Luke 21: The Christian Escape to Pella
When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.
//Church Fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius tell us that sometime just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Christians in Jerusalem escaped the Roman siege and fled the city. They landed in Pella, a short distance to the north. I write briefly about this in my book about Revelation.
Luke’s Gospel, while surely written after the events it describes, chronicles this escape. Pella is located in the foothills of the Transjordan highlands, quite consistent with Luke’s description of “fleeing to the mountains.”
Some recent scholars challenge the authenticity of the Pella Tradition, as this exodus has come to be known. One point of contention is the matter of how impossible it seems to have penetrated the Roman siege. However, Josephus, the Jewish historian who wrote about the war, does indicate five different escapes in 67-68 CE, one of which included 2,000 people!
I have no good reason to believe the escape didn’t happen, preserving a Jewish version of Christianity. These Jewish Christians would later be known as the Ebionites and the Nazarenes.