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Re: orion synagogues

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I was interested in Steven Fine's definition of a synagogue
of this period as primarily a place for communal study.

At what point in history therefore did a "synagogue" become
a place for prayer and ritual?



Mike_Sanders@photoad.com (Private e-mail)
BibleMysteries@photoad.com (Web Site e-mail)

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven Fine <fine@bhu.edu>
To: orion@mscc.huji.ac.il <orion@mscc.huji.ac.il>
Date: Friday, March 27, 1998 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: orion synagogues

>Hi all!
>The article in ABD was by Eric Meyers, and the article in
OEANE by Meyers
>and myself.  I would like to clarify some points on this
very difficult
>subject.  This is another case where we would like to know
much more than
>we do!
>The evidence is not contradictory, though it must be read
>carefully.  Literary sources are numerous, and include the
>Inscription.  In reference to Jim's "disagreement," he is
right about
>Herodium  (note my recent publications, which do not take
the ID of
>Herodium seriously, and the OEANE article, which questions
>identification).  and wrong about Masada. Almost every
scroll found on
>Masada was found within 20 meters of this room, and two
were found buried
>inside.  If a synagogue during this period is defined
foremost as a place
>for communal study, then Masada is a synagogue.  Gamla is
>since we have the shell of a building with virtually no
>appurtenences and no signage.  It's ID is nevertheless very
plausible, if
>unprovable.  See my comments on Masada in -Sacred Realm-
(OUP, 1996)
>expanded in -This -Holy Place- (Notre Dame UP, forthcoming
in 1998).
>Incidentally, archaeology is no more reliable than any
other area of
>historical reconstruction, and should not be given
precedence.  There was
>an article a number of years ago on this in -Maarav- by
Fred Branfon
>(Sp.?), an archaeologist.
>The problem with 1st century synagogues is that we may not
recognize them
>when we see them, since they have none of the furnishings
we might expect
>in later periods.  A good example might be the Theodotos
synagogue.  Were
>the place where the inscription was found found without an
>would anyone identify it as a synagogue?  (I realize that
there has been
>some dispute on this piece recently, though it was
effectively disarmed by
>Oster, E.P. Sanders and van der Horst in a number of
publications).  A
>better case is the earlier synagogue at Stobi, which was
just a converted
>house.  Michael White's Building God's House... provides
good examples of
>house synagogues-churches-temples, many of which would be
>invisible without specific and distinctive appurtenances
and decorations
>that managed to survive and be excavated.
>For other approaches, see Lee Levine's in -The Synagogue in
>Antiquity-, and Paul Flesher's in his edited volume with D.
>Incidentially, while no synagogue buildings have been found
that date
>between 74 and the 3rd century, as Levine correctly notes,
would you assume
>that there were none, based upon the abundant literary
evidence and your
>assumption that synagogues filled a "need" and became
"important" only
>after the destruction of the Temple?
>Have a nice weekend, and happy synagogue hunting!  I will
spend tomorrow in
>a house that was refurbished as a synagogue.  In a century,
if the signage
>and the ark don't survive in situ, no one may know that a
synagogue was
>ever there!
>Steven Fine
>Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature and History
>Baltimore Hebrew University
>5800 Park Heights Avenue
>Baltimore, MD 21215
>410-578-6908; Fax: 410-578-6940
>> Now, I hate to disagree with the authors of ABD and
>> but there simply is no concrete evidence to support the
idea that Herod
>> built a Synagogue at Herodium; that the room on Masada
was used for
>> scripture and prayer; or that the site of Gamla was used
for religious
>> assemblies.  These three sites aside, where are the other
>> remains which would demonstrate that there were hundreds
of buildings
>> synagogues scattered throughout the land?  If there were
so many, why no
>> remains (thus far discovered)?  The reason seems quite
simple; there was
>> need for such buildings while the Temple stood.  Once the
Temple was
>> destroyed, then such places of meeting would become
>> And in particular, where is there any evidence at all for
a synagogue at
>> Finally, for those interested in the subject may I
recommend the
>> book by Richard A. Horsley, "Archaeology, History and
Society in
>> In chapter 6, p. 133 he quotes "no synagogue buildings
have been found in
>> Palestine for the almost 200 years following the
destruction of the
>> (Quoting Lee Levine).
>> Best,
>> Jim
>> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>> Jim West, ThD
>> Petros TN
>> jwest@highland.net