The Ancient Synagogue from its Origins to 200 C.E.

A Source Book

Despite the recent explosion of research on ancient synagogues, investigators in the field have hitherto been forced to cull relevant evidence from a vast assortment of scholarly publications. This volume gathers for the first time all of the primary source material on the early synagogues up through the Second Century C. E. In the case of literary, epigraphic and papyrological evidence, catalog entries contain the texts in their original language and in English translation. For archaeological remains, entries provide technical descriptions along with plans and photographs. All listings are accompanied by bibliographic citations and interpretative comments. An Introduction frames the current state of synagogue research, while extensive indices and cross-references allow for easy location of specific allusions. An appendix to the catalog contains source materials on Jewish temples outside of Jerusalem.

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Anders Runesson, Ph.D. (2001) and Docent (2002) in New Testament Exegesis, Lund University, is Associate Professor in Early Christianity and Early Judaism at McMaster University. In addition to having authored several studies on ancient synagogues, including The Origins of the Synagogue (A&W International, 2001), he has published studies on Jewish/Christian Relations and the Gospel of Matthew. Donald D. Binder, Ph.D. (1997) in New Testament studies, SMU, is Rector of Historic Pohick Church near Mt. Vernon, Virginia. He has written extensively on Synagogues of the Second Temple period, including the volume Into the Temple Courts: The Place of the Synagogues in the Second Temple Period (SBL, 1999). Birger Olsson, D.Th., Docent (1974) in New Testament Exegesis, Uppsala University, and Professor in New Testament Exegesis, Lund University (1992), is Professor Emeritus since 2003. He worked for many years on the official committee for the translation of the Bible into Swedish (Bibel 2000), and has published widely on Johannine literature, hermeneutics, and reception history.
Everyone interested in the ancient synagogue may benefit from all the literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence.' James H. Charlesworth, Princeton theological Seminary, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 14 (2016) 'This volume will be extremely helpful for scholars and general readers interested primarily in synagogue buildings prior to the third century C.E[...].this sourcebook serves its purpose admirably. The book is user-friendly due to the numbering system, the detailed and well-organized table of contents, and the various indexes. To my knowledge, the sourcebook is complete, within its stated geographical and chronological parameters [...]. The book is a most welcome addition to the reference shelf of scholars working in the areas of Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, archaeology, ritual, and many others, particularly now that it is available in paperback and therefore more affordable edition.' Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa, RBL 02/2012 'This comprehensive compendium of literary, archaeological, epigraphical, and papyrological sources about the ancient synagogue, accompanied by insightful comments and up-to-date bibliography, is an essential tool for any student of Jewish and Christian life during the first centuries CE. Covering the Diaspora as well as Judaea, the volume is an invaluable reference book for gaining an in-depth picture of this multifaceted institution, which had a profound and lasting effect on the development of many aspects of both church and mosque as well.' Lee Levine, Professor of Jewish History & Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem "All students of early Judaism and early Christianity will find this volume an essential companion in their efforts to understand the origins and development of both religions. It is unique in that it brings together all the available evidence, both literary and archaeological from the Diaspora and the homeland, dealing with the synagogue as an institution and a building. The authors, experts in the field, introduce a vast amount of information in a user-friendly manner. Each entry, arranged in alphabetical order, has a site description, the relevant literary and inscriptional sources, provided with brief but pointed commentary, introducing the wider discussion about the various sites. A brief introductory chapter helps the reader to enter this relatively new and rapidly developing field of enquriy, as well as outlining the reasons in deciding the parameters of the volume. I can recommend it with enthusiasm." Sean Freyne, Professor of Theology emeritus, Trinity Colllege, Dublin Visiting Professor of Early Christian History and Literature, Harvard Divinity School 'One of the frustrating aspects of studying ancient Judaism before the third century ce is the difficulty of assessing the scant evidence for synagogues. The evidence had been dispersed in archaeological reports, ancient literature, and inscriptions, despite the growing availability of evidence through the internet, namely on the website created by one of the authors of the current volume (Binder: http://www. With the advent of the source book under review, the evidence is now readily available in convenient book form. This is a monumental achievement and should change the face of synagogue studies at all levels of expertise.' Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll, Biblical Theology Bulletin, 2009 “A key methodological problem in constructing a picture of the development of ancient synagogues arises from the limited and perspectival nature of each of our data-sets: rabbinic rulings, other literary references, inscriptions, and archaeological remains. The Ancient Synagogue is a key resource in overcoming this problem: for the first time we have a comprehensive collection of literary, epigraphical, papyrological, and archaeological sources bearing on ancient synagogues. Each lemma comes with a brief but up-to-date bibliography and short commentary and the editors have supplied both primary texts and English translations, making this an indispensable resource for all who work on ancient synagogues. This is a splendid achievement of scholarship.” J.S. Kloppenborg, Professor, Trinity College, Toronto “This source book comes at a propitious time in the study of ancient synagogues and their origins. It is an invaluable resource for everyone interested in—and not infrequently puzzled by—the organizational and architectural development of synagogues prior to 200 CE. The combination of textual and archaeological material, with judicious commentaries and some well chosen drawings, are essential features of the book’s usefulness. It will be much referred to in the coming years, and its judgements will help shape the contours of the ongoing debates.” Peter Richardson (Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto) “This volume contains ancient texts such as Josephus, the New Testament, and the Mishnah in their original languages and in (often new) translation, but also archaeological evidence and inscriptions—in their language and translated. Each entry features a bibliography and comment on matters that the text or archaeology raises. There is an extensive bibliography and an index. It has been put together by well-known scholars in the field, and their work is exhaustive and impeccable. We could not reasonably ask for more. It is simply an indispensable resource for the serious researcher and the student alike.” James F. Strange, Distinguished University Professor, the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida This is an ideal resource. It is comprehensive, well written, concise, thoroughly referenced to both primary literature and the most important secondary literature, and easily used without burdening readers with less important secondary discussions. The book is an essential tool for anyone doing work that intersects with the ancient synagogue. Daniel M. Gurtner (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dec 2008) This volume by three well-known experts is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the topic of the ancient synagogue. ...For each synagogue site, text, or inscription, the authors include all relevant literary references, and a bibliography. All entries include a comment section that provides historical and literary background. The primary sources, whether Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin, are provided in the original languages followed by an English translation. The book is amply illustrated with maps, drawings, and photographs. …Scholars in the fields of New Testament, Classics, Archaeology, Jewish History, and biblical studies will find the present volume an important reference tool. This book is essential for research libraries, and well worth the investment for anyone interested in this fascinating topic. Kenneth Atkinson (Journal for the Study of Judaism 40/1 (2009) 134-135) The Ancient Synagogue represents a remarkable contribution to what might become a renewed quest for the historical synagogue. For the first time all sources related to the synagogue prior to 200 CE – both literary and archaeological – have been collected together in one place. …[T]he comments provided by the authors have created a work that is much more than simply a compilation of source material… The Ancient Synagogue is an extremely useful compendium. The authors have achieved their goal (p.15) of providing a user-friendly compilation of all known sources related to the synagogue between the 3rd century BCE and 200 CE, and it is clear that this volume will be a required reference for all future synagogue studies. Justin Winger, University of Michigan: ( At a time when research on the ancient synagogue is as prolific as ever, Runesson, Binder, and Olsson provide us with a most useful source book on the earliest evidence of the ancient synagogue. …200 C.E. is a well chosen “terminus ante quem” because it allows the authors to include the Mishnah as an important source for the early synagogue (even if, as the authors rightly stress [p. 3 n.5], rabbinic influence on the synagogue became truly important only later). By not choosing the year 70 as a cut-off date, the editors wisely avoid “taking a stance” (p. 15) with respect to the importance of the fall of the temple in Jerusalem for the development of the ancient synagogue. What makes the book unusual and incredibly helpful is that it brings together literary and archaeological sources…The comments, both on archaeological sites and on literary sources, are always sound and well argued…. I recently used this source book for a seminar on the ancient synagogue and I can only recommend it highly. René Bloch, University of Bern: (Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9 [2009])