Christian Damascus -- By: Brian Janeway

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 23:3 (Summer 2010)
Article: Christian Damascus
Author: Brian Janeway

Christian Damascus

Brian Janeway

During a recent visit to Syria, I had the pleasure of visiting ancient Christian sites in the capital of Damascus. The fact that significant Christian history exists in the city and elsewhere in the country is not widely appreciated in the West. But owing to the continuous presence of the Christian community in the city for over 2000 years, several important sites are marked, which commemorate events in the life of St. Paul of Tarsus. Archaeological evidence for these events is uneven and somewhat sketchy, but there are signs that they are based on authentic traditions. Though Damascus was conquered by the Arab armies in AD 636, the Christians have occupied the same quarter of the old city since the time of Christ. Today, Christian believers in Syria enjoy a degree of religious freedom that many of their brothers in neighboring Arab, Turkish and Iranian lands can only envy from afar.

The following essay will survey the sites in chronological accordance with the life of Paul. These consist of the location of his conversion on the road to Damascus, Tell Kaukab; the House of Judas, where he was instructed to go; the House of Ananias, belonging to the disciple who laid hands on Paul to heal him of his blindness; and the spot on the city wall at Bab Kisan where Paul was lowered in a basket to escape from the Jews. Each of these is commemorated with a structure of some kind by the Syrian Christians today.

The Vision of St. Paul Patriarchal Monastery on Tell Kaukab, where today stands a beautiful modern complex at the most likely site of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

Architectural fragments strewn in the area of the Vision of St. Paul Patriarchal Monastery, indicating the possible presence of an earlier Byzantine church. Such churches were commonly erected at traditional sites associated with important events.

Tell Kaukab

There are actually two sites that claim to be the location of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:3-8; 22:6). A late medieval tradition places the site about 0.5 mi (0.8 km) south of the Roman city walls in the vicinity of the Christian cemetery (Meinardus 1981: 59). But the lateness of this account, together with its distance from the road taken by Paul from Jerusalem to Damascus, make it an unlikely candidate. However, the hill named Kaukab, meaning planet or luminary, located some 11 mi (18 km) south of Damascus on the road to Quneitra, contains some interesting evidence. The local tradition has it that Paul experien...

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