Information on how the early Christians prepared or fled from the destruction of Jerusalem?
Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis cite a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians had been miraculously warned to flee to Pella.
Flight to Pella
The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis cite a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians had been miraculously warned to flee to Pella (Tabaquat Fahil) in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River. The flight to Pella probably did not include the Ebionites.
The authenticity of this tradition has been a much debated question since 1951 when S. G. F. Brandon in his work The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church provided strong arguments against it, arguing that the Jewish Christians would have been allied to their compatriots, the Zealots; only after the destruction of the Jewish Christian community would Christianity have emerged as a universalist religion. The Christian-Zealot alliance has hardly been taken seriously in theology, but the historicity of the flight to Pella has been controversial ever since.
The people of the Church in Jerusalem were commanded by an oracle given by revelation before the war to those in the city who were worthy of it to depart and dwell in one of the cities of Perea which they called Pella. To it those who believed on Christ traveled from Jerusalem, so that when holy men had altogether deserted the royal capital of the Jews and the whole land of Judaea…" — Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3
This heresy of the Nazoraeans exists in Beroea in the neighbourhood of Coele Syria and the Decapolis in the region of Pella and in Basanitis in the so-called Kokaba (Chochabe in Hebrew). From there it took its beginning after the exodus from Jerusalem when all the disciples went to live in Pella because Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege. Because of this advice they lived in Perea after having moved to that place, as I said." — Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7-8
For 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 that it is situated in the neighbourhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion's preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there." — Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 2, 7
So Aquila, while he was in Jerusalem, also saw the disciples of the disciples of the apostles flourishing in the faith and working great signs, healings, and other miracles. For they were such as had come back from the city of Pella to Jerusalem and were living there and teaching. For when the city was about to be taken and destroyed by the Romans, it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed. They sojourned as emigrants in Pella, the city above mentioned in Transjordania. And this city is said to be of the Decapolis." — Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 15
As for how and when this happened, we may never truly know, even if it is true at all.
A PROPOSED SCENARIO OF JERUSALEM CHRISTIAN ACTIONS AS THE ROMANS THREATENED THE CITY
Did the Jerusalem Christians flee to Pella just before the Romans destroyed their city? There is no way to know for sure. We can only deal in probabilities. If we accept as reliable the accounts of Eusebius and others, the issue is settled. If, as did Brandon, one begins by doubting those records and seeks reasons for supporting that skepticism, the answer to the question will most certainly be, "No," for when evidence is incomplete, selected and biased reading and interpretations of data can usually yield the desired conclusion.
Between these two are other options, including evaluating carefully both the primary sources and their critics. In addition, beyond the direct evidence there may be circumstantial, which although a bit oblique and supplementary, may be relevant. It is evidence of this type that we seek to add to the investigation of the Pella tradition.
Perhaps the situation and unfolding events were something like what follows. The Jerusalem Christian community was centered on the southwest hill of Jerusalem, now called Mt. Zion. In all probability it was here they had eaten the last passover meal with Jesus, were together when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, and may have constructed their own synagogue. This location, although containing such "up scale" residences as the palace of the high priest, the Christians probably shared it with others who were a bit out of the mainstream of Jerusalem life Jewish groups, such as the Essenes.
If indeed the Jerusalem Christians fled the city, we do not know whether they did so in mass, in small groups, or as individuals. Furthermore, the time of this exodus has been variously placed. Most likely are following the Jewish victory over Cestius Gallus (A.D.66/67), or in the period following the temporary withdrawal of Vespasian to await developments in Rome (A.D. 68/69). The latter would seem more logical to me. They would have already seen Jerusalem "surrounded by armies" (cf. Luke 21:20) and presumably been free to travel toward Jericho since the Tenth Legion had pretty much left the area and was already established on the Mount of Olives; in any case, at this point in time Roman military activities had been halted.
They probably left the city through the Essene (or possibly the Tekoa) Gate, into Hinnon and on to the Kidron Valley. Although it is likely they would have avoided the Roman road, there were a number of more secluded routes through wadis and other paths open to them. This had been an escape route used before, for example by kings David and Zedekiah, and into the plain south of Jericho (the Buqeiah).
Upon arriving in the Jordan Valley the friendly terrain to the north and the desire to move away from Jerusalem could have invited travel in that direction. As they neared Scythopolis they crossed the Jordan and settled in the region of Pella. Later, some remained in the Pella-Decapolis region and formed the nucleus of both the orthodox and heretical Christians found there in following centuries. Others returned not only to Jerusalem, to their old area on the southwest hill.
Those who returned brought with them a bridge between the original Jewish Christian community and the predominantly Gentile church which had arisen by the beginning of the second century. The Jerusalem-Jewish Church, weakened though it was, provided continuity with the historical Jesus and the apostles for wider Church. There presence and their ties with the past made it unnecessary for Christianity to be "virtually reborn." The "Mother Church," frail from her experiences and limited by her environment, was back to help guide her children and grandchildren in the narrow way, the way of the truth and the faith which, through her had been "once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). - Did Jerusalem Christians Flee to Pella?
Map of the Decapolis showing the location of Pella.
A more diverse series of archeological pictures of Pella, Jordan can be seen here.
Pella (Ancient Greek: Πέλλα, Hebrew: פחל) is found in northwestern Jordan, at the modern town of Tabaqat Fahl, طبقة فحل) 27.4 km (17 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee. Pella represents one of circa ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period and became powerful under Roman jurisdiction. With a history extending back into the Bronze Age, Pella expanded to its largest state during the Roman period. It is located in the Jordan Valley, 130 km (80 miles) north of Amman, and is half an hour by car from Irbid, in the north of the country. Today, the city's sizable collection of ruins are excavated by archaeologists, and attract thousands of tourists annually.
First Christians: the "flight to Pella"
From what is known as the "flight to Pella", around the time of the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, a Jewish sect of Nazarenes made their way to Pella and settled in the city, which thus became a Jewish Christian hub, during the early days of Christianity. According to Epiphanius, the disciples had been miraculously told by Christ to abandon Jerusalem because of the siege it was about to undergo. Epiphanius claims that after the destruction, some returned to Jerusalem. Similarly to Epiphanius, Eusebius of Caesarea recounts how Pella was a refuge for Jerusalem Christians who were fleeing the First Jewish–Roman War in the 1st century CE. Pella is alleged to have been the site of one of Christianity's earliest churches. According to Historian Edward Gibbon, the early Church of Jerusalem fleed to Pella after the ruin of the temple staying their until their return to Zion during the reign of Emperor Hadrian making it a pilgrimage site for early Christians and modern Christians today. - Pella, Jordan
They were fortunate to have fled, for at one point Titus was crucifying some 500 Jews a day after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, according to Josephus.
Image of mass execution by crucifixion, somewhat similar to the ones used by Romans.