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The Christian Flight to Pella
Interpretation and Fulfillment in the Apostolic Church

Luke 21:20-22 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.” RSV

Eusebius“The members of the Jerusalem church by means of an oracle, given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the city before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella.” Book III, 5:4

Wilhelm von Kaulbach [1846] – Click Here to

Remember Pella | Matthew 24:16 | Did Jerusalem Christians Flee to Pella? | Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War | The Jewish Revolt Against the Romans | Map of Ancient Israel | Audio Sermon : The Flight (of the Christians) To Pella | Symeon and the Flight to Pella – The Secret Legacy of Jesus:“this centuries-old underground stream of Christ’s original teachings remained alive and surfaced again in Colonial America, where the Founding Fathers used teachings to establish what they believed would be a “New Jerusalem.” With the rise of a fundamentalist Christianity, this potent spiritual vision was lost, but it can be recovered and used to bring about the reconciliation of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.”

POSSIBLE ROUTES OF ESCAPE1) Western  Escape Route:

2) Dead Sea Area:Route:

“Archeological finds all over the Judean desert show that Jews throughout the Roman conquest were fleeing towards the Dead Sea area and were bringing and hiding their valuables there.”

Did Christians flee due East from Jerusalem?  If so, they likely passed right by Dead Sea Scroll Caves — possibly depositing some..

“Qumran was for its time fairly accessible, the archeologists argue. There were two donkey-accessible main roads, one directly to Jerusalem, and another to Jericho and on to Jerusalem.”

Cave Four scrolls reflect Jamesian Christianity According to Eisenman and Wise – At least, a “holiness” splinter group following “The Teacher of Righteousness”.  Found in:

The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered

The First Complete Translation And Interpretation of 50 Key Documents Withheld For Over 35 Years

From Cave 4

And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses have come, (24) those written in the Bo[ok of Mo]ses; therefore this is the End of Days

(Second Letter on Works Reckoned as Righteousness; Terminology used “in Palestine from the 40s to the 60s” )


“(Hadrian) found the entire city devastated and the temple of God trampled down, except for a few houses and the church of God, which was small, where the disciples, after they returned when the savior was taken up from the Mount of Olives, went up to the upper room. For there it had been built, that is, in the part of Zion that was kept from the destruction, and the blocks of houses around Zion itself, and seven synagogues, which stood alone like huts, one of which remained until the time of Maximona the bishop and Constantine the king, “like a booth in a vineyard,” as it is written. Therefore Hadrian decided to build the city, but not the temple.” (Koester 1989:93. – On Weights and Measures)


The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria:

10. When the Christians, who fled away from the Jews and had crossed the Jordan and settled in those places, learned that Titus had destroyed the city and killed the Jews, they returned to Jerusalem, which was in ruins, and lived there and built a church and put at its head a second bishop named Simon, son of Cleophas.

“Finally it was suggested that he go to Jerusalem.  But having arrived there, and found that the city was all a mass of ruins and that there was nothing but the church of Christians, he ordered that a city be built around the temple, and furnished with a strong tower. “

AD 66-70 Flights from Jerusalem
Recorded by Josephus (Written in AD75)

  • [c. November 66]   After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city…   Jewish War 2:20:1

Flavius Josephus (A.D. 75) (Opportunity Arises to Flee) “It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world.” (Wars, II, XIX, 6,7)

  • [c. Winter 67/68 before Passover]  “The Idumeans complied with these persuasions; and, in the first place, they set those that were in the prisons at liberty, being about two thousand of the populace, who thereupon fled away immediately to Simon”  Jewish War 4:6:1

    “These things were told Vespasian by deserters; for although the seditious watched all the passages out of the city, and destroyed all, whosoever they were, that came thither, yet were there some that had concealed themselves, and when they had fled to the Romans, … Vespasian did indeed already pity the calamities these men were in… ” Jewish War : 4:7:3
  • [c. June 70] “As Josephus was speaking thus with a loud voice, the seditious would neither yield to what he said, nor did they deem it safe for them to alter their conduct; but as for the people, they had a great inclination to desert to the Romans; accordingly, some of them sold what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for every small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found out by the robbers; and when they had escaped to the Romans, went to stool, and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for themselves; for Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased.” Jewish War 5:10:1

    Hereupon some of the deserters, having no other way, leaped down from the wall immediately, while others of them went out of the city with stones, as if they would fight them; but thereupon they fled away to the Romans. But here a worse fate accompanied these than what they had found within the city; and they met with a quicker dispatch from the too great abundance they had among the Romans, than they could have done from the famine among the Jews; for when they came first to the Romans, they were puffed up by the famine, and swelled like men in a dropsy; after which they all on the sudden overfilled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder, excepting such only as were skillful enough to restrain their appetites, and by degrees took in their food into bodies unaccustomed thereto. ” Jewish War 5:13:4

  • [August 70 CE] “As Josephus spoke these words, with groans and tears in his eyes, his voice was intercepted by sobs. However, the Romans could not but pity the affliction he was under, and wonder at his conduct. But for John, and those that were with him, they were but the more exasperated against the Romans on this account, and were desirous to get Josephus also into their power: yet did that discourse influence a great many of the better sort; and truly some of them were so afraid of the guards set by the seditious, that they tarried where they were, but still were satisfied that both they and the city were doomed to destruction. Some also there were who, watching a proper opportunity when they might quietly get away, fled to the Romans, of whom were the high priests Joseph and Jesus, and of the sons of high priests three, whose father was Ishmael, who was beheaded in Cyrene, and four sons of Matthias, as also one son of the other Matthias, who ran away after his father’s death, and whose father was slain by Simon the son of Gioras, with three of his sons, as I have already related; many also of the other nobility went over to the Romans, together with the high priests.” Jewish War 6:2:2  (Compiled by Paul N. Tobin)
  • “the unhappy Jews, when they were not able to bear the devastations which the robbers made among them, were all under a necessity of leaving their own habitations, and of flying away, as hoping to dwell more easily anywhere else in the world among foreigners” (Antiquities, Book XX, ch. 11)

Pseudo-Clementines (2/3rd century)
“Subsequently also an evident proof of this great mystery is supplied in the fact, that every one who, believing in this Prophet who had been foretold by Moses, is baptized in His name, shall be kept unhurt from the destruction of war which impends over the unbelieving nation, and the place itself; but that those who do not believe shall be made exiles from their place and kingdom, that even against their will they may understand and obey the will of God.” (Recognitions 1:39:3)

Eusebius (325)
“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. ” (History of the Church 3:5:3)

“The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers form the earth. (Eusebius, 3:5.)

“After all those who believed in Christ had generally come to live in Perea, in a city called Pella of the Decapolis of which it is written in the Gospel and which is situated in the neighborhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion’s preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there.” (Panarion 30:2)

“For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis (de Mens. et Pond., 15).

“Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis– called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella” (Haer 29:7).

“For when all who believed in Christ had settled down about that time in Peraea, the majority of the emigrants taking up their abode at Pella, a town belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the Gospel, near Batanea and the district to Basanitis, Ebion got his excuse and opportunity. At first their abode was Kochaba, a village in the district of Carnaim, Arnem, and Astaroth, in the region of Basanitis, according to the information we have received. But I have spoken, in other connections and with regard to other heresies, of the locality of Kochaba and Arabia (Haer 30:2)… “[The Ebionites] spring for the most part from Batanea … and Paneas, as well as from Moabitis and Cochaba in Basanitis on the other side of Adraa” (Haer 30:18).

Epiphanius (375)
“The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged. For this reason they settled in Peraea and there, as I said, they lived. This is where the Nazoraean sect began.” (Panarion 29:7:7-8)

“Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed..” (Panarion 30:2:7)

“For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis ” (On Weights and Measures 15)

Eutychius of Alexandria (10th C)
“Qistus, governor of Jerusalem, died and the city was without any authority or sovereign to govern it.  The Jews then arose and rioted and killed James, son of Joseph, known as the “brother of the Lord”, stoning him to death (14).  Then they harassed a group of disciples and expelled them from the city.  The Christians abandoned Jerusalem, crossed the Jordan and settled in those places (15).  Informed of this fact, Nero Caesar sent word to the commander stationed in the East, named Vespasian, to rally his troops and go to Judea with orders to kill all the inhabitants, sparing none, and to destroy the houses.” The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria, ch. 9:

Henry Alford
“I own that, considering the analogies and the language used, I am much more disposed to interpret the persecution of the woman by the dragon of the various persecutions of the Jews which followed the ascension, and her flight into the wilderness of the gradual withdrawl of the church and her agency from Jerusalem and Judea, finally consummated by the flight to the mountains on the approaching siege, commanded by our Lord Himself.” (Greek Test. Notes on Revelation 12:14)

Albert Barnes (1832)
“It is said that there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of that city, God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt when the city was destroyed.” (in loc.)

David Brown (1864)
“That it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem is equally certain; for, when he reports our Lord’s prophecy of that awful event, on coming to the warning about “the abomination of desolation” which they should “see standing in the holy place,” he interposes (contrary to his invariable practice, which is to relate without remark) a call to his reader to read intelligently — “Whoso readeth, let him understand” (Matt. xxiv. 15) — a call to attend to the divine signal for flight, which could be intended only for those who lived before the event.” (Hug, page 316)” (Gospel According to Matthew, intro)

“Then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains–The ecclesiastical historian, EUSEBIUS, early in the fourth century, tells us that the Christians fled to Pella, at the northern extremity of Perea, being “prophetically directed”–perhaps by some prophetic intimation more explicit than this, which would be their chart–and that thus they escaped the predicted calamities by which the nation was overwhelmed. ”

Geneva Bible Notes
Revelation 12:14 {18} And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her {c} place, where she is nourished for a {19} time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

(18) That is, being strengthened with divine power: and taught by oracle, she fled swiftly from the assault of the devil, and from the common destruction of Jerusalem and went into a solitary city beyond Jordan called Pella as Eusebius tells in the first chapter of the third book of his ecclesiastical history: where God had commanded her by revelation.
(c) Into the place God had prepared for her.
(19) That is, for three and a half years: so the same speech is taken in see Geneva (q) “Da 7:25“. This space of time is reckoned in manner from that last and most grievous rebellion of the Jews, to the destruction of the city and temple,for their defection or falling away, began in the twelfth year of Nero, before the beginning of which many signs and predictions were shown from heaven, as Josephus wrote, lib.7, chap.12, and Hegesippus lib.5, chap.44, among which this is very memorable. In the feast of Pentecost not only a great sound and noise was heard in the Temple, but also a voice was heard by many out of the Sanctuary which cried out to all, Let us depart from here. Now three and a half years after this defection by the Jews began, and those wonders happened, the city was taken by force, the temple overthrown, and the place forsaken by God: and the length of time John noted in this place. “John Gill (1809)
“…it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city . . ” (John Gill, on Matthew 24:16).

George Peter Holford
“And it is with reason supposed, that on this occasion many of the Christians, or converted Jews, who dwelt there, recollecting the warnings or their divine Master, retired to Pella, a place beyond Jordan, situated in a mountainous country, whither (according to Eusebius, who resided near the spot) they came from Jerusalem, and settled, before the war (under Vespasian) began. Other providential opportunities for escaping afterwards occured, of which, it is probable, those who were now left behind availed themselves ; for it is a striking act, and such as cannot be contemplated by the pious mind without sentiments of devout admiration, that history does not record that even one CHRISTIAN perished in the siege of Jerusalem.” (The Destruction of Jerusalem)

Thomas Manton
“Either, first, to them by a particular judgment; for there were but a few years, and then all was lost; and probably that may be it which the apostles mean when they speak so often of the nearness of Christ’s coming. But you will say, How could this be propounded as an argument of patience to the godly Hebrews that Christ would come and destroy the temple and city? I answer, (1) The time of Christ’s solemn judiciary process against the Jews was the time when He did acquit Himself with honour upon His adversaries, and the scandal and reproach of His death rolled away. (2) The approach of His general judgment ended the persecution; and when the godly were provided for at Pella, the unbelievers perished by the Roman sword.” (Practical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer)

Thomas Newton (1754)
“When therefore the Roman army shall advance to besiege Jerusalem, then let them who are in Judea consult their own safety, and flee into the mountains. His counsel was wisely remembered, and put in practice, by the Christians afterwards. Josephus informs us, that when Cestius Gallus came with his army against Jerusalem, ” many fled from the city, as if it would be taken presently :”   and after his retreat, “many of the noble Jews departed out of the city, as out of a sinking ship :” and a few years afterwards, when Vespasian was drawing, his forces towards Jerusalem, a great multitude fled from Jericho aij thn opeinhn — into the mountainous country, for their security. It is probable that there were some Christians among these, but we learn more certainly from ecclesiastical historians, that at this is juncture all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem, and removed to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan: so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their country, and we do not read any where that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Of such signal service was this caution of our Saviour to the believers. (The Prophecy of Matthew 24, Dissertation XIX)

C.H. Spurgeon
“The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, “in Judea “, availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain cityof Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews. There was no time to spare before the final investment of the guilty city; the man “on the house-top” could “not come down to take anything out of his house”, and the man “in the field” could not “return back, to take his clothes.” They must flee to the mountains in the greatest haste the moment that they saw “Jerusalem compassed with armies “(Luke 21:20).”

William Whiston (1737)
“There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that “when they should see the abomination of desolation” [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] “stand where it ought not;” or, “in the holy place;” or, “when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;” they should then “flee to the mound conduct than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole rains.” By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled the siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a “great to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, nor ever should be.”–Ibid. p. 70, 71.” (Wars, II, XIX, 6,7)


Adam Clarke (1837)
“Verse 16. Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains— This counsel was remembered and wisely followed by the Christians afterwards. Eusebius and Epiphanius say, that at this juncture, after Cestius Gallus had raised the siege, and Vespasian was approaching with his army, all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem and fled to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan; and so they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their country: not one of them perished. See on Matthew 24:13.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary On Matthew 24)

Henry Hammond (1659)
“How exactly the several passages of story in Josephus agree with these predictions will easily be discerned by comparing them, particularly that which belongs to this place of their flying to the mountains, &c. For when Gallus besieged Jerusalem, and without any visible cause, on a sudden raised the siege, what an act of God’s special providence was this, thus to order it, that the believers of Christian Jews being warned by this siege, and let loose (set at liberty again) might fly to the mountains, that is, get out of Judea to some other place! Which that they did accordingly appears by this, that when Titus came some months after and besieged the city, there was not one Christian remaining in it” (H. Hammond, vol. 3, p. 160).

Marcellus Kik
“One of the most remarkable things about the siege of Jerusalem was the miraculous escape of the Christians.  It has been estimated that over a million Jews lost their lives in that terrible siege, but not one of them was a Christian.” (ibid., 96)

John Lightfoot (1889)
“Jerusalem was taken in the autumn of 70 A.D. Before its fall the Christians had left the doomed city. While the greater part retired beyond the Jordan and founded Christian colonies at Pella and the neighborhood, the principle leaders of the church — the surviving apostles and other personal disciples of the Lord — sought a new home in proconsular Asia. Henceforward we find the headquarters of Christendom no more at Jerusalem, nor even at Antioch but, (for the time at least) in Ephesus. Here John fixed his abode after his temporary banishment in Patmos.” (Lightfoot, J.B.; Translated and edited; Apostolic Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp; first published 1889; Pub. Hendrickson; Vol. 1, pg. 438.)

Ernest Renan (1873)
‘And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman (the Church of Jerusalem) water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman: (Revelation 12:15-17).

“Perhaps the Zelotes tried to drive the holy band into the Jordan, and the latter succeeded in crossing the river at a place where the water was shallow; it may be that the troop sent in pursuit went astray, and thus lost the traces of those whom it was chasing.

“The place selected by the heads of the community to serve as the principal asylum for the fugitive Church was Pella, one of the towns of Decapolis, situated near the left bank of the Jordan in an admirable position, overlooking on one side the whole plain of Ghor, and having on the other precipitous cliffs, at the foot of which runs a torrent. No wiser choice could have been made. Judaea, Idumaea, Peraea, and Galilee were in insurrection; Samaria and the coast were in a very unsettled state owing to the war. Thus Scythopolis and Pella were the nearest neutral cities to Jerusalem. Pella, by its position beyond the Jordan, must have offered much more tranquillity than Scythopolis, which had become one of the Roman strongholds. Pella was a free city like the other towns of Decapolis, but apparently it had given allegiance to Agrippa 11. To take refuge there was openly to avow horror of the revolt. The importance of the town dated from the Macedonian conquest. A colony of Alexander’s veterans had taken up their quarters there, and changed the Semitic name of the place into another, which recalled their native land to the old soldiers. Pella was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, and the Greek inhabitants, who refused to be circumcised, suffered much from Jewish fanaticism. The pagan population doubtless took new root, for, in the massacres of 66, Pella was considered a Syrian town, and was once more sacked by the Jews. It was in this anti-Jewish town that the Church of Jerusalem found refuge during the horrors of the seige. Here it was at ease, and looked on its tranquil abode as a sure place, a desert prepared by God, where, far from man’s tumultuous strife, the hour of the coming of Jesus might be awaited in peace. The community lived on their savings; it was believed that God himself took it upon him to feed them, and many saw in such a lot, so different from that of the Jews, a miracle predicted by the prophets. No doubt the Galilean Christians had for their part betaken themselves to the east of the Jordan and the lake into Batanaea and Gaulonitis. The territories of Agrippa 11, thus formed an adoptive country for the JudeoChristians of Palestine.” (Renan, pp. 150-152).

Foy Wallace (1966)
“It is a remarkable but historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, retired when they first marched against the city, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the temple, thus giving every believing Jew the opportunity to obey the Lord’s instruction to flee the city. Josephus the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time, after a siege had begun. Can we account for it? We can. The Lord was fighting against Jerusalem Zechariah 14:2: ‘For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city: The Lord was besieging that city. God was bringing these things to pass against the Jewish state and nation. Therefore, the opportunity was offered for the disciples to escape the siege, as Jesus had forewarned, and the disciples took it. So said Daniel; so said Jesus; so said Luke, so said Josephus” (The Book of Revelation, p. 352).

Charles Finney (1852)
“From the connection of this passage, some have inferred that the apostle had his eye immediately upon the destruction of Jerusalem. They suppose this great and fearful event to be alluded to in the language, “For the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” This may refer to the destruction of the city and temple of God’s ancient people, yet the evidence for the opinion does not seem to be decisive. A reference to the event is possible and even probable. We know that when Jerusalem was destroyed, not one Christian perished. They had timely notice in the signs Christ had already given them, and perceiving those signs in season, they all fled to Pella, on the east of the Jordan, and hence were not involved in the general destruction.” (SALVATION DIFFICULT TO THE CHRISTIAN, IMPOSSIBLE TO THE SINNER.)

Neil Hamilton (1969)
“We may conclude then that, shortly before the rebellion against Rome, the Jerusalem church was an integral part of Judaism.  The next notice of the activity of the Jerusalem church was intended by its author to indicate that separation had begun. This event is the flight of the Jerusalem church to Pella reported by Eusebius in connection with the rebellion against Rome that began in AD. 66. This is obviously a climactic moment in Eusebius’ historiography of vengeance. As such it assumes the complete separation of Christians from Jews. In Eusebius’ mind, the providential function of the action of the Roman forces was to blot out all the non-Christian Jews of Judea, and, since Roman soldiers could not be expected to know the difference, Christian Jews had logically to be separated before the Romans came. There was precedent for Eusebius in Josephus’ account of an oracular warning to Jews of the coming destruction. A certain Jesus, the son of Ananias, had predicted the destruction of the city throughout the four years preceding it.” (Jesus for a No-God World)



Hugh Smith’s History
“Under the reign of Vespasian, Rome declared war against the Jews because of their repeated revolts, and General Titus besieged the city of Jerusalem 70 A.D. It is said that eleven hundred thousand [i.e. one million, one hundred thousand] Jews perished in the six month siege, but the church there escaped the horrors of the siege by following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 24, and fleeing to the mountains beyond the Jordan. This timely retreat was made to the small town of Pella.”

“It has been observed that on the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D., by Titus, the church retired to Pella. In this situation they were forbidden to return to Jerusalem. Languishing for sixty years deprived of revisiting the place of their dearest hope, they evaded the law, directed against Jews, by electing Mark, a prelate of the Gentile race for their bishop. Thus, they were permitted entrance into the city, and the standard of Christianity, 130 A.D., was again erected in the Holy City. A considerable part of the Jewish Christians, however, for various reasons remained behind at Pella.” (History of the Church, p. 72.)

“In the fall of Jerusalem, few if any Christians perished. From the prophetic utterances of Christ, the Christians received warning, escaped from the doomed city, and found refuge at Pella, in the Jordan valley.” (Hurlbut’s Story of the Christian Church)

Khirbet Fahil
“Pella lies in the eastern Jordan Valley, twenty-eight kilometers (21 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee. It is a large site, and the accumulated debris of the main tell is some thirty-one meters in depth. At the foot of the mound is a stream fed by a spring and in the valley lie the remains of a Greco-Roman temple and a Roman theater. Ruins of two large basilicas are also quite evident. Coins indicate the existence of a Nymphaeum and the prevalence of the worship of Apollo, Heracles, Athena, Thychae, and Nike. Eusebius of Caesarea notes that in A.D. 66 Christians fled to Pella. They were not fearful for their lives, but they were taking literally Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel the prophet standing the holy place.” Pella became a Christian center.

Rivka Nir
The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch begins with a description of the destruction of Jerusalem in which God appears to Baruch, informing him that, in wake of the people’s sins, He intends to bring disaster upon the city and its inhabitants, and asking Baruch to inform Jeremiah and his like to leave the city.” (p. 19)

Robert H. Smith
“The ancient city took on fresh vigor in the Hellenistic Age, when its name became ‘Pella’ in honor of the birthplace of Alexander the Great.” It fell successively under Ptolemaic, Seleucid, and Maccabean control. In 63 B.C., the Roman general Pompey placed the city under Roman domination, ushering in a new era. The early settlers were steeped in the Hellenistic and Roman cultures which prevailed in the area, and Pella became a member of the Decapolis. The archaeologists working the site recovered striking evidence of Pella’s Roman elegance, especially near the spring at the Civic Complex. Finds there date from the first century of this era and include public halls, one or more temples and a small theater with its stage and orchestra in the creek-bed of the Wadi Jirm. Building the theater near the stream facilitated the task of flooding the stage for aquatic performances. On the eastern hill overlooking the central mound is a small Temple Complex dating back to the same era.

In the West Church in 1967, Smith discovered a sarcophagus that may originally have been the last resting-place of one of these early Christians. The testimony of the burial is not entirely clear, since no inscription remains. Radiocarbon dating obtained soon after the find date the bones to a slightly later period. Evidences in the sarcophagus, however, identified the remains as that of a Christian. The contributions of archaeological activity at Pella are of value as we strive to understand the New Testament. The layout of the civic complex and the ruins of the buildings enable us to have a fuller picture of the nature of the community in the first century. These same contributions reveal striking parallels with the evidence recovered at Abila.”

John A.T. Robinson
“Moreover, the only tradition we have as to what Christians actually did, or were told to do, is that preserved by Eusebius apparently on the basis of the Memoirs of Hegesippus used also by Epiphanius. This says that they had been commanded by an oracle given “before the war” to depart from the city, and that so far from taking to the mountains of Judea, as Mark’s instruction implies, they were to make for Pella, a Greek city of the Decapolis, which lay below sea level on the east side of the Jordan valley.” (Robinson 1976:16.)

“The First Apocalypse of James (not actually written by James the Just) mentions many details, some of which may reflect early traditions: he is said to have authority over the twelve Apostles and the early church; this work also adds, somewhat puzzlingly, that James left Jerusalem and fled to Pella before the Roman siege of that city in AD 70. (Ben Witherington suggests what is meant by this was that James’ bones were taken by the early Christians who had fled Jerusalem). (James the Just)

“Under the reign of Vespasian, Rome declared war against the Jews because of their repeated revolts, and General Titus besieged the city of Jerusalem 70 A.D. It is said that eleven hundred thousand [i.e. one million, one hundred thousand] Jews perished in the six month siege, but the church there escaped the horrors of the siege by following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 24, and fleeing to the mountains beyond the Jordan. This timely retreat was made to the small town of Pella.” (Hugh Smith’s History)

“In the fall of Jerusalem, few if any Christians perished. From the prophetic utterances of Christ, the Christians received warning, escaped from the doomed city, and found refuge at Pella, in the Jordan valley.” (Hurlbut’s Story of the Christian Church)



  • 1887: Schumacher conducts a survey of the site for the Palestine Exploration Fund.
  • 1933: A topographical plan of the site is produced for the Palestine Department of Antiquities by John Richmond.
  • 1958: Robert W. Funk and H. Neil Richardson place two brief soundings in the centre of the main tell, exposing Iron Age and Hellenistic remains.
  • 1963-1964: The Department of Antiquities instigate a rescue project, directed by Sami Rashid, to dig a number of Late Bronze Age tombs discovered on the slopes of Tell Husn, the mound directly to the north of Pella which acted as a cemetery for the bronze age city. This material is currently being studied for publication by Dr Stephen Bourke.
  • 1966-7: A team from Wooster College, Ohio, under the direction of Professor R.H. Smith prepare a topographic map of the site, and commence excavations in the following year.
  • 1978: A joint project is instigated between Wooster College and a team from the University of Sydney, led by Professor J.B. Hennessy and Dr A. McNicoll.
  • 1978-1985: Wooster continue excavations at the site, exploring the western church (Area I), Roman and Bronze age tombs in the eastern cemetery (Area II), a Roman cemetery southwest of Tell Husn (Area VII), the west cut (Area VIII), the Byzantine civic complex (Area IX), another Roman cemetery on the northeastern slopes of Tell Husn (Area X), a Hellenistic fort on Jebel Sartaba (Area XIII), south slope of the main tell (Area XXV). Wooster ceases excavations in 1985 to concentrate on publication of their work.
  • 1979-present day: the University of Sydney has conducted twenty field seasons to date, investigating occupation from the Epipalaeolithic down to the Islamic period. Between 1978 and 1985, now Emeritus Professor J.B. Hennessy and the late Dr A.W. McNicoll co-directed excavations, responsible for the pre-classical and classical/Islamic periods respectively. After McNicoll’s premature death in 1985, Hennessy took as his co-directors Dr P.C. Edwards (Palaeolithic), Dr T.F. Potts (Bronze and Iron Ages, 1984-1988), Dr S.J. Bourke (1988-present day), Dr J.C. Tidmarsh (Hellenistic), Dr P.M. Watson (Roman/Byzantine), Kate da Costa (Roman/Byzantine 1997), and Dr A.G. Walmsley (Islamic).
  • 1994-1996: The Pella Hinterland Survey conducted a detailed investigation of the immediate area around Pella, to establish regional land use and settlement patterns beyond the urban frontier. This is a joint project between Dr Pam Watson of the BIAAH and Dr Margaret O’Hea of the University of Adelaide.
  • Excavations by a team from the University of Sydney continue, usually every second year. (source: Australian Expedition)



As a result of the First Jewish War, CE 66-70, many Judean Christians, seeking safety, escaped the destruction of Jerusalem by scattering throughout the Near East. It appears that a number of Jerusalem’s Judeo-Christian community relocated to Pella, a city of the Decapolis, located east of the Jordan River.

Eusebius, writing in his Ecclesiastical History some 250 years after the fact, following an anti-Judaic invention, believed the Jerusalem congregation departed the city just before the war.

The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers from the earth. (Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 3.5; Boyle 1955:86.)

In the Panarion Eusebius added:

Panarion 30:2. [7] After all those who believed in Christ had generally come to live in Perea, in a city called Pella of the Decapolis of which it is written in the Gospel and which is situated in the neighborhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion’s preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there. (Lüdemann 1980:164.)

Eusebius apparently based his opinion on Ariston of Pella (Lüdemann 1980:165-166 following A. Schlatter; Koester 1989:92) although most writers credit the Memoirs of Hegesippus. John A. T. Robinson, for example, summarized the matter as:

Moreover, the only tradition we have as to what Christians actually did, or were told to do, is that preserved by Eusebius apparently on the basis of the Memoirs of Hegesippus used also by Epiphanius. This says that they had been commanded by an oracle given “before the war” to depart from the city, and that so far from taking to the mountains of Judaea, as Mark’s instruction implies, they were to make for Pella, a Greek city of the Decapolis, which lay below sea level on the east side of the Jordan valley. (Robinson 1976:16.)

The apologist Ariston was a Judeo-Christian writer, ca. CE 150, belonging to the congregation of Pella (Baus 1990:208; Quasten 1950:195f; Koester 1989:92). Hegesippus was an orthodox writer, ca. CE 180, who traveled about collecting evidence and recording traditions with an orthodox construction thereby linking “‘correct’ tradition and succession with order and unanimity” (Johnson 1976:53).

The conditions described by Josephus suggest a gradual migration starting in CE 64. In any case, some suggest the flight of the last remaining members of the Jerusalem congregation may have been on the Feast of Pentecost in CE 69. The details as recorded by Flavius Josephus were:

Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple…they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking and heard a sound as of a multitude saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’ (Josephus Wars bk. VI, ch. v, sec. 3, Whiston 1957:825.)

In all fairness, the earthquake may have led many to say “Let’s get out of here!” without their being Jerusalem Christians. This statement, in context, is more consistent with the normal reaction of Jews on the Temple platform experiencing a frightening earthquake in the dark. The evidence is certainly not conclusive.

When Jerusalem’s Christians relocated to Pella, because of the Jewish war with Rome, they continued to consider themselves the Jerusalem congregation. The congregation served as a center of Judeo-Christianity under the leadership of Simeon. Its chief elder was still “bishop of Jerusalem” the pastor of the Jerusalem Judeo-Christian community in exile. (For more information see The Jerusalem Congregation.)

The Greek verb used by Eusebius is metokismenon, meaning migrated, and so translated in the Loeb (Lake 1959:200-201) and Penguin (Williamson 1965:68) editions. The popular perception that the mother congregation “fled” is a hermeneutic based upon Jesus’ prophecy about the end of the age in Matthew 24:16-21.

While direct evidence of the presence of Judeo-Christian refugees at Pella is wanting, Bellarmino Bagatti, in his The Church from the Circumcision, argues the probative value of the circumstantial evidence of a coin minted at Pella, in imitation of coins minted at Caesarea, with the inscription Judaea capta (Jewish captives) as a record of the advent of these refugee Jews in Pella (Bagatti 1971a:8).

Gerd Lüdemann, in a thoughtful analysis of the flight to Pella tradition, sought to falsify it suggesting that the tradition was an invention of Jewish Christians at Pella aiming to link their origins back to an apostle and the original Jerusalem congregation in order to legitimate their form of Jewish Christianity (Lüdemann 1980). Murphy-O’Connor, who sees a constant Christian presence in Jerusalem/Aelia in the 70–135 period, argues that the flight to Pella tradition is a myth and that there was no break in the Christian presence in Jerusalem (Murphy-O’Connor 1994:304). Craig Koester carefully reconsidered Lüdemann’s contentions and argued that the Pella tradition more likely recalls first-century events based upon independent traditions preserved in Epiphanius (see Epiphanius Panarion 29.7.7-8; 30.2.7) and in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (see Recognitions of Clement 1.37 and 1.39; Pseudo-Clement 1986:87–88; Koester 1989:97-103). The historicity of the matter remains unresolved.


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Date: 12 Oct 2005
Time: 23:18:08


How refreshing to read the accounts of history and find the fulfillments before our very eyes! Great article and site folks! Keep it coming.

D. Farquhar
Date: 24 Oct 2005
Time: 12:40:25


In Rev 7:9-17, it speaks of a great multitude which no man could number from all nations, people, kindred and tongues that had come out of ‘great tribulation’ as those who had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…

If all or a vast majority of Christians in Jerusalem had fled to Pella, then who are these people that were killed and came out of great tribulation ??

From my understanding of the article above, pretty much only non-believing Jews died in the siege of Jerusalem, 66-70 AD.

Neronian persecution of Christians throughout the empire ??


Date: 20 Feb 2006
Time: 17:20:15



This is a great piece of research, covering territory that I would not have traversed on my own.
Thanks for posting the link during our discussion the other night.

Date: 14 Oct 2012
Time: 21:07:14

Your Comments:

This is what I think. This is my understanding on the so called church. Today (just like in 70AD) individuals are saved – not congregations or churches!!! Indivdual Christians escaped in 70AD speading His Word through living the Gospel where ever they went. Today, paying one man to tell others what all the others should be doing is not scriptural! In this sense, the first century church died in 70AD. In 70AD (in addition to: the completion of God’s Word, the death of the last Apostles and the destruction of the Biblical Jew)the first century assembly/churches ended! Since 70AD the completed Word/Bible under the directional guidance of HIs Holy Spirit is our only earthly spiritual guidance and authority. No one man in any congregation or church today defines: doctrine, policy, decision, authority or interpretaion of God’s Word for the rest of us!!! Each of us must work out our salvation individually with fear and trembling! Those who submit to full emersion Adult Baptism and who Believe and Obey with Love and Perseverance are the only true members of His Church. Amen, Amen, it is so, I believe. Respectfully submitted, 1watchman

Date: 23 Sep 2011
Time: 20:33:33

Your Comments:

good asortment of historians about the fleeing jerusalem before its fall.however this is not the 2nd coming of jesus. The basic word for coming in greek is parousia which denotes a king coming with pomp as in a parade.In pauls epistles his use of parousia as in 1cor 16;17′ 2cor 7;6 is someone physical visable. Jesus said this tribulation would come upon the whole world rev 3;10 also one third of the sea would be turned to blood rev16;3.All the island groups did not sink into the ocean. the destruction of jerusalem was a local event. also more than have of the world population was to be destroyed. one last thing if there was a disappearance of christians those left behind would have commented about it; they did everything else. your position is as far off as jehovah witnesses. i feel sorry that you have reach this kind of conclusion

Date: 24 Apr 2013
Time: 11:40:29

Your Comments:

The followers of Christ were not spared in 70 AD because they were “raptured” out of this world. They were spared because they noticed the signs that Jesus warned them about. Rapture is never mentioned in the Bible, and was never taught until the 1800’s when Darby came up with the “theory”. I kind of wonder if he was not related to Darwin? There would have been nothing to talk about because there was not a “mysterious” disappearance of people in broad daylight in clear eye site of those “left behind.” Roughly, how do dead men talk? Over 1 million were slain in Jerusalem alone!!! I have never been to Israel, and certainly know nothing of Pella, but my guess is that it is a city in the mountains, reference Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1. Yes, the Scriptures are to be meaningful to us today, but they were directly meant for the people that were standing in front of the messenger of God at that particular time. One of the problems with us Americano’s is that we are so self centered that we perceive that the Scriptures are speaking to us as a matter of the here and now. The Bible is complete. Every prophecy mentioned in it, except the judgment, has been fulfilled. If it were taught as it was meant to be, we would not have so much hate in the world today. The Jews that were directly responsible for the death of Messiah are the ones that were wiped out in 70 AD. By the way, when Revelations is written, prior to 70 AD, this was the final chapter of the Bible. The final doomsday “end times” event was just on the horizon, as Jesus stated that “this generation shall not pass before these things are brought to fruition.” If Revelations was written as late as the 90’s AD, then do you not think that John would have written something about the greatest catastrophe, next to the flood, that ever happened to the Jewish people? Of course he would have. Peter even questioned Jesus about why John may live to see these events that actually took place in 70 AD. Jesus said “what is it to you?” John is the only disciple that lived !
to see the destruction of Israel, the temple, and Jerusalem. All the rest were martyred, and of course, Judas committed suicide. The Scriptures say that what God has brought together, let no man put asunder. I would go even farther, and state that what God has put asunder, let not man put together.(will require some deep thought)