Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity


Art, History, and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity explores the complex interplay between visual culture, texts, and their interpretations, arguing for an open-ended and self-aware approach to understanding Jewish culture from the first century CE through the rise of Islam. The essays assembled here range from the “thick description” of Josephus’s portrayal of Bezalel son of Uri as a Roman architect through the inscriptions of the Dura Europos synagogue, Jewish reflections on Caligula in color, the polychromy of the Jerusalem temple, new-old approaches to the zodiac, and to the Christian destruction of ancient synagogues. Taken together, these essays suggest a humane approach to the history of the Jews in an age of deep and long-lasting transitions—both in antiquity, and in our own time.

"Taken as a whole, Fine’s book exhibits the value of bridging disciplines. The historiographical segments integrated throughout this volume offer
essential insights that will inform any student of Roman and late antiquity." Yael Wilfand, Hebrew University, Review of Biblical Literature, 2014.

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Steven Fine is professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. He is director of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies. Fine’s Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology received the Association for Jewish Studies’ Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in 2009.
"[...] Fine’s book is an important contribution to the ongoing conversation on multiple symbolic systems in late antique Judaism and their possible meanings, a conversation that shows no signs of ending any time soon." - Alexei M. Sivertsev, DePaul University, in: IMAGES, 8 (2015)
"This brilliant collection of twelve fascinating essays is beautifully adorned with over 64 carefully chosen illustrations revealing a highly developed aesthetic sense. [...] There is a balanced, judicious care in his tight scholarly writing that takes the reader back into the past not as a dry artifact to learn “about,” but “from” as it relates to the reader’s lived reality. [...] Recommended for all libraries." - David B Levy, Touro College, in: Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, 4:2 (2014)
1. “See, I Have Called the Renowned Name of Bezalel, Son of Uri . . .”: Josephus’s Portrayal of the Biblical “Architect”
2. A Note on Ossuary Burial and the Resurrection of the Dead in First-Century Jerusalem
3. Caligula and the Jews: Some Historiographic Reflections Occasioned by Gaius in Polychrome
4. “When I Went to Rome . . . There I Saw the Menorah”: The Jerusalem Temple Implements in Rabbinic Memory, History, and Myth
5. Coloring the Temple: Polychromy and the Jerusalem Temple in Late Antiquity
6. Jewish Identity at the Cusp of Empires: The Jews of Dura Europos between Rome and Persia
7. “Epigraphical” Study Houses in Late Antique Palestine: A Second Look
8. Furnishing God’s Study House: An Exercise in Rabbinic Imagination
9. The Jewish Helios: A Modest Proposal regarding the Sun God and the Zodiac on Late Antique Synagogue Mosaics
10. Between Liturgy and Social History: Priestly Power in Late Antique Palestinian Synagogues?
11. The Menorah and the Cross: Historiographic Reflections on a Recent Discovery from Laodicea on the Lycus
12. Jews and Judaism under Byzantium and Islam
All who are interested in the complex interplay of visual culture, literary sources and the complexities of modern interpretation of both through the lens of Jewish visual culture in the Greco-Roman world.
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