Tag Archives: Menorah

Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs)

The important city of Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament.

Epaphras, who is one of you . . . is working had for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
(Colossians 4:12-13; NIV)

Epaphras evidently founded the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis that are located in the Lycus Valley—possibly during the long stay of Paul at Ephesus.  For a variety of reasons we would expect some type of Jewish presence in these cities.

Although actual synagogues have not been found (Colossae had not been excavated) a variety of menoroth (menorahs; seven branch candlesticks) have been found engraved on tombs, a sarcophagus, and a column indicating a Jewish presence in the area.

TWCSHRNC12

Tomb 163d Dating to the First Century A.D.
Note the menorah (seven branch candelabra) located
to the left and above the green plant
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

TWCSHRNC10

The family tomb on which the menorah is engraved
The remains of 31 individuals were found in the tomb
Click on the Image to Enlarge/Download

To view Tomb 148b with its very faint menorah and lulav Click Here.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Marble lid of a Jewish sarcophagus with a menorah
and a faint Greek inscription
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

192_HierapolisMap031026

Laodicea — Menorah and Cross

Laodicea is the last of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14–22). In the letter there may be a number of allusions to the local setting of Laodicea: the lukewarm water, riches, gold, white garments, and eye salve! (see The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting by Colin J. Hemer; click here to view for purchase from amazon.com).

TWSCLD30

Menorah with Flames Flanked by a Lulav and Shofar — Above it a cross was inscribed — Click (actually two clicks) on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above column was discovered while “cleaning out the nymphaeum” at Laodicea (Wilson, p. 251; see below).  The search for the Late Roman/Byzantine Jewish presence in Asia Minor is ongoing.  The above column attests to a Jewish presence at Laodicea but its relationship to the Christians there is ambiguous.  To this untrained eye it looks like the cross was added to the menorah.  Did this mean that Christians and Jews were peacefully coexisting at Laodicea?  Or was this an indication of Jewish Christians there?  Or that Christianity had “superseded” Judaism?

(Addition.   In the scholarly article mentioned in Mark Wilson’s comment below, Steven Fine comments on this artifact in light of the anti-Jewish Council of Laodicea that was held soon after the death of Julian the Apostate in A.D. 363. After a long discussion Fine draws attention not only to the “Christianization” of pagan shrines but also of Jewish synagogues and he concludes, “my own instinct, however, is to suspect the worst and to suggest that the kind of social distancing given expression by the Council of Laodicea adversely affected the local [Laodicean] late-antique Jewish community, of which our column is the only archaeological evidence.)

To view additional Menoroth with a lulav see  Hierapolis Tomb 148B, the steps of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus, the plaque from the synagogue at Andriace (Turkey), a square post at Umm el-Qanatir (Israel, Golan Heights), and the mosaic synagogue floor at Sepphoris (Israel).  Menoroth with shofars are rather common.

LaodiceaMap4Laodicea is a very large mound located to the north of Denizli. It was founded by Seleucid kings during the third century B.C. By the New Testament era it was a very large and very important city. It had evidently replaced both nearby Hierapolis and Colossae as the most important city in the area.

It was located near good water sources although an aqueduct brought water to the city from the south. Most importantly it was located at a key road junction. The major road coming from the east (Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, India, China) came to Laodicea and from there one could continue west, 112 mi. [180 km.], to the port city of Ephesus, or head northwest towards Philadelphia from where roads headed either west to Smyrna, or continued northwest to Pergamum. From Laodicea, one could also travel southeast to Attalia, a port on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is probable that Epaphras was instrumental in establishing the church at Laodicea, and Paul writes that his letter to the church at Colossae (only 8 mi. [13 km.] distant) should be read by the believers at Laodicea (Col 2:1). Paul also wrote a letter to the church at Laodicea (Col 4:16). This letter has not been discovered, although many scholars speculate that the book called “Ephesians” was originally addressed to the church at Laodicea.

Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is the best up-to-date resource available on biblical sites in Turkey (amazon $35.35).

Magdala Stone Interpreted

Bible History Daily has published an important article by Jennifer Ristine, the longtime coordinator of the Visitors Center and the Magdalena Institute at Magdala, on the interpretation of the famous “Magdala Stone”—”The Magdala Stone: The Jerusalem Temple Embodied.”

INSGMG03

The Magdala Stone in place near the center of the First Century Synagogue. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In her article, Ristine cites the work of Dr. Rina Talgam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Motti Aviam, Professor of Archaeology at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee.

INSGMG04

A depiction of the Temple in Jerusalem? A seven-branched Menorah with the sacrificial altar below it (?),  flanked by two vessels—one for water, one for oil?

Click here for additional images of the Magdala Stone.  And for the interpretion of the symbols see especially Ristine’s accessible article!

Magdala is open daily to the public from 8:00 to 18:00. For more information, visit www.magdala.org.

Images in this post courtesy of Gordon Franz who maintains the web site Life and Land.

For my previous posts on Magdala see here, here, here and here.

One of the Best Preserved Ancient Synagogues in Israel

In the most recent issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review the process of the reconstruction of the synagogue at Umm el–Kanatir is described.  The following are some images of the site.  Additional images of this interesting synagogue can be viewed on my web site.

Entrance to synagogue at Umm el–Qanatir

Umm el–Q/Kanatir (The Mother of the Arch) is a site located on the upper reaches of the Wadi Samekh, 5 mi. [8.5 km.] east of the Sea of Galilee on the Continue reading

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

MagdalaPano

Click on Panorama to view descriptive details.

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

INSGMG03

The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala at the time of excavation
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

INSGMG04

The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

Jewish Presence in Asia Minor — Andriace Part 2

In a previous post I emphasized the importance of the synagogue that was found at Andriace (a port visited by Paul).  In the remains of the synagogue a number of marble plaques were found.  The excavator believes that the synagogue was located in the upper floor of the building and that the inscriptions/plaques fell from that floor to where they were found (commentary/data from the museum in Antalya).

TWTQAD20

One of the placques found in the Synagogue at Andriace
Note the Menora, the tripod on which it stands, the “lulav” and the “shophar”
Click on the image to Enlarge/Download

This is one of several inscriptions/plaques that were found in the synagogue.  It measures 2.9 x 1.4 ft. (87 x 44 cm.).  Note in the main panel the seven branch candelabrum (menorah) that is standing upon a tripod (two legs are visible)—these are typical symbols of Judaism during this period (compare the capital found at Capernaum in Israel).  On the lower right is a shofar (ram’s horn) and to the lower left an etrog and a lulav (symbols associated with the feast of Succoth [tabernacles]) are visible.  Some have suggested that the two “curls” just below where the seven branches join the xxx are Torah Scrolls. The excavators believe they have discovered a mate to this plaque (with a completion of this inscription, but only partially preserved in its upper portion; see Çevik et al. below).

TWTQAD21

Detail of the Inscription (in Greek!)
Note the Menorah to the left of the inscription
(its tripod, shofar [to the right], and the lulav [to its left]
For a translation, see below. Click on the image to Enlarge/Download

Note the second, smaller, menorah (seven branch candelabrum), on a tripod and a shofar (ram’s horn) and a lulav (associated with the feast of Succoth) in this upper portion of the larger plaque.  The excavators believe that a similar, partially preserved, plaque was placed next to this one, and on this mate, this inscription is completed.

The excavators suggest a translation of the combination of both plaques follows:

‘Offering of Makedonios, son of Roman[os], and his [Makedonios’] wife
Prokle and their parents Romanos and Theodote.
(May there be) pea[ce] onto all Israel! Amen! Shalom.’  [Çevik, p. 346]
[Bracket] = estimated missing text and underline portions are from the second plaque/panel (pictured in the article noted below, p. 363).

Nevzat Çevik, Özgü Çomezoglu, Hüseyin Sami Öztürk, and Inci Türkoglu, “A Unique Discovery in Lycia: The Ancient Synagogue at Andriake, Port of Myra.”  Adalya XIII (2010), 335–66.

All images were photographed in the Museum in Antalya
(within their photographic guidelines).

To view additional images of Andriace Click Here.