Early Judaism and Christianity in the Light of Archaeology

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Early Judaism and Christianity in the Light of ArchaeologyAuthor(s): Eric M. MeyersSource: The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 69-79Published by: The American Schools of Oriental ResearchStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3210028 .Accessed: 04/07/2014 06:53Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. .The American Schools of Oriental Research is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to The Biblical Archaeologist.http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=asorhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/3210028?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsparly udaism and Qhriztiznity in the ht ofA rchaeolbogy y Eric M. Meyers ince World War II we have witnessed a veritable explo- sion of archaeological data from the Holy Land, and our understanding of the world of the Old Testament has greatly benefitted from it. There has not yet, however, been a concomitant improvement in our understanding of the New Testa- ment world. A few years ago James F.E Strange and I addressed this im- balance in a book that attempted to show how archaeology, used in con- nection with literary material, can illuminate the first centuries of the common era, a period when early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism were emerging in their Palestinian, or indigenous, settings (see Meyers and Strange 1981). That book was meant as a beginning, and I would like to take this topic up again, es- pecially in view of the work that has gone forward since its publication. Early Christianity The members of the first generation of the followers of Jesus were largely indistinguishable from their fellow Jews. Although they professed a be- lief in the messiahship of Jesus and began to articulate a radical love ethic ("love your enemy") that had no close parallel in Judaism, the new Christians observed most of the Jewish laws (perhaps some were slack on table fellowship) and accepted the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple. They apparently got along well with their fellow Jews, contrary to the er- roneous impression of the Gospels and other New Testament writings, The first centuries of the comm0on era in Palestine were a time of religious pluralism and tolerance, but the nid-fourth century saw significant changes. which portray the Pharisees in so negative a light. Only the Sadducees, who are implicated in the trial of Jesus, might be said to be on the "outs" with the new Christians. Because there is no clear, or definite, trace of the Christian com- munity in the Holy Land from about 70 to 270 C.E., it has been suggested that all or most of the followers of Jesus left Palestine during the course of events associated with the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66-70 C.E. I find this unlikely. Chris- tianity was then making a concerted effort to expand the number of its followers, not only through the gen- tile mission of Paul but also among the many Jewish communities along the western and eastern Mediter- ranean shores. Would this activity have excluded the large Jewish com- munity in Palestine? Did Christian- ity develop only in the gentile and hellenized world outside Palestine? It should be noted here that the Jewish community relocated in Galilee after the revolt. Would Christians have ignored this area- the place of Jesus' childhood and ministry? Later generations certain- ly did not. Galilee is the site of nu- merous Christian loca sancta (holy places) constructed in the post- Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 69 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspS nderstanding Jewish-Christianity Sin the first four centuries of the common era requires that attention be given to sectarian names. Jewish- Christianity is a modem designation given to a range of groups that shared two characteristics: observance of pre- cepts of Tbrah (such as calendar, circum- cision, and diet), and a belief in Jesus as Messiah (Christ). By the end of the fourth century, Judaism and Christian- ity had largely cut ties with each other, and by that time both sides had con- demned Jewish-Christianity under a variety of names. In order to place these sectarian names in context, one must consider the time, language, and reli- gious perspective of the writers who used the names. Most of the Jewish-Christian sec- tarian names evolved and changed sig- nificance during these four centuries. Even the Greek and Hebrew terms for heresy themselves had different mean- ings in the first and fourth centuries. For instance, the Greek hairesis in the works of the first-century Jewish writer Josephus means "a group, philosophy, or school of thought" this is how he de- scribes Pharisees, Sadducces, and Es- senes. A century later, the church writer Irenaeus condemns various groups (in- cluding Jewish-Christian Ebionites) as heresies in the more familiar sense of disapproved groups. The Hebrew term for heretics, minim (rmin, singular; minut, heresy) also evolved. In Biblical Hebrew, min means merely "a kind or type" (such as, of grain or fruit). In later, Mishnaic Hebrew, rmin took on the additional, negative connotation of a disapproved kind of Jewish belief. For example, ac- cording to the Jerusalem Talmud (San- hedrin 29c), "Rabbi Yobanan said, 'Israel did not go into exile until they had been made twenty-four sects of minim.'" The Ebionites, whom Irenaeus was the first to condemn, also took their name from what had been a generic term in Biblical Hebrew: 'evionim, which in Psalms often means simply "the poor." By the time of the Qumran commentary (pesher) on Psalm 37 (4QpPs 37), the word had become also a semitechnical term: cedat ha-'evionim, "congregation of the poor." Paul refers to the Mosaic-law-observant Christians in Jerusalem led by James as "the poor" (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:26). Evi- dently some Jewish-Christians kept this designation, which became listed as a Christian heresy. Tertullian and Hip- polytus suggested Ebionites were founded by a person named Ebion, but this suggestion has more to do with their desire to find a culprit than with the actual evolution of the name. Other heresy names that evolved from a generic to a specific sense have also been misunderstood. For instance, Epiphanius describes the Sampseans [number 53 of his 80 selected heresies) and guesses that their name means "sun devotees" (from Hebrew shemesh). Epiphanius, however, already told us that they pray toward Jerusalem, so they don't pray to the sun. Rather, in accord with his description (as F. Stanley Jones and others suggest), Epiphanius mistook for Hebrew what reads in Aramaic as shamash, "a servant or worshipper" (of God). The name of the earlier Thera- peutae in Egypt has the same meaning and likely arose from a similar self-designation. Perhaps the most striking case of name-evolution involving Jewish- Christians in these four centuries oc- curred to the terms usually rendered in English as Nazarene. Nazarene has been used to represent the two Greek forms (Naz6raioi, Nazarinol) that appear in the New estament and later writings, as well as a number of Semitic-language cognates. In the New Testament, Nazarene most often simply means "of Nazareth. In Matthew 2:23, however, Jesus is called Nazbraios in fulfillment of prophecies, which evidently intended to convey a distinction additional to the town name. (For a good survey of pro- posed explanations of this verse, see Brown 1977.) In Acts 24:5 Paul is accused as a leader of the heresy of the Nazbraioi. Though of course Paul defends his teaching, he does not disown the group name. Acts also introduces the name Christian (Christianoi) and perhaps places it, anachronistically, early: The name appears only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26 and 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). Eventually, the increasingly gentile church preferred the Greco-Latin name Christianoi to the more Semitic form represented by Nazbraioi. Jews, how- ever, continued to call the "Christians" nogrim, the Hebrew counterpart of Nazbraioi. Also, the Semitic-speaking Jewish-Christians kept various forms of the name Nazarene. In addition, Chris- tians of Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic languages retained cognate forms of Nazarene as self-designations. In the fourth century we have the interesting case of Epiphanius (and then Jerome) condemning the Nazaraioi, meaning (to him) "Jewish-Christians" (Panarion 29). By then some Christians had disowned their own earlier name. From manuscripts found in the Cairo Genizah, we know that some synagogues added to their curse against heretics (the birkat ha-minim) the term nogrim. Also, Epiphanius reports on this practice of condemning Nazbraioi (Panarion 29.9.2). Some listeners to this curse assumed the condemnation covered all Christians, while others assumed it referred only to Jewish- Christians. (See Jerome, Epistle 112, 13 to Augustine.) One final example of the method of comparing use of sectarian names by writers of differing perspective is pro- vided by juxtaposing a discussion in Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 116) with patristic literature. The Talmud discus- sion appears in the context of books of the minim, among which the rabbis mention Gospels. (They even quote Matthew 5:17:"I came not to destroy the law .... ") The question arises whether to save various heretical books in the case of a fire. The consensus view emerges among these rabbis that one might save books from the House of the Ebionites (the text slightly alters the spelling to disguise the reference), but one certainly would not save them from the House of the nogrim (or Nazarenes, again slightly misspelled). This provides the mirror image of patristic literature, which had for centuries elaborated com- plaints against Ebionites as being too Jewish but only at a late date also con- demned the Nazarenes. The rabbis see Ebionites as barely tolerable, but Naza- renes they explicitly condemn; the 70 Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspchurch writers display the opposite attitude. There is no entirely adequate treat- ment of this subject, but for further in- formation and differing opinions on the rather more complex nuances of these names, see: Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), pages 207-13; F. Stan- ley Jones, a review of Revelation of Elcha- sai (Tiubingen: Mohr, 1985) in Jahrbuch fir Antike und Christentum 30 (1987): 200-09; Reuven Kimelman, "Birkat Ha- Minim and the Lack of Evidence for an Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity," Jewish and Christian Self- Definition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), volume 2, edited by E. P. Sanders, pages 226-44 and 391-403; A. F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidencefor Jewish- Christian Sects (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973); Ray Pritz, "The Jewish Christian Sect of the Nazarenes and the Mishna," Pro- ceedings of the Eighth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, August 16-21, 1981 (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1982), Division A, The Period of the Bible, pages 125-30; Lawrence Schiffman, Who Was a Jew?: Rabbinic and Halakhic Perspectives on the Jewish Christian Schism (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1985). Stephen Goranson Constantinian era (the fourth cen- tury C.E.) when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire: the Church of Annunciation at Naza- reth, the Church of Transfiguration at Mount Tabor, the Church of St. Peter at Capernaum, the Church of the Multiplication of the Fishes and Loaves at Tabgha, and the Church of the Sermon on the Mount on the Mount of Beatitudes-to name only a few. I think it probable that some Christians remained with their fel- low Jews to resettle the Galilee and surrounding areas after the revolt. There is some, albeit controver- sial, archaeological data to support this view. Father Bagatti (1971), the Franciscan scholar, and some of his followers believe that Christian re- mains from this so-called dark age in Palestine may be found in graffiti, amulets, lamps, flasks, mosaics, and inscriptions; he sites such villages and towns as Nazareth, Capernaum, Sepphoris, Cana, Cochaba, Tiberias, Gush Halav, and Caparasima as cen- ters of Jewish-Christianity' in this period. These sites, together with over two hundred known churches from a slightly later period, make it difficult to imagine that there was a This Greek inscription from a Roman period synagogue at Sepphoris is frequently identified as Jewish-Christian because of the Chi-Rho monogram at the right end of the bottom line. tremendous new immigration to Pal- estine by Christians in the third through fifth centuries (something like that in the nineteenth and twen- tieth centuries for Zionist settlers). Rather, we may infer that there was a substantial community of the fol- lowers of Jesus in Palestine from the first century. It was that community that was strengthened and enlarged when the new pilgrims of the age of Constantine came to Palestine to build their new churches and shrines. The archaeology of this period, if somewhat controversial, is sup- ported and amplified by literary sources that take the existence of several forms of Jewish-Christianity more or less for granted (see Saun- ders 1977). Hegesippus, a second- century Christian, mentions Chris- tians belonging to a Jewish sect (see, for example, Deferrari 1953: 253-56). Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in the sec- ond century and the first Church Father to systematize doctrine, speaks of the Ebionites who read only the Gospel of Matthew, reject Paul, and follow the Torah and Jewish way of life (see Roberts and Donald- son 1981). These Jewish-Christian groups, referred to by Epiphanius (see Williams 1987) as Nazarenes or Elkasaites, professed the following beliefs: They proclaimed Jesus as prophet-Messiah; insisted upon the validity of the Torah and laws of ritual purity; spoke of three resur- rections; professed a millennarian eschatology; looked forward to the restoration of the Temple; observed the feast of Sukkoth (Tabernacles), celebrated Easter at Passover, and observed the Sabbath; affirmed the Although there is no definite trace of the followers of Jesus in the Holy Land from about 70 until 270 C.E., literary sources suggest the presence of several forms of Jewish-Christianity. Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 71 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspBecause there is no definite trace of a Christian community in the Holy Land from about 70 until 270 C.E., scholars have posited that the followers of Jesus left Palestine during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66-70 c.E. Evidence has been found, however, at Capernaum that suggests the presence there of early Christians during this period. Excavators have identified a house (reconstruction drawing, near right), dating to the first century C.E., that they believe belonged to St. Peter (see Mark 1:29). Sometime near the end of that century the walls and floors of the main room of this house were plastered three times. This may mean that, instead of its being remodeled, it was converted to a public building, since stone pavements are the rule for houses at Capernaum. In addition, the pottery found in the room that dates to after the first century tends to be storage jars and other "public wares." Finally graffiti of a Christian character and dating to the second and third centuries have been found on its plastered walls. It is therefore possible that a Christian com- munity had converted this room into a domus-ecclesia (a House Church). It is likely that a substantial number of early Christians remained in the Holy Land between 70 and 270. This community was then strengthened and enlarged as the pilgrims of the age of Constantine (who ruled 306-337) came to build their churches and shrines. At Capernaum in the fourth century, the main room of the "House of St. Peter" was enlarged, provided with an arch across its middle to hold up a heavier roof, plastered, and painted in designs; a large enclosure wall surrounded the whole (reconstruction drawing, opposite page, above). This was likely the church seen by Egeria. In the fifth century, after this church had been destroyed, a new one was built in its place (reconstruction drawing opposite page, below). Its octagonal shape, which is clear in the photograph of its remains below, is characteristic of Byzantine churches erected over places holy in Christian memory. 72 Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspThe community of early Christians in Palestine was strengthened and enlarged as the pilgrims of the Constantinian age came to build churches and shrines. primacy of James, brother of Jesus, over Peter in the leadership of the church; and preferred the designa- tion "Nazarene" over "Christian." The literature of the second century that might have been composed by the Nazarenes, the Hebrews, or the Ebionites, might include the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Proto-evangelium of James, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Acts of John, the letter of the Apostles, three forms of an Apocalypse of James, and many others. Undoubtedly these Jewish-Christians are to be equated with some of the "heretics" or minim of rabbinic sources. In short, both the archaeological and literary sources support some kind of Jewish-Christianity in Pales- tine in the first centuries of the com- mon era, and this view is strength- ened when one takes into account the archaeology of the late antique period (the third through fifth cen- turies). It is interesting to note that a similar case can be made for Chris- tianity in Italy, where I have ex- cavated in the catacombs of Venosa, ancient Venusium, and home of the Latin poet Horace. There, Jewish and Christian burials, as in Rome, reflect an interdependent and closely re- lated community of Jews and Chris- tians in which clear lines of de- Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 73 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspmarcation were blurred until the third and fourth centuries C.E. (see Meyers 1983). Early Rabbinic Judaism Just as archaeology has helped to illuminate early Christianity in its formative stages, so too has it in- formed our understanding of Juda- ism in the years after the destruc- tion of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E. when the Mishnah and Talmud were beginning to take shape. I offer two examples. The first will be pro- vided by my own work in regional archaeology; the second will derive from settlement-pattern research of sites on the Golan Heights con- ducted by Israeli archaeologists and survey teams. Drawing on my nearly twenty years of fieldwork in northern Israel, in the Upper and Lower Galilee, I think I can generalize a great deal about the condition of Judaism of the period as it is represented at various sites and in several regions. The village sites excavated by me and the Duke-ASOR team are Khir- bet Shemac (Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange 1976), Meiron (Meyers, Meyers, and Strange 1981a), Gush Halav (Meyers and Meyers, in press), and Nabratein (Meyers, Meyers, and Strange 1981b; Meyers 1982). The first two of these are situated along the eastern face of the Meiron massif, or mountain range; the second two are oriented more to the Rift Valley, especially Nabratein, which looks toward Tel Hazor, some 4 kilometers to the east and some 600 meters higher. The large corpus of material unearthed and published from these sites has provided the opportunity to establish the following: a common ceramic family indigenous to the north and common also in the Golan; a dominant economic orientation to Tyre for sites close to the Meiron mountain chain; a limited, aniconic posture-that is, with little or no representational art-for sites away from the Rift Valley and clustered in the center of Upper Galilee; a varied In this period the Jewish population, dispersed all through Galilee but limited to two small sub- regions in the Golan, increased massively. architectural plan for towns and synagogues that ehables us to specu- late about their religious preferences beyond sensibility to the Second Commandment; a distinct settle- ment pattern that links Jewish towns and villages in clusters here and there; a dominant linguistic pat- tern in which Aramaic and Hebrew are preferred to Greek, in contrast to a preference for Greek in other re- gions; and a life span for sites that is reasonably predictable when such elements as precise location and proneness to earthquakes are taken into consideration. Regional efforts in Palestinian archaeology were pioneered by the late Yohanan Aharoni in his work at Arad, Beer-sheba, and Mashosh in the Negeb. (Today, most new long- term projects are employing this approach in order to establish with a far greater degree of certainty the material culture of a region as well as the political and cultural history of the area and its relation to the rest of the country.) Had our project stopped at the end of eight years our conclusions would have been quite different. Indeed, the decision to select one additional village site, Nabratein, further eastward but still in the Galilean highlands, was made T he archaeological discoveries of the past few decades have had little ef- fect on the disciplines of Jewish history and New Testament scholarship. Why? For Jewish scholarship there are several reasons. First, the dominant scholarly tradition in Western Jewish circles is associated with the study of sacred texts, not monuments. Whether it is the Bible, the Mishnah, or Tal- mud-the principle repositories of Jew- ish law to survive antiquity-Jewish history is defined from those sacred traditions. The Second Commandment, which is often interpreted as banning representational art, is also to be placed in this context, for the study of Jewish art or architecture is only a modern phenomenon. Second, archaeology-in Jewish cir- cles, at least-is dominated by Israelis. There are only a few American Jewish archaeologists to this very day, notwith- standing the fact that there was a giant such as Nelson Glueck to inspire an American discipline. In this regard the American Jewish community, by sur- rendering archaeological scholarship to Israel and Israelis, is abdicating a fun- damental building block of future gen- erations of scholars. Third, in Jewish scholarship there has been a modest recognition of the discipline of archaeology as it relates to the period of the Hebrew Bible (or, from the Christian point of view, the Old Tes- tament period) but not as it relates to the beginning of the common era (which witnessed, in connection with the crea- tion of the Mishnah and Talmud, the development of rabbinic Judaism). This last point bears some digres- sion because it pertains also to the state of New Testament archaeology. Old Testament archaeology has been more or less coterminous with the discipline of biblical archaeology through the years. Many of the nineteenth-century explorers of the Holy Land were Old Testament scholars, and these individ- uals helped launch the modern archae- ological study of the region. The New Testament world, the more familiar Greco-Roman component of Near East- ern civilization, was given a back seat to the Old Testament world or it was rele- 74 Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspgated to a subdiscipline of Classical studies. This trend may be observed in the publications of the British Palestine Exploration Fund, established in Lon- don in 1865. In Jewish circles such a reality was not altered until the found- ing of the Palestine Exploration Society in 1914, predecessor of the post-1948 Israel Exploration Society. Since the in- ception of the PES and until the present, Israel is virtually the only place in the world where the full and complete range of archaeological periods may be studied in detail-from prehistory, to the rab- binic period, down to the modern era- and where fieldwork in all these periods may be carried out. And yet even in Israel the impact of "classical" archaeology on the study of rabbinic Judaism has been less than might be expected because archaeology in Israel is pursued as a separate disci- pline from Bible or history and is usually located within an institute or a depart- ment of archaeology. This has been un- fortunate because it has allowed the archaeologist to become overspecialized and the historian to remain isolated from the archaeologist. In America, ar- chaeology is pursued as part of Near Eastern or oriental studies, religious studies, anthropology, or Classical stud- ies or in the context of divinity school or seminary. Only in one or two places in North America (for instance, Boston University) is it possible to study ar- chaeology as an independent discipline. Why have Christians, as well, main- ly pursued Old Testament archaeology and ignored New Testament archae- ology? For one thing, it was the Protes- tant Old Testament scholars such as Edward Robinson who led the historical surveys of the nineteenth century and who sought to locate biblical, largely Old Testament, place-names through surface exploration and later by sound- ings. Perhaps it says something about the state of Old Testament scholarship in the nineteenth century, which was heavily influenced by the "Scientific Study of Judaism" (Wissenschaft des Judenthums) movement but which had little or no impact on New Testament studies. Perhaps Christian scholars were influenced by the emergence of the Zionist movement in the 1880s, on the heels of both a European and American rediscovery of the Holy Land, to identify the archaeological quest more with the overtly Semitic component of Christian tradition-that is, the Old Testament- than with the more Western, non- Semitic, Christianity in Europe. But we must also remember that the time frame of the New Testament experience in the Holy Land embraces only about two generations, from some central moment in the life of Jesus, probably in the late 20s of the common era, until the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66-70 C.E.). This very brief time span means that the realia of their everyday life is indistinguishable from anything that was purely Jewish or Jewish-Christian, for the early community of the followers of Jesus was to all intents and purposes the same, except in theology and belief, as the Jewish community. Moreover, most Christian New Tes- tament scholars have presupposed that with the First Revolt the new Jewish- Christian community fled the Holy Land-eastwards to Transjordan, north- wards to the Aegean lands and Asia Minor, and westwards to Italy. To be sure, significant migration occurred, but it is my contention, and one which I share with a growing number of scholars, es- pecially with many Franciscan scholars working and writing in Israel today, that the idea of such a wholesale emigration cannot be defended in light of the ar- chaeological evidence of the first two or three centuries. In addition, with regard to why New Testament scholarship has been slow to take archaeology seriously, there is the feeling in New Testament scholarly cir- cles that archaeology can do only lim- ited things for its practitioners, espe- cially in ancient Palestine where the time frame is so constricted. The geo- graphic and physical setting of the early church is secondary to the more domi- nant concern of belief. Indeed, my es- teemed colleague W. D. Davies (1974) has attempted to show that the terres- trial dimension of early Christianity is practically nonexistent and that in this particular respect Christianity repre- sents a radical break with Judaism. A graduate student of mine, however, has recently demonstrated that this is not necessarily so, especially in the Gospel of Luke where a terrestrial, locative dimension is dominant and temple imagery central (see Chance 1984). Such an attitude that denies the ter- restrial imperative of early Christianity is perhaps the main reason, in my opin- ion, why so many New Testament schol- ars do not feel impelled to take a more serious interest in the Roman archae- ology of ancient Palestine. This atti- tude, however, is in striking contrast with proponents of the so-called new wave of New Testament scholarship, "the Social World of Early Christianity." But even these spokesmen for an impor- tant new subdiscipline (for instance, Wayne Meeks, Robert Wilken, and Gerd Thiessen) still find it difficult to get hold of the Palestinian component of early Christianity for reasons I have sug- gested. I'm certain that as the discipline matures someone will begin to examine the local Palestinian or eastern matrix of the Church with genuine interest and enthusiasm. A problem of equal concern to me, though, is that many New Testament scholars have given up the quest to con- front the Jewish world of nascent Chris- tianity, whether in its Palestinian, Syro- Palestinian, or European Jewish setting. At least the Palestinian social setting can be reconstructed from the vast liter- ature of the rabbis, which exists in both canonical and noncanonical form. For Western Christianity, however, and for Christianity in Asia Minor, it is the ar- chaeology of Judaism and Christianity that is so crucial for understanding their independence as separate faith com- munities-as well as for understanding their interdependence in the early cen- turies of the common era. It might be the catacombs of Rome or the inscrip- tions of Asia Minor, but all of this data must ultimately be filtered into the process of historical reconstruction so that a reliable picture of these historic religions may be derived. Eric M. Meyers Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 75 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspwith a view towards checking our working hypotheses. The discovery at Nabratein of a new city-coin pro- file suggested extensive eastern ties, refining greatly my view of trade networks. Also, far more figural art in sculpture than had ever been found in the region before was re- covered, which indicated a much more liberal interpretation of the Second Commandment than I had previous- ly understood? Subsequent to the excavation of these village sites I chose to bring our Duke excavation team to a large urban center in Lower Galilee: Sep- phoris, just a few kilometers from Nazareth. We have been excavating there for four years (see Meyers, Netzer, and Meyers 1986, 1987), and one of our purposes has been to com- pare the vocabulary of material cul- ture-ceramics, houses, agriculture, technology, and so on-of town and city. Sepphoris was the administra- tive capital of Galilee in the first century under Herod Antipas, and its great theater, several pagan temples, and triclinium with its colorful Dionysos mosaics reflect its Hellenistic and cosmopolitan am- bience. It is perhaps surprising to some that Sepphoris is where the Mishnah was published around 220 C.E. and where Jewish-Christianity and post-Constantinian Christianity flourished alongside rabbinic Ju- daism and Roman paganism. This comparison of city to town is sure to assist us in better understanding how Judaism flourished in a variety of different settings in late antiquity. The material culture of the Golan Heights-a region referred to by the Jewish historian Josephus as Gaulinitis-ties into that of Upper Galilee. Recent studies of the Golan (see Urman 1985 and MaCoz 1988) show how settlement patterns early in the common era reflect religious realities of the day. Much of the in- formation thus far available comes from the Survey of Israel, which is the archaeological office of the Department of Antiquities. For present purposes, let us, like Josephus and rabbinic sources, use the designation of upper and lower Golan. Building on known material data from the Galilee, one can first say that both areas, Galilee and Go- lan, experienced massive increases in population from the period begin- ning in 70-135 C.E. until the mid- fourth century, a time of profound change. Whereas in Galilee the Jewish population was pretty much dispersed in "all Galilee," to steal a phrase from the New Testament, in Golan it was restricted to two small subregions of lower Golan that were separated from rather extensive pagan and Christian settlements (see Dauphin and Schonfield 1983; MaCoz 1985). The total number of settlements revealed in the Israeli survey is 134: Five of these are larger than 120 dunams (1 dunam is equal to 1,000 square meters, or about 0.25 acre) and may be considered to be the size of cities; they are Banias (Caesarea Philippi), Gamla, Hippos- Sussita, Hammath-Gader, and Tell el-Juchadar. Fourteen, between 20 and 120 dunams, may be considered provincial towns; examples of these are Dabbura, Qasrin, and Khisfin. Twenty-eight, between 20 and 40 dunams, may be considered large villages with an economy that was mainly agricultural; an example of this is Umm el-Kanatir. Eighty- seven, at less than 20 dunams, may be considered hamlets or agricul- tural settlements, though many sites in this size range have architectural fragments from sizable "public" structures such as churches or syna- gogues; the beautiful monastery of Kursi (Gergasa), site of the New Tes- tament miracle of the pigs, is in this size range. Fifty-one other sites exist whose dimensions cannot be accurate- ly estimated. Thus, the enormous increase in the Jewish population in the Golan between 135 and the mid- fourth century C.E. was mainly clus- tered in the central and southern lower Golan. It is not yet clear why these three religious communities (in Galilee, central lower Golan, and southern lower Golan) separated out in the way that they did, but several forthcoming studies on the subject will certainly shed some new light on the matter. Religious Pluralism in Palestine Whether one looks at the evidence for early Christianity or at that for rabbinic Judaism in Palestine during the first centuries of the common era, it is clear that it was a period of religious pluralism. We see it in Upper Galilee and the Golan; we see it at Sepphoris, a capital city of Lower Galilee, which in addition to Christians and Jews shows a strong pagan presence; and we see it at the great site of Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Beneath the octagonal Byzantine Church of St. Peter at Capernaum lies a house-church of Jewish-Christians that dates back to the first century. Alongside this series of Christian structures exists a parallel series of Jewish edifices, the most famous of which is the familiar reconstructed synagogue building. Heretofore thought to be early (first, second, or third century C.E.), it is now universally regarded as late (fourth to fifth century) and as having survived for centuries into the early medieval period. Just re- cently the excavators have claimed to have found still another synagogue, purportedly from the first century, beneath the great structure of the fourth-fifth century. If this is true, then we would have a Jewish syna- gogue and a Jewish-Christian house- church on opposite sides of the street, so to speak, dating from the days of Jesus' ministry in the Lake region. Following the strata and the structures, both the Jewish and (Jewish-) Christian communities apparently continued to live in har- mony until the seventh century C.E. A myriad of hypotheses has been proposed to explain this succession of buildings and the presumed events related to their construction. A re- 76 Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJust a few meters from the remains of the Byzantine octagonal church at Capernaum are those of a large contemporary synagogue (shown below as it appears today and above in the famous, although not completely accurate, reconstruction drawn by Carl Watzinger in 1905). These parallel structures are evidence of the religious pluralism that existed at that time in Palestine (and which lasted until the seventh century at Capernaum). The excavators have recently claimed that beneath this structure they have found evidence of a first-century synagogue. If true, then the earlier structure and the series of Christian structures beneath the nearby church indicate that this pluralism extended all the way back to the days of Jesus' ministry in the Lake region. cent paper (in Hebrew) by Zvi MaCoz even proposed that the great syna- gogue was in fact built by the Chris- tians of Capernaum as a pilgrim shrine to commemorate the place of Jesus' preaching. Israel's archaeolo- gists are loath to accept the late chronology of the synagogue because it casts doubt on virtually all pre- vious theories about synagogue de- velopment and typology. Moreover, the evidence for a continuous Jewish- Christian or Christian presence for seven centuries calls into serious question the whole notion of the earliest Christians leaving Palestine after 70 C.E. Notions of tolerance and religious pluralism once absent from discussions of Roman Palestine are now in the forefront of consideration due to this series of discoveries. While the Capernaum evidence is unique for the earliest centuries of the common era, parallel evidence exists in abundance for the end of the Roman period and Byzantine period in the Beth-shean Valley (where Scythopolis has evidence of paganism, Judaism, and Christian- ity) and in the Golan Heights as well. (The evidence for Nazareth is quite different-there a Jewish syna- gogue is replaced by a grotto shrine and then a church, though it is not impossible that the absence of data comparable to Capernaum is due to chance only.) Although we can only speculate about the nature of relations among the three great religions of the day, our looking at the situation from an archaeological perspective presents an entirely positive view. In such a case, the villages on the periphery of a great city such as Scythopolis, a city of the Roman Decapolis and an administrative center in Palestina Secunda, can even be thought to re- late to the central polis in ways that are not entirely dissimilar to north- ern Galilee or Golan. The result of the interrelationship between satel- lite Jewish community and Hellenis- tic city, however, is far different here in the valley than in the highlands. Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 77 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspT Qnk ' , . .. This Greek inscription, which was found in the earliest of several churches below the modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and which reads "on (the) holy place (of) M(ary) I have written there," has been offered in support of the contention that early Christians in Palestine (termed Jewish-Christians) built a synagogue church during the period when many scholars think there were very few or no followers of Jesus in Palestine. The inscription was scrawled into a column that, along with other architectural fragments, was used as fill for the foundation of a Byzantine church built during the late fourth or early fifth century c.E. This red-and-black drawing of a small Roman sailing vessel and its accompanying inscription constitute some of the earliest evidence of pre-Constantinian pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Discovered in 1971 after excavators broke through a wall and into an under- ground space at the eastern end of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the inscription ("DOMINE IVIMUS," which means "Lord, we went") could be a reference to the pilgrim in Psalm 122, beginning "Let us go to the house of the Lord."Although archaeologists are aware of earlier pilgrimages, this artifact is important because of its connection with the putative tomb of Jesus. The level of Greek is much higher. The use of colorful mosaics and Greek-pagan symbols in sacred decorations is abundant. Trade and contacts between dissimilar com- munities are standard. And yet, judging from the great mosaic in- scription at nearby Rehov, the loyalty of Jews in this region to strict legal or halachic norms is not to be questioned. As a result of these researches I am convinced that the end of the Roman period comes to Palestine either as a result of the so-called Gallus Revolt in 352 or of the great earthquake in 363 (see Russell 1985). There was a stunning break between the Roman and Byzantine periods, not only from the point of material culture but from a political point of view as well. Gallus was the Caesar in the East for Emperor Constantius from 351 until 354. Unrest and pos- sibly abuses of the local population by Ursinus, the Roman army com- mander charged with putting down the unrest, ultimately led to a series of purported clashes that encom- passed Sepphoris and environs in Lower Galilee and spread to the north in Upper Galilee and lower Golan. It seems to have been a local rebellion in which the rabbinic leadership did not participate, leav- ing few traces in the rabbinic litera- ture (see Nathanson 1986; but see also Schafer 1986). To what extent does the Gallus Revolt or the 363 earthquake point to an end to the tendencies toward pluralism that we have noted? In many ways, the revolt and the after- math of the earthquake signal a de- terioration of the place of the Jew in a largely pagan Palestine that was undergoing thorough and vigorous Christianization after Constantine. New wealth poured into the land, but much was directed to church building. One immediate Jewish re- sponse to the events of the mid- fourth century was the standardiza- tion of the calendar by patriarch Hillel II (358/9) and the publication of an incomplete and unfinished Talmud of the Land of Israel around 400 C.E. Also, it would appear that there was yet another wave of Jewish emigration northwards from the Lower Galilee and Rift areas to the less urbanized areas of Upper Galilee and Golan. This may have been an effort by the Jews to establish a new Jewish Holy Land-Eretz Israel- within, but separate from, Christian Terra Sancta. The possible Gallus uprising, perhaps the last armed up- rising in Palestine until the present 78 Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspcentury, and the earthquake of 363 may thus mark the beginning of the period and a process by which the Jewish people began the difficult process of acculturation with Chris- tian rule. A series of other disasters - a downturn in the economy, famine, and plague - also contributed to fur- ther Jewish dispersion and to a grad- ual erosion of their dominant posi- tion of settlement in key areas of Palestine in the second half of the fourth century. Still, archaeological evidence reminds us to use caution. Pockets of Judaism and Christianity remain in close contact at various places in the Byzantine period, and there is little doubt that the experience of pluralism provided an important counterbalance to the new winds of restrictive legislation that were blowing. Conclusion The political and spiritual currents in Roman Palestine were many and diverse. But these currents, which archaeology has helped discern, af- ford our generation the opportunity of new explorations and reevalua- tions of old concerns. The centrality of C.E. 70-the destruction of Jeru- salem and its marvelous Temple by the Romans -looms less central as a result. For Palestine and Syria, the divisions of the post-70 era into the gentile church and the Pauline mis- sion seem less significant. One can truly speak therefore of continuity and congruence in Judaism and Christianity in Roman Palestine at least until 363 C.E., and it is archae- ology, the handmaiden of the his- torian, which has provided the es- sential tool for these observations. Notes Parts of this article were presented in a different form as the Fourth Annual Kathryn Fraser Mackay Lecture in Phi- losophy and Religion at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, on October 6, 1987. 1The term Jewish-Christianity first referred to believers in the messiahship of Jesus from among the native Pales- tinian Jewish population early in the common era. It has come to apply to all those of Jewish birth who adopted the new faith. 2This is also born out by the excava- tions at nearby Meroth (Ilan and Damati, in press). Bibliography Bagatti, B. 1971 The Church from The Circumcision: History and Archaeology of the Judaeo-Christians, translated by E. Hoade. Series: Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Collectio Minor 2. Jerusalem: Fran- ciscan Printing Press. Chance, J. B. 1984 Jerusalem and the Temple in Lucan Eschatology. Ph.D. dissertation. Durham, NC: Duke University. Dauphin, C.M., and Schonfield, J. 1983 Settlements of the Roman and Byzantine Periods on the Golan Heights. Preliminary Reports on Three Seasons of Survey (1979- 1981). Israel Exploration Journal 33: 189-206. Davies, W. D. 1974 The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine. Berkeley: University of California Press. Deferrari, R. J., translator 1953 Eusebius Pamphili. Ecclesiastical History (Books 1-5). Series: The Fathers of the Church 19. New York: Fathers of the Church. Ilan, Z., and Damati, E. in Ancient Meroth: The Synagogue press and the Beth Midrash. Biblical Archaeologist. Macoz, Z. 1985 Comments on Jewish and Christian Communities in Byzantine Palestine. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 117: 59-68. 1988 Ancient Synagogues of the Golan. Biblical Archaeologist 51. Meyers, E. M. 1982 Second Preliminary Report on the Excavations at En-Nabratein. Bul- letin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 246: 35-54. 1983 Report on the Excavations at the Venosa Catacombs 1981. Vetera Christianorum 20: 455-59. Meyers, E. M., and Meyers, C. L. in Excavations at the Ancient Syna- press gogue of Gush Halav. Series: Meiron Excavation Project Series 5. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Meyers, E. M., and Strange, J. F. 1981 Archaeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christianity; The Social and Histor- ical Setting of Palestinian Judaism and Christianity. Nashville, TN: Abingdon. Meyers, E. M., Kraabel, A. T., and Strange, J. F. 1976 Synagogue Excavations at Khirbet Shemac 1970-72. Series: Annuals of the American Schools of Oriental Research 42. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Meyers, E. M., Meyers, C. L., and Strange, J. F. 1981a Excavation at Ancient Meiron, Up- per Galilee, Israel 1971-72. Series: Meiron Excavation Project Series 3: Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research. 1981b Preliminary Report on the 1980 Ex- cavations at En-Nabratein, Israel. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 244: 1-25. Meyers, E. M., Netzer, E., and Meyers, C. L. 1986 Sepphoris-"Ornament of All Gali- lee." Biblical Archaeologist 49: 4-19. 1987 Artistry in Stone: The Mosaics of Ancient Sepphoris. Biblical Archae- ologist 50: 223-31. Nathanson, B. G. 1986 Jews, Christians, and the Gallus Revolt in Fourth-Century Palestine. Biblical Archaeologist 49: 26-36. Roberts, A., and Donaldson, J., translators 1981 Against Heresies. Pp. 307-567 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Transla- tions of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, edited by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. (American reprint of the Edinburgh edition) Russell, K. R. 1985 The Earthquake Chronology of Pal- estine and Northwest Arabia from the 2nd through the Mid-8th Cen- tury A.D. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 260: 37-59. Saunders, E. W 1977 Christian Synagogues and Jewish- Christianity in Galilee. explor 3: 70-77. Schafer, P. 1986 Der Aufstand Gegen Gallus Caesar. Pp. 184-201 in Tradition and Re- interpretation in Jewish and Chris- tian Literature: Essays in Honor of Jurgen C. H. Lebram, edited by J. W Wan Henten and others. Series: Studia Post-Biblica 36. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Urman, D. 1985 The Golan, A Profile of a Region During the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Series: BAR International Series 269. Oxford: BAR. Williams, FE, translator 1987 Panarion. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Biblical Archaeologist, June 1988 79 This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Jul 2014 06:53:59 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspArticle Contentsp. 69p. 70p. 71p. 72p. 73p. 74p. 75p. 76p. 77p. 78p. 79Issue Table of ContentsThe Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 65-128Front Matter [pp. 65-98]In Memoriam: Joseph A. Callaway [p. 67]Early Judaism and Christianity in the Light of Archaeology [pp. 69-79]Jews and Christians in Late Roman Palestine: Towards a New Chronology [pp. 80-96]Hairstyles, Head-Coverings, and St. Paul: Portraits from Roman Corinth [pp. 99-115]Ancient Synagogues of the Golan [pp. 116-128]Back Matter


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