Recently scholars have questioned the role of the rabbis in late antique Palestine, suggesting that their influence was more limited than previously thought. Furthermore, some scholars have suggested that members of the priestly class remained influential in Jewish society after 70 C.E. In this paper, I examine the catacombs at Beth Shearim in Israel’s Lower Galilee and the Dura Europus synagogue for evidence of non-rabbinic Jews or non-rabbinic practices, including priestly presence and influence in the 3rd c.
In 2007, the late Ehud Netzer announced the discovery of the mausoleum of Herod the Great at Herodium. This paper considers Herod’s self-representation through his tomb at Herodium, which consists of a mausoleum on the side of a massive artificial tumulus that was planned by Herod as his final resting place and everlasting memorial. Comparisons with the lost Mausoleum of Alexander in Alexandria, the Philippeion at Olympia, and the Mausoleum of Augustus at Rome indicate that Herod intended Herodium to serve as a royal, dynastic monument and victory memorial situating him within a line of heroic and deified kings, while the site’s location overlooking Bethlehem visually asserted Herod’s claims to have fulfilled the expectations associated with a Davidic messiah.
Among the most puzzling features at Qumran are deposits of animal bones belonging to sheep, goat, and cattle, mixed with ash, which were placed on the ground between large potsherds or inside jars and covered with little or no earth. The deposits are concentrated in the open air spaces, mainly on the northwest and southeast sides of the site. Following Roland de Vaux, most scholars have interpreted these deposits as the remains of ritual but non-sacrificial meals eaten by the Qumran sectarians. However, comparisons with remains from ancient sanctuaries around the Mediterranean world and Near East leave little doubt that these deposits represent sacrificial refuse and consumption debris. Furthermore, records from de Vaux’s excavations suggest that in the first century B. C. E., an altar was located in an open air space on the northwest side of the site. The possibility that animal sacrifices were offered at Qumran is supported by legislation in sectarian works and in non-sectarian works that were considered authoritative by the sect. This evidence suggests that the Qumran sectarians observed the laws of the desert camp with the tabernacle in its midst, including offering animal sacrifices as mandated by biblical law.
Jesus’ world view is widely characterized as apocalyptic and eschatological. In this paper, I propose that Jesus’ exorcisms and healings – as reported in the Gospel accounts – were intended not merely as apocalyptic signs, but were performed by Jesus and his disciples to effect the entry of the diseased and disabled into God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus’ attempts to heal others and his emphasis on moral behavior are rooted in biblical concerns with the maintenance of holiness, according to which only pure and unblemished creatures may enter God’s presence. The Qumran sect also had an apocalyptic world view, but in contrast to Jesus’ inclusive approach, they excluded the blemished and impure from the sectarian and messianic assemblies.