[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: orion synagogues (somewhat long)

Dear David Washburn,

>Most likely the references to "dozens of synagogues" are based on
>ancient sources.  Jack K and others have mentioned some of these
>sources, but I would like to go into more detail.

I refer you to my previously mentioned article with regard to the
discussion of the literary evidence.  Ask the question, when were the texts
written?  Where?  In what regions do they place synagogues? Who attends

>By the 1st century C.E. the synagogue had become so important and
>central an institution to Jewish life in Palestine that the Talmud of
>Palestine refers to 480 of them existing in Jerusalem in the time of
>Vespasian (Kloner 1981: 12).

The Yerushalmi was created in the 4th or 5th century ce.  It is not
first-hand evidence for C1 Jerusalem.

  A Greek inscription from
>Jerusalem dating to the 1st century C.E., found in the excavations of
>1913-14, describes the varied function of the synagogue at that time
>(quoted in Levine 1987: 17):

THere is a problem with this inscription. It cannot be dated.  It was
discovered before archaeologists understood the importance of
stratification.  It was also found in a well (a "pit" to use the
archaeological term) which means that it was out of context and probably
put into a earlier stratum from a higher, later one.  There is a lot of
recent discussion on this. See Howard C. Kee's 2 essays, for example.

>Hence, it appears that the synagogue originally thought to be that of
>the Roman centurion was actually the 4th-5th century one, but the one
>the centurion built in the 1st century for the people of Capernaum is
>still discernible underneath it.

There is a C1 structure under the later building, but it has not been
excavated.  There is no evidence that it is or is not a synagogue.

>Why is there so little archaeological evidence of synagogues from the
>Roman period?  My suggestion is that the Romans destroyed as many as
>they could find when suppressing the first Revolt.

Actually, archaeologists love destruction because it preserves more
material than day to day living.  Take a house, for example, suppose a c21
archaeologist wanted to learn about the inhabitants' life in 1998. Would
s/he learn more if they continued living in the house undisturbed for the
next 15 years, or if it burned tomorrow and was abandoned?  The latter
situation would give the best evidence.

Take care,

Paul V. M. Flesher, Director
Religious Studies Program
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY  82071-3353


Confucius said: "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study
is dangerous."
Analects 2:15