The present study presents and discusses the tefillin (phylactery) remains found in Cave 34 at Naḥal Ṣeʾelim within the framework of Yohanan Aharoni’s first 1960 expedition to the Judean Desert. Presented here are a leather tefillin case, never before reported upon, and two inscribed tefillin slips (34ṢePhyl A and 34ṢePhyl B) which have until now received only preliminary treatment. Very few close parallels to the Naḥal Ṣeʾelim tefillin slips are known from elsewhere in the Judean Desert. Both the tefillin slips and the case appear quite compatible with rabbinic descriptions and prescriptions, although there is little reason to label these ritual objects as in some way or another “rabbinic”. The paleographic analysis of the tefillin slips suggests that the texts were penned sometime in the second half of the first century ce. While a Bar Kokhba period date for the deposit of the tefillin remains in Cave 34 does not appear at all unlikely, an earlier dating—possibly First Revolt period—must not be precluded.
Although miqwa’ot and chalkstone vessels have been found throughout Israel, the unparalleled number of such finds at Jerusalem has conventionally been explained in terms of the special demands of the Temple cult and of the city’s priestly residents. In light of a growing number of archaeological discoveries from the past number of years, however, the conception that Jerusalem and its Temple served as focal points of ritual purity observance deserves to be significantly reevaluated. The new data indicate that regular, widespread use of ritual baths and chalkstone vessels was not at all unique to Jerusalem or the priesthood, but rather was commonplace to a comparable degree in Jewish society throughout early Roman Judea. Jews everywhere throughout the country strove on a regular basis to maintain the purity of their bodies, clothing, utensils, food, and drink, and there is no reason to suppose that in doing so they somehow had the Temple in mind. Most Jews living at this time would probably have understood the pentateuchal purity regulations as prescribing that ritual purity be maintained on a regular basis in ordinary, everyday life – without specific regard to the Temple or its cult. This new understanding encourages us to reinterpret the archaeological finds from Jerusalem as reflecting an important facet of prevailing common culture rather than as stemming from the unique sanctity of Jerusalem, the Temple, or its priests.
This study surveys the archaeological evidence of Jewish ritual baths (miqwa'ot) built adjacent to tombs, dating variously from the late Second Temple period through the 3rd-4th centuries C.E., and analyses this evidence in light of the halakhic sources. At first glance, this archaeological phenomenon would seem to stand at odds with normative halakhah, which mandates miqweh ablutions for corpse-impurity only at the end of a seven-day purification process. A careful reading of the scriptural and rabbinic sources, however, reveals that while a seven-day purification process is required for one who has contracted impurity directly from a corpse or a grave, impurity conveyed through an intermediary source (i.e. physical contact with one who has contracted direct corpse-impurity) may be purged through ablutions on the same day that the impurity was incurred. This study suggests that miqwa'ot adjacent to tombs were utilized at the conclusion of burial ceremonies by funeral participants who had contracted such “second-degree” impurity.
Scholars have argued that 11QTa and CD view stone vessels as susceptible to impurity. Chalk vessel finds at Kh. Qumran have presented a challenge to this idea, and solutions to date have been unsatisfying. The recent publication of final reports on these finds invites us to reconsider both the archaeological and textual evidence relating to the ritual status of stone vessels at Qumran. The typological profile of the Kh. Qumran assemblage parallels that found at Jewish sites elsewhere. It will be argued that both 11QTa and CD viewed stone vessels as unsusceptible to most kinds of ritual impurity—apart from corpse impurity. The pentateuchal basis for this understanding will be elucidated, and it will be argued that the position of 11QTa and CD on the matter was common among contemporary Jews. The foregoing will allow an investigation into the origins of the chalk vessel industry in the late 1st century BCE.
Chalk vessels became common at Jewish sites throughout the Southern Levant beginning in the late first century BCE, apparently because Jews considered stone to be impervious to ritual impurity. It is commonly thought that a drastic decline in the phenomenon occurred after 70 CE as a direct result of the temple’s destruction—on the assumption that the central motivation for Jews’ observance of the purity regulations was the temple cult. These notions are reconsidered here in light of an impressive assemblage of chalk vessels recently unearthed at Shuʿafat, occupied during the brief 70–132 CE interwar period. The character of this assemblage, presented here preliminarily, suggests that both use and production of chalk vessels continued unabated for decades after 70 CE, contradicting the notion that the chalk vessel industry was reliant on a functioning temple and that observance of the purity laws was inexorably linked with the Jerusalem cult.