the second and early third centuries did have places of worship that, while not monumental in scale, qualify typologically as temples and were understood as such. In support of this thesis, I will take as case studies the Christian places of worship at ancient Edessa and Dura Europos, based on a combination of textual sources and archaeological remains.
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