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Sabbath and Synagogue

The Question of Sabbath Worship in Ancient Judaism

Heather A. McKay

Sabbath worship as a communal event does not feature in the Hebrew Bible. In the context of the first century CE, according to Philo and Josephus, the sabbath gatherings took place only for the purpose of studying the law, and not for the liturgical recital of psalms or prayer. Classical authors depict Jews spending the sabbath at home. Jewish inscriptions provide no evidence of sabbath-worship in prayer-houses ( proseuchai), while the Mishnah prescribes no special communal sabbath activities.
The usual picture of Jews going on the sabbath to the synagogue to worship thus appears to be without foundation. It is even doubtful that there were synagogue buildings, for "synagogue" normally meant "community."
The conclusion of this study, that there is no evidence that the sabbath was a day of communal Jewish worship before 200 CE, has far-reaching consequences for our understanding of early Jewish-Christian relationships.

This publication has also been published in hardback, please click here for details.


Louis Feldman

Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, is unquestionably among the most important writers from classical antiquity. The significance of the works of Josephus as sources for our understanding of biblical history and of the political history of Palestine under Roman rule, can scarcely be overestimated.

This is the first volume published in this commentary series, which is the first comprehensive literary-historical commentary on the works of Flavius Josephus in English.

Please note that Judean Antiquities Books 1-4 is also available in paperback, ISBN 0 391 04221 1.

Miguel Pérez Fernández and John F. Elwolde

In Greek and Roman Palestine we find a Hebrew dialect that had existed alongside the literary language of Biblical Hebrew but had followed its own pattern of development. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis elevated this dialect to the status of a literary language, 'Rabbinic Hebrew', and employed it in the composition of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and halakhic midrashim.
This volume is a practical grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew that brings M.H. Segal's 1927 grammar up to date by incorporating the results of recent investigations in this field. It also adds a clearly pedagogic perspective, with vocabulary and exercises in every unit, and introduces readers to the thinking of the Sages of Israel (each unit commences with a text that bears on a theological, historical, literary, or methodological topic).

Jerusalem under Siege

The Collapse of the Jewish State, 66-70 C.E.



An internal history of the four tragic years of the Jewish rebellion, which began with militant optimism in the year 66 and ended with the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem four years later. The main theme is internal collapse: from the decades before the war, when deepening factionalism throughout Jewish Society contributed to the ultimate outbreak of revolution, to the Temple meeting of 66, when an alliance among competing factions was insecurely riveted together and an "army" with conflicting enthusiasms was formed, from the toppling of the first regime in 67/8, to the disintegration of the second regime from 68 to 70, and from the siege, during which the famine fell on different segments of the population with sadly unequal weight, to desertion, the patterns of which provide a negative image of the constantly shifting political fortunes of revolutionary partners. Classical, rabbinic, archaeological and numismatic evidence are brought to bear on a new interpretation of Josephus' Bellum Judaicum.

Josephus in Galilee and Rome

His vita and development as a historian