This Holy Place: On the Sanctity of the Synagogue During the Greco-Roman Period

Overview

Marshaling a wide variety of literary and archaeological sources dating to the Greco-Roman period, Steven Fine demonstrates how the synagogue came to be seen as sacred, rather than simply as houses of study. Fine argues that the biblical scrolls read, studied, and stored within its walls were the most important source of synagogue sanctity in the minds of the ancients, for the Scriptures offered the physical manifestation of the Divine within local congregations.

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Overview

Marshaling a wide variety of literary and archaeological sources dating to the Greco-Roman period, Steven Fine demonstrates how the synagogue came to be seen as sacred, rather than simply as houses of study. Fine argues that the biblical scrolls read, studied, and stored within its walls were the most important source of synagogue sanctity in the minds of the ancients, for the Scriptures offered the physical manifestation of the Divine within local congregations.

In This Holy Place, Fine describes in fascinating detail the long and creative process by which holiness became ascribed to synagogues. He reaches back to the earliest history of the synagogue, over two thousand years ago, to explore the ideological development of the synagogue as well as important trends in the history of Judaism during the Greco-Roman period.

Transcending the specific genres of literature as well as geographic boundaries within the Roman and Persian empires, the author investigates numerous literary sources and dedicatory inscriptions in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin from the Land of Israel and the Diaspora. Fine brings together art and architecture from throughout the Mediterranean world with authors like Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, John Chrysostom and Yannai the synagogue poet as he traces the religious history of the ancient synagogue. Insights drawn from Rabbinic literature, Patristic literature, and Roman law read together with archaeological discoveries, support his further conclusion that during late antiquity there existed a single but multi-faceted Judaism rather than the separate Judaisms some have posited.

Those who pursue the history, religion, art, and archaeology of the Greco-Roman period will find This Holy Place an excellent resource for their own fields of study, as well as for its interdisciplinary approach.

Steven Fine is Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature and History and Director of the Project in the History of Jewish-Christian Relations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
There have been a plethora of studies on the ancient synagogue based on the new archaeological and literary sources that are coming to light, but this volume by Fine (Rabbinic studies, Baltimore Hebrew Univ.) is the most exhaustive study yet. The result of seven years of research, this revision of a doctoral dissertation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is a massive compendium of sources and scholarship. Both literary sources and archaeological remains dating back to the Greco-Roman period call the synagogue a holy place; Fine studies how and why it attained that designation. The twin testimonies to the sanctification process are traced from the Second Temple Period in Tannaitic, Amoraic, and Post-Amoraic literature from the land of Israel, archaeological remains from late Palestinian antiquity, and the references to synagogues throughout the Diaspora in late antiquity. A substantial, scholarly book that is still accessible to those who have sufficient interest in the subject but lack the specialist's understanding of archaeology and Jewish literature.Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Booknews
Demonstrates how the synagogue came to be seen as sacred, arguing that biblical scrolls within the synagogue were the most important source of sanctity in the minds of the ancients. Explores the ideological development of the synagogue as well as trends in the history of Judaism during the Greco-Roman period, and concludes that during late antiquity there existed a single but multifaceted Judaism rather than the separate Judaisms some have posited. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
P. W. van der Horst
Fine provides a plethora of drawings and photographs, impressive bibliographical coverage, and a wealth of detail, which almost amount to a full history of the synagogue in the first millennium of its existence.
Biblical Archaeology Review
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 "Sacred Places That They Call Synagogues": The Roots of Synagogue Holiness during the Second Temple Period 25
Ch. 2 "They Are Sacred Even When Destroyed": The Holiness of Synagogues in Tannaitic Literature 35
Ch. 3 "The Sanctity of the Synagogue": The Holiness of Synagogues in Amoraic and Post-Amoraic Literature from the Land of Israel 61
Ch. 4 "May Peace Be unto All Those Who Gave Charity in This Holy Place": Archaeological Evidence for the Holiness of Late Antique Synagogues in the Land of Israel 95
Ch. 5 "You Believe the Place Is Holy Because the Torah and Prophets Are There. ...": Synagogue Holiness in the Diaspora during Late Antiquity 127
Conclusion 159
Notes 163
Bibliography 231
Photo Credits 269
Index of Ancient Literary Sources 271
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