Finding Church (Part Four):Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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43 Responses

  1. Just Josh says:

    1. The “central courtyard” – was this an open-air space in the center of the building? In re-purposing for worship would it have been covered?

    2. the “assembly room” – For a house with one room that could hold 80, what do you think was the square footage on these early house churches. Had to be pretty big buildings, right?

    Fascinating stuff, thanks Duane.

  2. UnCCed says:

    It’s interesting depictions we’re found of Biblical stories. I’ve always thought God gifted some with artistic talents for the benefit of the body.
    I found it strange my former tribe’s near convulsive fear and frequent attacks against all Biblical depictions as “idols,” when in the same churches had they hung huge elephants and Fox News logos, it would’ve been appropriate by some content in the teaching and much discussion after.
    I’ve often been blessed by Christian art.
    By the way, I’m too cheap to own any art.

  3. Duane Arnold says:


    1. Most likely open, but the Romans did make use of cloth coverings similar to awnings.

    2. The assembly room is about 18 feet wide and almost 50 feet long. Remember, people stood for the service. The total square footage of this church was close to 2800 square feet. So, not especially large. The one at Megiddo is slightly smaller, but more ornate…

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    Art enters the Christian world very, very quickly! It is interesting to note that the synagogue at Dura-Europos also had frescoes, but of a much higher standard as they seem to have been a more well established and wealthier community. Nevertheless, the Christian community seems to have made use of the artistic folk who were available…

  5. Just Josh says:

    Thanks so much Duane. 2800 sq’ is much larger than I think most people imagine 3rd century Christian housing. Interesting. Always good to have a more accurate historic imagination.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    One of the things I like about archaeological evidence is that it is “there”… it’s solid. Of course there can be interpretation of the evidence, but the size is what it is; the baptistry is evident, the frescoes are there, a fragment of the Didache was found, fragments of the Diatessaron were discovered, the oil jar of the neophyte could be examined… It all serves to provide a “real” picture of Church and church life instead of us trying to read the early Church according to our modern ideals.

  7. Michael says:

    I’m surprised no one has noted the mode of baptism…

  8. CM says:

    Interesting, so that would be a church congregation would typically be at most around 75-100 people. Which makes sense as that is a good number for an individual pastor-teacher to get to know and shepherd effectively. Realistically even today that number is at most around 150-200 (with advent of technology and communications).

    As a complete aside, these numbers correspond to about the size commanded by a centurian and by Company Commander (Captain) today. Food for thought….

  9. CM says:


    Perhaps new adult converts from one of the Roman or Greek god worshipers were immersed? Of course the baptismal font does not mean that infants were not baptized via sprinkling.

  10. Michael says:


    Virtually all the historical stuff I can find points to immersion as the standard rather soon. It’s nothing I’d divide over, just interesting..
    I prefer sprinkling because I don’t have to get wet…

  11. Duane Arnold says:


    In Corinthians and a few of the other Pauline letters, we get the sense of “cells”, that is, a smaller group under the leadership of an elder. In spread out city like Corinth, for example, there may have been 5 such cells, each numbering 20 or 30. In a compact garrison town, like Dura-Europos, a group of 75-100 having a dedicated meeting place, must have seemed a very natural progression…

  12. CM says:


    I was not trying to divide on it. Immersion is pretty early it looks like. Of course people were smaller in height and weight back then so they didn’t need the huge pool-sized baptismal tanks have today. 😀

    Duane: Interesting. I mentioned company/century sized units before. 20-30 is the equivalent to a platoon in the modern era.

  13. Em says:

    I’ve been sprinkled (Presby’) and I’ve been immersed (So. Baptist). One thing i learned, immersion is much more humbling than a dignified sprinkle, sprinkle.
    I do see baptism as necessary – an act of testimonial obedience, not providing redemption itself, so my view more than likely does not agree with most here, who do not see the unseen AND unheard baptism of the Holy Spirit as the saving baptism. No matter – both are necessary. 🙏 P.S. Our Lord was immersed…. 😇

  14. UnCCed says:

    Oh goody! I get to rebuke Michael…in Chuck’s name.
    You wrote “I prefer to sprinkle.”
    Now you know the authorized version of baptism leads to surfing…and of course begins with donning a Costco Hawaiian shirt!!!
    : )
    Seriously though, that was one thing I didn’t notice for at least 15 years!!!
    A lot was said about how “we don’t divide over…” baptism and how to perform it, yet mystically thousands of CCs perform it exactly the same way (we had sympathy for our East coast brethren whom God didn’t inform about the Costco shirt).
    Oh well, I’m sure a lot of other churches had their quirks with baptism.
    By the way, this was meant in good humor-I’ve heard this joked about at CC pastors conferences.
    : )

  15. CM says:


    Aren’t the clerical vestments of a CC Pastor a Hawaiian shirt and Khaki pants?

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    Immersion or sprinkle… I can deal with either. Hawaiian shirt, not so much… 😁

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    By the way, the standard garment for both the one baptizing and the one doing the baptism were white robes. From the Revelation, it appears that this was an early practice of the Church dating at least from the late first century and probably earlier…

  18. CM says:


    I was immersed, but since I moved more to Presbyterianism I can understand sprinkling as well.

    Agree with you 100% on the Hawaiian shirts. Clerical robes are the way to go (though at some point when Michael is ordained in the Anglican church, he really needs to show us a picture of him the black shirt pants and the clerical collar. Or maybe we can all pitch in and get him a Geneva Gown:

  19. Jean says:

    Luther did not make it a Law, but preferred immersion to sprinkling, because he saw in Romans 6 that Baptism is a complete burial and death of the old man and a rising to new life of the new. Thus, he taught that just a washing away of sins is a weak thought in the conscience, but that immersion, which he viewed as a good interpretation of the Greek word for Baptism, gave a better sign to the baptized of their death to the world (through drowning) and rising to new life in Christ. None of this matters, however, if you believe that Baptism is your work and not God’s.

  20. Em says:

    I believe there are two baptisms.. One is the work of God the Holy Spirit within us and the other, the immersion in water, is an act of obedience, a visible testimony to our reception of God’s provision… not all water baptisms are bona fide – all Spirit baptisms, on the other hand, are
    A Christian choosing sprinkling is, IMO, still redeemed when their life produces fruit – obviously mine is not the final word on this
    (Yess, i know Jesus’ baptism was not quite the same as the Church’s, but…. John sprinkling Jesus with a little water scooped out of the Jordan seems….? strange…..

  21. Jean says:

    “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, ONE baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” [my emphasis]

  22. EricL says:

    I’m enjoying this series, Duane, but it is raising some ornery questions in my head:
    Was there plenty of parking for camels and carts? Gotta have that if you want to reach the right folks.

    I like the open central court- cool vibe for their church cafe I’m sure. 🙂

  23. Duane Arnold says:


    No, just a designated space for the pastor’s chariot…😁

  24. Duane Arnold says:


    The baptismal arrangement at Dura-Europos was such that when you arose from the water, the first thing you saw was Jesus as the Good Shepherd… not a bad visual theology…

  25. CM says:

    EricL and Duane,

    Seems they found the cafe where Jesus did small group:

  26. Em says:

    Yes. One Lord, one Faith, one baptism… So question is….
    Is that one baptism of water or Spirit? Not looking for discussion, just worth pondering on one’s own…..
    God keep

  27. Jean says:

    In the Ephesians Paul specifically identifies water baptism later when he writes: “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”.

  28. Em says:

    The living water? Or?

  29. Jean says:

    So, if the One baptism is Spirit baptism and not water baptism, then why does Paul undergo baptism? And why does he mention it in 1 Cor. as something normative for the church there? Would Paul have said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power,” if he was talking about Spirit baptism?

  30. Corby says:

    I realize even as I write this that I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, but maybe this will help a passer-by. Concerning “one baptism…”

    The discussion/argument is rooted in the semantic ranges of two words; “one” and “baptism.” “One” can mean “only,” or “unique,” or “single,” or “unity/unified,” and I’m sure a few more things. Look at “one” in the context of the verse quoted by Jean at July 27, 2020 at 3:43 pm with regard to the word “body.” Even there, there is an apparent contradiction because of the word “body.” Let’s swap out the word “church.” I think we would agree that a local church is a local body of Christ. When I’m with my church I’m with the body. But it itself is also a part of the Church, the one Church, the one Body. “Catholic” in the universal sense. In context, Paul is talking about capitol C Church or capitol B Body. “One” means multiple-but-unified in this context, not one and only singular. Even in the city of Ephesus, as Duane alluded to with Corinth, there were multiple smaller assemblies that were together the church in that city or region (like Galatia). If you were a member of the church in Ephesus and moved to Corinth, you were still a part of the One Body, you didn’t need to pledge allegiance to anyone other than Jesus. Paul is addressing the idea he addresses from Corinthians, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.” People want to delineate, Paul calls BS.

    Now let’s throw “baptism” under the bus. It seems to me that, in context, Paul is specifically addressing water baptism into the body of Christ.

    But that does not preclude anything regarding any kind of simultaneous and/or subsequent filling of/with the Spirit which is sometimes referred to as a “baptism.” But we will come back to that.

    Even in Anglican circles, a human person can be baptized more that once (as with Catholics and other protestant denominations). A baby is baptized into the community of the church but the act is not salvific in and of itself. Later, at some point, that same person can be baptized again as an act of obedience (whether one sees it as sacramental or only symbolic) but also not salvific in and of itself. That’s two baptisms. Beyond that, some denominations today (and I suspect churches in Paul’s time) require that a person be baptized in their denomination regardless of a previous baptism as a person of age. In context, I think that’s what Paul is talking about. There is one baptism, you don’t need to be re-water baptized.

    Having said that, that has nothing to do whatsoever with what some call a baptism of the Spirit. It’s a totally separate event and it can happen more than once in a person’s life. Pre crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that they would be baptized with water and with the Spirit. Post crucifixion He told them that they would be filled with the Spirit not many days from then. It says about Peter on separate occasions, “Peter, filled with the Spirit…” Filled, baptized, come upon, gift (literally “grace”), it’s all talking about the same event/experience.

    And what really throws people is that this doesn’t look like just one thing. There is no formula for what it is/looks like, but the NT gives us some solid guidelines and examples of what it looks like so that we have a sense of what it doesn’t look like (see Bethel, Lakeland, Toronto, etc.). Here is another kicker; it can happen to someone and they might not even know it. I’ve never spoken in tongues. Ever. But I have been filled in such a way that I have shared words of wisdom, words of knowledge, things in a moment of crisis (for someone) that I never would have dreamed up on my own, information I could never have known or guessed, and its was God working through me, delivering a gift to someone else (the gifts are never for the person who is used, always for the other person).

    I can totally understand why people hold cessationist views. There is so much BS done in the name of the Spirit it’s tragic and laughable all at once. Which is why Paul told people to look out for false/lying signs and wonders. But this is what the enemy does; counterfeits.

    This derails the original intent of the post which is a great post. but I figure since someone already went there why not chime in. For your consideration…

  31. Duane Arnold says:

    Just to be clear, Anglicans, RCs and Lutherans hold to one water baptism in the name of the Triune God. On rare occasions, such as “I don’t know if I was baptized…”, a “conditional” baptism is offered. Additionally, a “baptism in the Spirit” with manifestations is a theological construct that recurs from time to time throughout the history of the Church (pentecostals, enthusiasts, etc.). The experience is self-authenticating. I’ve found the theological underpinnings to be thin…

  32. CM says:


    The subsequent Baptism of the Holy Spirit is Pentacostalism 101 in which they draw from a couple of sections in the Book of Acts to support it. The Book of Acts is a historical book, not a didactic book like the Pauline letters. which do not mention nor support this subsequent Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Like you, I also find it spurious.

    It is really a binary option. Either you are Sealed with the Spirit or not. Every Christian has all the Holy Spirit they could ever need. Of course yielding to the Spirit, not grieving the Spirit, etc. — that is a different matter.

  33. Duane Arnold says:


    I’m not sure that I would say “spurious”… but I find the theology thin.

  34. CM says:


    Fair enough.

  35. Duane Arnold says:

    Just as a note, in the Syriac “Didascalia” (c. 270) there is an order given for baptism in a setting such as Dura-Europos. As the archaeological evidence mounts in the 3rd and 4th centuries, we find baptismal fonts in the shape of a cross (Amwas) or often as an octagon, the shape being suggestive of a Roman mausoleum, or round, suggestive of the womb. The average depth is about 3 feet. Some that are deeper have steps leading down into the font.

    Additionally, many baptistries were built near or over the graves of martyrs, linking the idea of death and rebirth. It would seem, from the letter of Paul and the book of Revelation, that this connection was made very early…

  36. Em says:

    For the record, i absolutely hold to the necessity of water baptism after salvation, but not for salvation. That said sometimes it isn’t physically possible to carry out that command, so i conclude baptism doesn’t save, it is a visible testimony to salvation/submission to God.
    However the new birth is a spiritual birth and it is NOT manifested by speaking in an unknown tongue today. I see no reason to war over this. Rather it is a good thing to prayerfully think on. Fortunately God knows our limitations and applies grace, so…. ? Looking forward to many Eternal instructions or reveals.. 🙏

  37. Duane Arnold says:


    As you know, those of us who believe baptism to be a sacrament, have a different view although we would agree that it is a “visible testimony” as well as something more…

  38. Em says:

    As close as we can come on this is that it is mysterious and sacred, i guess, Dr. Duane – God keep

  39. Owen says:

    Duane, thanks very much for this series (is this the end?). Great study, great comments, and I’ve learned much from both.
    Very interesting, the size and layout of the church building. The capacity mentioned is really close to the size of the congregation we now attend. Although our font is quite a bit smaller…..
    Good lessons!

  40. Duane Arnold says:


    I’m pleased that you have found this helpful. I’ll probably have one more article to wrap up the series.

  41. CM says:


    It has been interesting as always. What would be interesting would a be study of the various Greek words and Greek/Roman concepts in athletic contests along with military words/concepts that were in common usage in Paul’s day and compare the same words/concepts in his NT letters. A church in the 1st century AD would easily make the connection between the concepts.

    The phrase in Rev 5:11 “numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.” interesting. As I understand it, the Greek word for 10,000 is myriad (murion?) and the phrase “10,000 times 10,000” is not necessarily an actual number, but rather an idiom to mean a very large number, a number to large to be counted, etc. Much like how today we use “tons” of work, “gobs” of stuff, and a “sh*tload” of homework. Exactly what is the quantity in a “Gob”? Exactly how many man-hours does it take to do a “sh*tload” of homework?

  42. Mike E says:

    I thank you Duane, for our Father has used you to help me understand the importance of the church. I’d become so angry and detached from the church. But your writings kindled in me an interest to learn more about church history and God helped me to realize the importance of the church universal, regardless of all her issues. I’m very grateful to God and you and Michael for this. 😎❤️

  43. Duane Arnold says:

    Mike E

    You made my day! 😊

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