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22498RE: [XTalk] Kee on Synagogues

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  • Matson, Mark (Academic)
    Dec 3, 2007
      Mark A. Matson
      Academic Dean
      Milligan College

      > >
      > > Having reviewed both Ed Sanders' and van der Horst's articles in the
      > > Fine book, I think the evidence is pretty clear that there was some
      > > of regular meeting in places (houses or whatever) on the Sabbath.
      > > meetings were either called prosuekteria or, later, synagogue. But
      > > appears that early on these places were accorded a special
      > > significance-- inscriptions indicate that such existed (the
      > > inscription has been convincingly dated to pre-70). But the
      > > of god-fearers attached to synagogues, and to manumission documents,
      > > both suggest a place where some "holy" or special significance was
      > > connected to the assembly of local Jews.
      > But what manumission documents we have are from the Diaspora, yes, not
      > from
      > Galilee? And doesn't the Theodotus inscription indicate that there
      was no
      > particular building for "synagogue" gathering in the time of
      > father and
      > grandfather or that a building was needed for someone to have the role
      > "ruler
      > of the synagogue"?

      Yes, the manumission documents are from the diaspora - but it does show
      that something like the synagogue had attained "holy" status as a place.
      That we don't have them in Palestine may simply be an absence of
      documentary data, or that economic slaver was not as extensive within

      On the Theodotus inscription, here is what I have:

      Theodotus, son of Vettenus, priest and head of the synagogue, son of a
      head of the synagogue, grandson of a head of the synagogue, had this
      synagogue built for reading of the Law and instruction in the
      commandments, and also the guest lodgings and the rooms and the water
      systems for the accommodation of those who come from abroad and need
      [accommodation]. [This synagogue] was founded by his ancestors, the
      elders, and Simondes.

      My reading doesn't make it clear that this was only just now built for
      the first time, nor that it was built to provide someone a role as ruler
      of the synagogue. It could equally mean that Theodotus built a new
      building, but that it existed before. But even if it were not a totally
      dedicated building, it seems to suggest that there were "places" (even
      if homes) that served as a special gather place for prayer and

      Note also Josephus in Life: "The next day (a Sabbath) all the people
      assembled in the synagogue (proseuche), a very large building which
      could contain a large crowd." And in War (2:285-90), he refers to a
      synagogue in Caesarea, where they wanted to buy land and expand the
      synagogue. And then in a dispute it sacrilegious acts were done in the
      synagogue. This would suggest synagogue as formal place, and holy as

      So I think there is evidence of the synagogue as a place, not just in
      open town squares. The problem is that we don't have a lot of evidence.
      But little hard evidence that there weren't synaogues as places in

      > > We may not know that much what happened in these assemblies and
      > > places, but at least some regular instruction, reading of scripture,
      > > some prayer took place. And a focus took place on the Sabbath. To
      > > that is a kind of "worship" and it was centered at a place.
      > >
      > You might be interested in looking at Horsley's discussion (in his
      > book on
      > Galilee) of what pre-70 Galilean synagogues/meetings entailed and
      > they took
      > place (in the town square).
      > Jeffrey
      > --
      > Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
      > 1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
      > Chicago, Illinois
      > e-mail jgibson000@...
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