Rabbinisme et Paganisme en Palestine romaine

Étude historique des Realia talmudiques (Ier-IVème siècles)


This study deals essentially with the knowledge of the Palestinian Rabbis concerning paganism in the days of Mishna and Talmud. The Late Professor Saul Lieberman wrote that “Many isolated items on idolatry and idol worshippers are scattered all over rabbinic literature. It would require a large volume to treat this topic”. This valuable and exhaustive study proves methodically that the Rabbis had deeper knowledge about Syrian, Arabian, Anatolian and Graeco-Roman Pagan cults than is commonly believed. Clear, accessible and displaying considerable scholarship this work will undoubtedly provide an important challenge to both historians, archaeologists, and scholars of Rabbinic texts.


Cette étude traite essentiellement du niveau de connaissances des Rabbins de Judée et de Galilée concernant les cultes païens dans le sens le plus large du terme. Le Professeur Saul Lieberman affirmait : “Many isolated items on idolatry and idol worshippers are scattered all over rabbinic literature. It would require a large volume to treat this topic” Ce travail exhaustif, à travers l’ensemble du corpus talmudique et au regard de la réalité historique propre à la Palestine romaine, montre méthodiquement que les connaissances des Sages, tant sur les divinités du paganisme que sur des rites syriens, arabes, anatoliens voire gréco-romains, étaient bien plus vastes et approfondies, que ce qu’il est communément admis aujourd’hui par la recherche historique.
De part sa clareté et son accessibilité, ce livre intéressera aussi bien les historiens du peuple juif, que ceux des religions antiques. Les archéologues, les historiens du Levant à l’époque romaine, ainsi que les spécialistes de la littérature talmudique y trouveront également un vif intérêt en vertu de son aspect extrêmement novateur.
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Biographical Note

Emmanuel Friedheim, Ph.D. (2000), is currently an Asistant Professor in the Department of Jewish History at Bar Ilan University. He was laureate of the Yigal Alon scholarship for outstanding young academics awarded by the Planning and Grants Committee of the Israeli Council for Higher Education for the years (2001-2004). He published dozens of articles in Hebrew, English and French about the History of Jewish People in the Second Temple, the Mishna and Talmud Periods and especially on the relations between Jews and Gentiles in Roman Palestine. He also published many articles on Pagan Cults in Palestine under Roman rule.


Emmanuel Friedheim, Ph.D. (2000) est actuellement Maître de Conférences au sein du département d’histoire juive de l’université Bar Ilan. En 2001, il fut lauréat de la bourse “Yigal Alon” décernée par le conseil israélien de l’enseignement supérieur récompensant l’excellence de jeunes chercheurs. Il publia de nombreux articles en hébreu, en anglais et en français, sur l’histoire du peuple juif à l’époque du second temple, de la Mishna et du Talmud et particulièrement sur les relations entre Juifs et païens en Palestine romaine ainsi que sur le paganisme en Palestine aux premiers siècles de l’ère commune.

Review Quotes

“This study displays an impressive erudition, as the footnotes attest, and provides a welcome analysis of important material by an expert in talmudic studies. Combining archaeological, papyrological, epigraphical, and literary sources, it constitutes a gold mine of information for students of ancient religions. It also provides innovative solution to historical problems posed by enigmatic passages of the Talmud on pagan cults (e.g., the identification of the “breastfeeding woman” [199–241]) However, a few remarks need to be made。。。In general, this monograph serves as an invaluable tool for anyone wishing to investigate rabbinic texts on Pagan cults. While one may regret that Friedheim does not offer a comprehensive conclusion of the material under scrutiny, his monograph certainly constitutes an important basis for further research on the subject.”

Sabrina Inowlocki, Université Libre de Bruxelles, in RBL 02/2008

Table of contents

1)Objective of the Research and Basic Assumptions.
2) Rabbinic Sources for Historical Studies.
3) The Historiography on the subject.
B)Jewish Idolaters in Roman Palestine during the Mishna and Talmud Period
1)Paganism in the Late Roman Period and in Roman Palestine.
2)Paganism as viewed by Jews.
3)Negative Relation towards Paganism in Aggada and Halakha – Theory or Evidence about Historical reality?
4) The Debate between Zunin and Rabbi Akiba about the Vitality of Idolatry in the 2nd Century CE.
5)The Phenomenon of Jewish Idolaters in Roman Palestine – Economic and Faithful Aspects.
C)Rabban Gamaliel and the Bathhouse of Aphrodite in Akko –Artistic or ritual Reality?
1)Presentation of the problem.
2)Pagan Religious Aspects of the Water – Ritual Bathing of Greco-Roman Deities all over the Roman World.
3)Ritual Bathing in Health and Mystery Gods’ worships.
4)Baths in the Sacred Areas of Pagan Sanctuaries and Pagan Ritual Acts in Public Roman Baths.
5)The Public Roman Bath as Locus Consecratus.
6)The Geographical Repartition of the Worship of Aphrodite in the Ritual Palestinian-Syrian Area in the Roman Period in Relation with the Aquatic Element.
7)The relation of the Rabbis towards the Ritual Aspect of the Roman Public Bath and Especially to Rabban Gamaliel’s Anecdote in Ptolemais/Akko.
D) Sol Inuictus in Ancient Synagogues – Between Judaism and Paganism
1)Presentation of the Problem.
2)Sun Worship and the Roman Emperors from the 2nd to the 4th Centuries CE in the Roman World.
3)The Geographical Area of Sun Worship in Roman Palestine and its Vicinity.
4)Sun Worship in Rabbinic Literature.
5)Condemnation of sun Worship in Rabbinic Literature – evidence about a Historical Reality?
6)Jewish Sun Worshippers in Roman Palestine during the Mishna and Talmud Periods.
7)Archaeological Finds from the Severus’ Synagogue in Tiberias and the Rabbis.
E) How Much Did Eretz-Israel Rabbis Know about Paganism?
a)Names of Pagan Oriental Hellenized Deities in Talmudic Literature.
1)Gad – Tyche – Gadyawan.
2)Gada deHar (Gad of the Mountain).
3)Gad – Time/Tyche deRomi.
4)Gadya deEraklis Ahí (Gad of Heraclius, the brother of mine).
8)An Image of a Suckling-Woman and Sarapis.
1.The Geographical area of the Isis Lactans cult in Roman Palestine and its vicinity.
2. The Roman she-wolf and the Twins: Romulus and Remus.
2.Nysa Nursing the infant Dionysus.
3.Baalbek, Dionysus & the Suckling-Woman in Rabbinic Literature.
9)Treis Charites (the Three Graces).
10)Merkulis (Mercurius Heliopolitanus).
11)Pene- Ba-al (Tanit or Helioseiros?)
12)Arabian and Edomite Gods: Nashra, Dushara, Qos.
b) Names of Graeco-Roman Deities Names in Talmudic Literature.
3.Olius-Ilius [= Helios], Nilus, Dione, Tamuzza, Adonis.
F) Pagan Festivals mentioned in Rabbinic Literature.
a) Roman Public Festivals.
b)The Public Festivals in Mishna Aboda Zara I, 3 and the Halakhic-Realistic Thought of the Rabbis.
1)The Public Festivals in Mishna ‘Aboda Zara I, 3 and the Feriale Duranum.
2)The Public Festivals in Mishna ‘Aboda Zara I, 3, and the Roman Contests.
3)‘Yom Hamita’(Genesia) & the Games.
4)‘Yom Haleida’(Genesia) & the Games.
5) Kratesis and the Games.
6)Saturnalia and the Games.
7)Kalendae and the Games.
c) Private Roman and Oriental Festivals in Rabbinic Literature.
1.‘Yom Tiglahat Zekano OuBlourito’.
2.Shaving the Beard and Cutting the Hair in Egyptian Cults.
3.The Sacrifice of the Beard and Hair in Greco-Roman Cults.
4.The Place of the Hair and Beard in Arabian and Syrian Cults.
5.‘’Akoum sheasa Mishte Livno’and the Ritual Pagan Banquet.
c)Further Pagan Festivals in Rabbinic Texts.
1.‘Yom nivoul aya… yom thatron chel Nilus’(The Nile Festival).
2.Hilaria and Kybele Worship.
3.Persian and Babylonian Pagan Festivals in Palestinian Rabbinic Sources.
4.Maiumas, Tarput, Torives.
G) Pagan Rituals Mentioned in Talmudic Literature..
1)Ritual Pagan Details about Non-Sacrifice of Pigs and non-libation of wine in Syrian & Arabian Worships Mentioned in the Tosefta.
2)‘Tavnit Yad’- ‘Tavnit Regel’.
3) Consecration of an Axe to a Pagan Deity Mentioned in the Tosefta
a)Jupiter Dolichenus Worship, the Double-Axe
b)Anatolian-Syrian worship and the Axe in Phoenicia
c)Herakles worship in Palmyra and the Axe
4)The Kollyrion and Syrian Pagan Practices Mentioned in the Talmud of Jerusalem.
5)Pagan Ritual Objects Mentioned in the Rabbinic Literature.
6)Animals Sanctified in Idolatry.
7)Food in Pagan Cults Mentioned in Talmudic Texts.
8)Places of Pagan Worship in Roman Palestine according Rabbinic Literature.
9)Geographical Sites Mentioned in Talmudic Literature where Pagan Rituals Existed.
1) Prologue
1. 1) Objectifs de l’étude et hypothèses de départ
1. 2) Sur l’historicité des sources rabbiniques
1. 3) Historiographie de la problématique
2) Juifs idolâtres en Palestine aux premiers siècles de l’ère vulgaire
2. 1) Vitalité des cultes païens en Palestine romaine
2. 2) Le rapport des Juifs au Paganisme
2. 3) Rapports négatifs vis-à-vis du paganisme dans la Aggada et dans la Halakha – Théorie ou bien réalité historique?
2. 4) Zunin et Rabbi Akiva
2. 5) Juifs idolâtres – Aspects économiques et confessionnels
3) Rabban Gamaliel et la statue d’Aphrodite dans les thermes d’Akko
Réalité ornementale ou cultuelle?
3. 1)Aspects cultuels du milieu aquatique – baignade cultuelle
de divinités gréco-romaines
3. 2) Baignades rituelles dans les cultes de guérison
et dans les religions à mystères
3. 3) Thermes dans les domaines des temples et cérémonies cultuelles dans
les thermes publics
3. 4 ) Aphrodite en Orient et l’élément aquatique – Aspects mythologiques et
3. 5 ) La répartition géographique du culte d’Aphrodite dans le milieu cultuel
syro-palestinien à l’époque romaine et l’élément aqueux
3. 6) Aspects cultuels des thermes romains dans la littérature
4) Sol Invictus dans les Synagogues antiques – Entre Rabbinisme et Paganisme
4. 1) Le culte solaire et les empereurs romains aux IIIème et IVème siècles
4. 2) La répartition des cultes solaires en Palestine romaine et dans les régions
4. 3) Le culte du Soleil dans la littérature talmudique
4. 4) La condamnation du culte du Soleil dans la littérature talmudique et la
réalité historique
4. 5)Juifs adorateurs du Soleil en Palestine romaine
4. 6) Consécration d’une hache à l’idolâtrie – Une coutume cultuelle en l’honneur du Soleil et de la Lune mentionnée dans la Tosefta
4. 6. 1) Le culte de Jupiter Dolichénien, la hache et le Soleil
4. 6. 2)Un culte syro-anatolien en l’honneur du Soleil en Phénicie et la bipenne
4. 6. 3) Le culte d’Héraclès à Palmyre – Le Soleil et la bipenne
4. 7) La synagogue de Severus et les Sages


Scholars and students of History of Religions, Jewish History, General History, Classical Studies, Talmud and Archaeology will find a clear interest in this interdisciplinary study.

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