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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About the Author
Steven Fine is the Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 "Sacred Places That They Call Synagogues" 25
The Roots of Synagogue Holiness during the Second Temple Period
Chapter 2 "They Are Sacred Even When Destroyed" 55
The Holiness of Synagogues in Tannaitic Literature
Chapter 3 "The Sanctity of the Synagogue" 61
The Holiness of Synagogues in Amomic and Post-Amoraic Literature from the Land of Israel
Chapter 4 "May Peace Be unto All Those Who Cave Charity in This Holy Place" 95
Archaeological Evidence for the Holmes of Late Antique Synagogues in the Lund of Israel
Chapter 5 "You Believe the Place Is Holy Because the Torah and Prophets Are There…" 127
Synagogue Holiness in the Diaspora during Late Antiquity
Photo Credits 279
Index of Ancient Literary Sources 281
What People are Saying About This
I read [This Holy Place] with the greatest profit and enjoyment. It is an important contribution to the entire nature of late antique civilization and not only to Jewish studies. - (Peter Brown, Department of History, Princeton University)