The late ancient synagogues of southern Palestine Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Werlin, Steven H.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • Following the failure of the Bar-Kokhba revolt in 135/6 C.E., the majority of the Jewish population of ancient Palestine migrated northward away from Jerusalem to join communities of Jews in Galilee and the Golan Heights. Although rabbinic sources indicate that from the 2nd c. onward the demographic center of Jewish Palestine was in Galilee, archaeological evidence of Jewish communities is found in the southern part of the country as well. Ten synagogues from the period after the Bar-Kokhba revolt are known from southern Palestine. They are located at the sites of Na'aran and Jericho in the Lower Jordan Valley, En-Gedi on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, Kh. Susiya, Eshtemoa, H. 'Anim, and H. Ma'on in the southern Hebron Hills, H. Rimmon in the Judean Shephelah, and Gaza-Maiumas and Ma'on-Nirim on the southern Mediterranean coast. The present study is a detailed analysis of these ten synagogues. The primary goals are to (a) review critically the excavation projects carried out at these sites, particularly the chronological conclusions of the excavators, and (b) determine what aspects of these synagogues, if any, serve to unite them as a distinct regional group. From the critical examination of the published finds and reports, this dissertation concludes that, despite the views of some of the excavators, none of these synagogues can be dated conclusively to before the mid-4th c. The dates of construction generally are fixed at no later than the 6th or 7th c. Therefore, these ten synagogues should be considered products of the Byzantine period. As a group, these ten synagogues do not display unifying features that are distinct from the synagogues in Lower Galilee. However, there are some notable differences between the southern synagogues and those of the Golan and Upper Galilee. Some of the southern synagogues bear evidence of inter-religious contact between Jews and Christians in the art, architecture, and religious concerns expressed in the material culture. Although the evidence for such contact does not differ significantly from the synagogues in Lower Galilee and the Beth-Shean region, the conclusion to this study highlights the importance of considering Jewish-Christian relations in the interpretation of late antique Palestinian Judaism by suggesting topics for further inquiry.
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  • ... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Religious Studies.
  • Magness, Jodi

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