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orion-list Re: gammadia (fwd)

Orion listmembers:

Anyone care to comment on the significance of the Hebrew use of the
L-shaped gammadia on priestly and burial clothing?

Excerpted from my post to ANE list:

Dr. Sebesta and Listmembers: 

On Fri, 16 Apr 1999, judith sebesta wrote to the Classics list:

>From the World of Roman Costume, eds. J. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, U Wisc.
Press. 1994, chapter "Costume in Roman Palestine: Archaeological Remains
and the Evidence from the Mishnah" Lucille Roussin,  p. 184

"The gamma-shaped ornament {on mantles fround in the Cave of Letters] is
mentioned in a passage in the Jerusalem Talmud: 'There is a colored bent
place like a Greek gamma, one thread to this direction, the other to the
other direction, which forms a sign...that is to say, that [the weaver]
when he weaves, he forms ornaments like letters...' Yadin tends to believe
that these designs originally carried no symbolism and were merely

Jerusalem Talmud Shattab 105a.  Yadin, Finds from the Bar Kokhba Period
231, pls. 67-69, 81-85.    

> Roussin notes p. 189 n. 37 "In later Christian art the gamma-shaped
> ornament becomes the gammadia, which decorates the mantles of the Apostles
> and the altar cloth."
> I'd be interested in knowing what significance if any the Christians
> attached to the gammadia.> 

Randall Larsen wrote:

I suspect that the gammadia represented a covenant made with the arm
raised to the square.  The square would represent the plumb line or
benchmark of "Justice" against which ones observance of the covenant could
be compared.   More research needs to be done to prove this purported

In the JPS translation of Psalm 24 the practice of covenant making in
temple worship is alluded to.  The worthy temple worshipper is 

	he who has not sworn falsely by his [my] life

I suspect a similar practice in early Christian worship.  


Perhaps these apologies have a common origin with the Egyptian
practices that they remotely resemble.  You may recall that in the
ancient egyptian Klepedestra the worshipper kneels holding one arm to the
square.  The Egyptian KA symbol of upraised hands also resembles the
upraised hands attributed to Moses purported exercise of prophetic powers.  

The closest practice in modern life is when one is sworn in in the
courtroom with one hand on the Bible and the other raised to the square.

As you rightly note Yadin is skeptical.  Yadin doubts the hebrew gammadia
are anything other than decorative.  No one has yet presented a
preponderance of evidence to the contrary.  If only we had a fourth
century Christian or an ancient jew to interview.


Randall Larsen
University of Hawaii at Manoa

For private reply, e-mail to Randall Larsen <rlars@aloha.net>
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