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Well… June 21, 2011

Posted by Lee in Miscellany.
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To those who may stumble across (or continue to visit) this blog (and/or my commentary blog), I must apologize once again for my recent silence. I have lately immersed myself into the disciplines of Greek grammar and text-linguistics (discourse analysis). Additionally, I’ve been enamored with Paul’s epistles, and specifically Romans. My intention is and has always been to return to Lucan studies, for I have not wavered from my thesis regarding Luke-Acts.

Thanks for stopping by.



Luke 4.38-44: Primitive or Muted? February 20, 2011

Posted by Lee in Luke's Writing Style.
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In a recent reading of Mark 1.29-39, in which Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, I was compelled to compare Mark’s text with that of Luke’s parallel in 4.38-44. A number of elements struck me as odd, and a brief survey of commentators confirmed my initial puzzlement.

Disclaimer: Now, it must be said that I am no text critic, but merely an amateur who has been taken by (though not wholly given to) the idea of Lukan priority. This blog is a testimony to that, of sorts, in that it rests on the notion that Luke wrote to Theophilus ben Annas, the high priest of 37-41CE, and that his first volume may have been addressed to this Theophilus during his high priestly service – a very early date by any standard.

Essentially, my inquiry regarding this pericope centers on whether Luke’s text is more primitive than Mark’s, or is Luke simply muting or softening Mark in places (odd places in my view). Below I lay out my thoughts and those of a few Lukan scholars of note, concluding each thought with a simple inquiry regarding Lukan primitivity, hoping to offer a fair amount of data with which to work in answering the inquiry. These scholars are I. H. Marshall (NIGTC: The Gospel of Luke), J. A. Fitzmyer (AB: The Gospel According to Luke, vol. 1), L. T. Johnson (SP: The Gospel of Luke), C. F. Evans (TPINTC: Saint Luke), M. D. Hooker (BNTC: The Gospel According to Saint Mark), and B. M. Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament).

1. It is odd that Luke should name Simon at 4.38, prior to Jesus’ calling of his disciples (5.1ff.). To be fair, he does not refer to Simon as a follower of Jesus at this point, but simply as a specific player in this miracle story – a player of eventual note. But the same is true of Mark, who has Jesus calling the disciples after this miracle (2.13f.; 3.13ff.). But where Luke only mentions Simon, Mark includes three other eventual disciples: Andrew, James and John. On the awkwardness of Luke’s early mention of Simon, Johnson writes, “Luke has not yet introduced Simon into his narrative (see 5.4). The lapse is caused by his shifting of order of the stories he found in Mark. Luke also eliminates mention of Jesus’ other companions that are listed by Mark 1.29” (84; cf. Marshall, 194; Fitzmyer, 549; Evans, 281, who calls Luke’s retention of Simon as “awkward”).

Inquiry: Is it possible (plausible?) that Luke’s text is the more primitive one on the grounds that Luke mentions only Simon here? Tradition suggests that Mark took from Peter. If that be considered, Peter would have undoubtedly been able to offer details unknown to Luke, in which case Luke’s “elimitaion” of Andrew, James and John is easily explained. Further, the prominence that Mark gives to Simon at this early stage is muted heavily in Luke. (See section 2 for more on this point.) Might Luke have simply been working from a more primitive form than that found in Mark?

2. At this point, Simon is not as prominent a figure in Luke as he is in Mark. The conclusion of this pericope in Mark 1.36 has “Simon and those who were with him” pursuing Jesus, while Luke 4.42 has the general public seeking him. As Hooker notes, “The phrase ‘Simon and his companions’ is an odd one” (76; cf. Fitzmyer, 556, who concludes earlier (467) that “[t]he other Synoptics use this word [ὄχλος/ὄχλοι] frequently, but the Lucan use is baffling; at times he avoids it where they have it, at times he introduces it where they do not have it”; Johnson, 84, who attributes Luke’s lack of this detail to “the public nature of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel [emphasis retained]). Luke does not show restraint elsewhere to include Simon by name, and even as “the leader of the disciples in 5.3,4,5,10; 22.31; 24.34” (Fitzmyer, 549).

Inquiry: Is it possible (plausible?) that Luke’s text is the more primitive one on the grounds that here he does not include Simon as the one seeking out, or “pursuing” (so Mark), Jesus while he elsewhere shows no restraint to include him? Can a reliance on Peter (again, if the tradition be accepted) explain why Simon is “pursuing” Jesus in Mark and not in Luke? Asked differently, what does Luke gain by omitting Simon at this point? Is “the public nature of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel” enough of an assumption to suggest that Luke omitted Mark’s detail? What does Luke have to gain by portraying this seeking of Jesus as a public endeavor rather than led by Simon?

3. Luke’s final word in this pericope is a reference to Jesus “preaching in the synagogues of Judea” (4.44). Luke had previously referred to Jesus’ synagogue ministry as taking place in Galilee (4.14,15). On this, Metzger writes, “In view of Luke’s earlier reference (in ver. 14) to the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, the reading τῆς Ἰουδαίας … is obviously the more difficult, and copyists have corrected it to τῆς Γαλιλαίας in accord with the parallels in Mt 4.23 and Mk 1.39” (114; cf. Marshall, 198; Fiztmyer, 557-8). Johnson expresses his bewilderment at Luke’s reference to Judea: “But why does Luke have Judea, since he has had Jesus preaching in Galilee (4.16,31) as does also his source (Mark 1.39)? This reading should be preferred as the harder one. …Is this an example of Luke’s geographical ignorance? Is he using ‘Judea’ for the whole of Palestine inclusively, as ‘the land of the Jews’? Or is he simply nodding? In any event, the next verse puts us in Galilee” (85).

Inquiry: Is it possible (plausible?) that Luke’s text is the more primitive one on the grounds that, in this pericope, his concluding reference to Jesus’ ministry places it in Judea while Matthew and Mark place it in Galilee? What does Luke have to gain by changing “Galilee” to “Judea” here, especially in light of his emphasis on Jerusalem throughout his Gospel? Indeed, it seems quite odd that Judea should even be mentioned at this point, considering Jesus’ is progressively moving from Galilee to Jerusalem in Luke (cf. 9.51). I suppose there may be a theory involving Lukan fatigue, of which I am ignorant. Or perhaps one suggesting that Luke has Jesus’ eventual destination in view, as though he can’t wait but get Jesus there, and so inserts “Judea” in place of his source’s “Galilee”. Even so, is such a theory(-ies) sufficient evidence against Lukan primitivity here?

Again, I am no text critic, nor pretend to be. But I am fond of NT texts, and particularly of Luke. And this pericope contains odd details which, to my thinking, may suggest Lukan primitivity. Those in-the-know are welcome to enlighten me further.

Jerusalem and the “We” Sections in Acts July 18, 2010

Posted by Lee in "We" Sections, Luke's Writing Style.
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I have been reading through the “we” sections in Acts. Here, I offer a theory of why Luke included these sections in the first person. (Inherently, this theory asserts that Luke was writing first-hand, and not working from another’s travel journal.) I am not married to this theory yet, but I plan to examine the texts further in light of it. A very brief synopsis of the surrounding events follows, with my initial thoughts scattered throughout.

I agree with those who suggest that the author of Luke-Acts is Lucius of Cyrene, mentioned in Acts 13.1. (For one representation of this argument, see Richard Fellows’ article.) Luke was therefore from Antioch and a leader of the church there alongside Paul and Barnabas (13.1). There had been some dispute in Antioch regarding Gentile inclusion, evidenced in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (Gal 2.11ff.). (I will not here take up the issue of whether the events described in Gal 2 represent those of Acts 11 or 15. Suffice it to say, the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 should be seen as Jerusalem’s final corrective to the dispute [15.1-2, taking place in Antioch].) Thus, Luke was most probably intimately familiar with the inner workings of the dispute in Antioch.

The letter commissioned by Jerusalem was then sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judas (Acts 15.22, 30.). Jerusalem would have been interested in how well their letter had been received. Silas and Judas then returned to Jerusalem to deliver the news, while Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch teaching (15.36). When Paul and Barnabas decided to take their mission abroad again, they had a dispute over who should accompany them. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark while Paul saw Mark as unworthy. Paul eventually chose Silas, and Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus.

I wonder how interested Jerusalem would have been in Paul’s (and others’) faithfulness to the letter’s parameters in his teachings to Gentiles outside of Antioch. They had been familiar with and trusted Barnabas (Acts 9.26-27). But a shadow may have followed Paul due to his past life (cf. 9.26b). The Jerusalem leaders may have then been concerned when Paul parted company with Barnabas. They may also have been alerted by Mark (cf. 13.13) to something in Paul’s ministry which seemed off or questionable. If so, it may further explain why Paul so defiantly objected to taking Mark again (cf. 15.39).

Paul, at least initially, remained faithful to the decisions made by the Jerusalem council when teaching Gentiles (Acts 16.4-5). Then Paul came to Galatia (16.6). We do not know how much, if any, tension in Jew-Gentile relations was present there at that time. But it is hard to imagine that there was none, and that Paul was not vocal about alleviating it. Further, it is hard to imagine that Jerusalem was ignorant of such, were it to have occurred. After leaving Galatia and passing through the adjacent regions, Paul came to Troas. And Luke joins Paul for the first time there, and journeyed to Macedonia with Paul (Acts 16.10).

Why should Luke have decided to join Paul & company at this point? Could it be that Luke saw a need for Paul’s vindication before a curious Jerusalem leadership? Or was Luke himself curious enough to offer a report of Paul’s missionary activities? What exactly do Luke’s “we” sections tell us about Paul’s mission? And how might these passages relate to the Jerusalem?

“We” Section #1

While in Macedonia, Luke relates a story in Philippi about a woman named Lydia, a God-worshiper from Thyatira, who came to accept Paul’s message and baptism. But no mention of the Jerusalem decree was made. Paul also cast out a demon of a slave girl and was thrown into prison, at which point the first “we” section ends.

“We” Section #2

Paul then traveled, apparently without Luke, through Greece ministering to the Gentiles. He wanted to get back to Jerusalem (Acts 19.21), and worked his way back to Macedonia, where he again picked up Luke (20.3, 5). Luke stayed with him until he reached Miletus (20.15). Not much regarding Paul’s missionary activity was related by Luke in this passage, save Paul’s midnight message and fellowship with the church at Troas. In concluding this second “we” section, Luke relates how Paul desired to go to Jerusalem (20.16).

“We” Section #3

Paul then made arrangements for himself to journey back to Jerusalem while his fellow workers remained in Miletus. He met with the elders of the Ephesian church before embarking toward Jerusalem. After this meeting, somehow Luke reunites with Paul here, setting sail from Ephesus(?) and stopping off at Cyprus. But, says Luke, Paul was discouraged by some disciples at Cyprus from making the trip to Jerusalem (21.3-4). Barnabas and Mark had previously gone to Cyprus (15.39). I wonder if perhaps Barnabas had remained there until this time, and been among those discouraging Paul from going to Jerusalem. After eventually arriving in Caesarea (21.8), Agabus came from Judea with a prophecy that Paul would be bound by Jews in Jerusalem (21.10-11). As a result, those listening begged Paul not to make the trip (21.12). Paul was not persuaded and continued on (21.14). And they arrived in Jerusalem (21.15), giving a full account of Paul’s work among the Gentiles (21.19). I wonder if Luke’s first-hand experiences with Paul were then given to the Jerusalem leadership at this point, as evidence of the manner in which Paul ministered among the Gentiles.

It was supposed among the Jews in Jerusalem that Paul taught that Jews should abandon the Law (21.21). Paul underwent a vow demonstrating these accusations to be false (21.23-26), though in the end it was to no avail. Paul was beaten and bound, just as Agabus had prophesied.

“We” Section #4

Paul was held in custody at Caesarea and brought before Felix, Festus and Agrippa (Acts 23.33-26.32). Luke then joined Paul for the trek to Rome, on account of Paul’s appeal to Caesar (25.11; 26.32). We learn from Luke’s first-hand account about this entire trip and Paul’s two-year house arrest while in Rome. Luke leaves the story open-ended at this point.

My Theory

Luke’s first-hand testimonies, offered in these “we” sections, do not appear in the first half of Acts. This is because 1) Paul’s mission had not begun until after his conversion in chapter 9, and 2) the disputes regarding Gentile inclusion had not presented any conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem leadership until after the Jerusalem council. Because of these conflicts, and in light of Paul’s past life and relatively new presence as a missionary to the Gentiles, the Jerusalem leaders (and perhaps Luke himself) had grown concerned about Paul’s behavior. Luke for the most part accompanied Paul during his travels between Troas and Macedonia and around Asia Minor. The only two spans in which Luke did not accompany Paul from the time he began at Troas (16.10) to the time they came to Jerusalem (21.18) were 1) between Paul’s departure from and return to Philippi, at which time he visited Greece, and 2) during Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian elders just before embarking for Jerusalem from Miletus. So, according to the record of Acts, Luke was with Paul for a good portion of his ministry among the Gentiles and thus able to document the bulk of Paul’s travels. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they gave an account “one by one” of Paul’s work among the Gentiles (21.19, though Luke says there that Paul gave his own account).

Most likely Paul was aware of Luke’s travel record. He may even have been aware that the Jerusalem leaders were highly interested in his work abroad, evidenced in their eagerness to hear of his work when he returned (21.17ff.). Luke had vindicated Paul’s mission to the Jerusalem leaders, for they were thrilled to hear of his successes and offered a means by which Paul could vindicate himself (via a vow) to those Jewish believers who had heard about his teachings and thus doubted him. Doubtless, the Jerusalem leaders themselves were skeptical, given the rumors that Paul taught “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs” (21.21). This misunderstanding most probably arose out of Paul’s letters to the Gentile churches, in which he encouraged Gentiles to refrain from taking up the Law as a means to inclusion without explicit references to his intended readership being Gentile. Jewish outrage could be expected had his letter to the Galatians, for example, fallen into the hands of believing Jews outside of Galatia, who were thus unfamiliar with his teachings to and dealings with those in Galatia. Vindication of Paul was indeed needed.

This reading explains why Luke accompanied Paul and wrote his testimony in the first person. The “we” sections, then, are offerings from Luke as vindication of Paul’s missionary efforts to a skeptical Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

Rich Man and Lazarus January 17, 2010

Posted by Lee in Uncategorized.

I have just posted on Luke 16.19-31, the rich man and Lazarus pericope, on my commentary blog. Let me know what you think. And thanks again for reading.


Acts 9.31 = 37CE? January 15, 2010

Posted by Lee in Luke & Roman Authorities.
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(My thanks to Richard Fellows for bringing this to my attention some time ago.)

Acts 9.31 reads: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied” (RSV). Most chronologies place this peaceful interlude during the late 30s. Vitellius appointed Theophilus be Annas to be high priest in 37CE. I wonder if perhaps Luke is appealing to Theophilus by recognizing that his service was characterized as mild or ‘peaceful’ (in relation to the Jesus movement) compared to the services of his father Annas, brother-in-law Caiaphas and brothers Eleazar and Jonathan. I cannot find another like statement in Acts.


Hypocrisy in Luke 12 and 2 Maccabees 6 January 10, 2010

Posted by Lee in Luke and Maccabees, MET Blogger Archive.
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[Originally posted on May 23, 2007, with spelling edits made here.]

Richard [Anderson] once asked me, regarding hypocrites and hypocrisy as they relate to Luke 12:

“In 2nd Macc, the Jewish people are ordered to eat meat that has been sacrificed to the idols and Eleazar is offered ‘kosher’ meat to eat to make it appear he is in compliance with the order of the king but he refuses saying it would be hypocrisy to do so (and misleading) to the Jewish people. In his refusal, he becomes a Jewish martyr. Is Jesus [in Luke 12] in saying, ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy’ somehow alluding to Eleazar and contrasting the behavior and conduct of the Pharisees with Eleazar?”

Richard was considering Jesus’ admonition as an allusion to the sory of Eleazar as told in 2 Maccabees 6. I responded:

1. Hypocrisy in Luke 12.1ff. is defined as saying something in secret or hiding something (12.1-3; the hidden thing will be revealed); not confessing before men (12.8ff.). This is essentially the same phenomenon expected from Eleazar [the refusal of which led to his martyrdom].

2. More importantly, there is a deeper parallel involving the two texts:

In Luke 12.4ff., [we find the] admonition to not fear (me phobethete; cf. 12.7) those who can kill the body (soma); “fear (phobethete) him who can destroy body (soma) in hell”.

2Macc6.30: Eleazar suffers in his body (soma); Eleazar says, “I will suffer these things because I fear (phobov) him [the Almighty]; 2Macc6.26 = Eleazar says, “Whether I live or die, I shall not not escape the hands of the Almighty”.

I have not studied this line further since these remarks. Perhaps time will permit it soon. In the meantime, if you find this line of inquiry interesting or have something to contribute here, please leave a note. I’m interested in others’ thoughts.

Eleazar ben Annas = Alexander of Acts 4.6? January 10, 2010

Posted by Lee in Luke & Roman Authorities, MET Blogger Archive, Significant Persons in Luke-Acts.
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[Originally posted on July 13, 2008.]

I recently read that Alexander is the Graecized form of the Hebrew name Eleazar. We know that Annas the high priest of 6-15AD had five sons who served as high priest, one of whom was named Eleazar. Since we have no record of a high priest bearing the name Alexander in Josephus, et al., and since we are told that one Alexander was of “the high priestly family” in Acts 4.6, might that Alexander mean to be a reference to Eleazar ben Annas, who served as high priest from 16-17AD?

Additionally, the John of Acts 4.6 might very well be Jonathan ben Annas, who served as high priest twice. This would explain further why Luke can call this group members of “the high priestly family”. If Luke’s recipient Theophilus is the son of Annas (as is posited here on this blog) who served as high priest from 37-41AD, he would have easily recognized his brothers’ names, even if shortened or Graecized. Perhaps there is an intention on Luke’s part to publicly obscure, yet reveal to Theophlius, the identities of these “high priests”. I cannot find any reason for the phenomenon known as “protective anonimity” in this case. However, the irony is far more than coincidence.

Also, note that Luke does not say that these men are of “priestly descent”. He says they are of the “HIGH priestly family”. This is a much more specific reference. For there is no basis of descent which entitles one to the high priesthood.

Felix, Jonathan and Theophilus January 10, 2010

Posted by Lee in Luke & Josephus, Luke & Roman Authorities, MET Blogger Archive, Significant Persons in Luke-Acts.
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[Originally posed on July 10, 2008.]

Dan Barag and David Flusser, in their article concerning an ossuary bearing the names “Yehohanah” and “Theophilus”, write, “After playing an important role in public life during the time of Cumanus (50-52 C.E.), he [Jonathan, Theophilus’ brother] was murdered at the instigation of the prefect Felix” (D. Barag and D. Flusser, “The Ossuary of Yehohanah Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus”, Israel Exploration Journal, 36 [1986], 43n.19; they reference Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, rev. ed. [Vermes and Millar], 230).

Is this perhaps why Luke casts Felix in such a wicked light in Acts? Felix is said to have expected a bribe from Paul (Ac24.26). If indeed Felix was responsible for the murder of Theophilus’ brother Jonathan, then his holding of Paul (cf. Ac24.27) might very well be (spiteful?) motivation for Theophilus to intervene on Paul’s behalf. Perhaps Luke, knowing of Felix responsibility in Jonathan’s death, hoped to instigate intervention on the part of Theophilus.


Since the above entry was written, I learned from Josephus (Ant. 20.5 [160ff.]) that the Sicarii were directly responsible for Jonathan’s murder. But they were initiated by a friend of Jonathan’s, named Doras, who was bribed by Felix. That Luke demonstrates Felix’s corruption in hoping to receive a bribe from Paul may be an effort to prompt Theophilus to intervene on Paul’s behalf, for Theophilus surely would have noticed the similarity in demise between Paul and Jonathan in the hands of Felix.

Priests and Synagogues January 10, 2010

Posted by Lee in MET Blogger Archive, Synagogues.
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[Originally posted on June 23, 2008.]

In the Second Temple period, who ruled the synagogues? It seems the general scholarly consensus is that synagogues, especially those of the Diaspora, belonged to the lay people. Two scholars offer a different picture.

1. Donald Binder, in his book Into the Temple Courts, suggests the priests and Levites controlled some (many?) of the synagogues. The Greek terms usually used to denote synagogue leaders in literary and epigraphic evidences include archon (18 times: 2 in Jos.; 16 in epigraphs) and archisynagogos (16 times: 10 in NT; 6 in epigraphs), among several others (which occur between 1 and 4 times). Archon (“prince” or “ruler”) appears in the form of archontes in the LXX in Ex16.22; 34.31; Num1.16; 31.13,26; 32.2; Josh9.15,16; 22.30. “During the Second Temple period, these archontes, along with a somewhat exclusive group known as ‘elders’ (presbyteroi), served as subsidiary rulers under the High Priest, forming a …synedrion” (Temple Courts, 345). Binder then goes on to show that these archontes also run the synagogues of both Judea and the Diaspora. Entry into the synedrion “was probably by the appointment of the High Priest, though the lineage and popularity among the masses were undoubtedly factors as well” (345). Binder also notes that “terms appear to have been for life, though changes in political regimes could result in the loss of one’s position” (345). Further, Binder demonstrates that doorkeepers, those conveying scriptures to and from readers, and general overseers of synagogues (at least in Egypt and Palestine) were often Levites.

After his examination of all the data, Binder concludes, “Our survey has highlighted the role of priests and Levites within synagogues. Here, sources indicate that priests served as archisynagogoi and archontes, and suggested that they frequently served as scribes. Similarly, the Levites functioned as scribes as also appear to have filled the role of synagogue attendant… The evidence points to the conclusion that the Temple and the synagogue both belonged to the priests, Levites and people, with all three groups having a measure of leadership and participation within each institution” (371).

2. E. P. Sanders, in his book Judaism: Practice and Belief (63BCE-66CE), makes the same claim, though on different grounds:

“Philo indicates that priests retained their status as leaders in the Diaspora (Hypothetica 7.12f.), and archeology confirms that in at least some places outside of Palestine priests were specifically designated as such [footnoting an inscription found at a synagogue at Sardis, dating from the 4th century CE, reading “priest and teacher of wisdom”]” (pp. 52-3).

“[Upon assessing the well-known Theodotus inscription] What is clear here is that the rulers of the synagogue were priests, three generations of them, and very prosperous priests at that. If we must assign them to a party, the Sadducean would be the most likely guess [contra Hengel, who believes Theodotus was a Pharisee], but there is no reason to think that they represent a party. What we learn from the inscription is that a family of wealthy priests who could speak Greek built and maintained a synagogue for Greek-speaking pilgrims, and that the synagogue had a dual purpose of serving as a guest house and a place of instruction. The inscription supports the evidence of the literature: it was the priests who taught the law” (pp.176-7).

“The Theodotus inscription is graphic evidence of the role of priests in synagogues, a role that some retained in the Diaspora. We recall that according to Philo a priest or elder was responsible for sabbath instruction (Hypothetica 7.13). At the synagogue in Sardis an inscription was found that refers to a man who was a ‘priest and teacher of widsom’. This is from the fourth century. Its relevance is that it shows continuity with the passage of Philo and the Theopdotus inscription. In neither Palestine nor the Diaspora did priests withdraw from public life and community study and worship. By our period, prayer and reading of the Bible had already been incorporated in the temple service. It was a natural development for priests to perform both functions in synagogues as well…. The priest or elder read and interpreted the Bible, and other for the most part remained silent (Philo, Hypothetica, 7.13)” (pp.201-2).

“…Josephus presupposes that the priests were the official teachers of the nation, though he also depicts lay Pharisees and Essenes as public teachers. I think that we cannot safely generalize about who dominated how many sunagogues, but we must doubt that the Pharisees ran all of them” (p.398).

On page 398, Sanders sufficiently shows that there were three times more Levites and priests than Pharisees, based on Josephus’ ficgures. And that the number of Pharisees made it impossible for them to be in charge of all of the synagogues in the Diaspora. Thus, he concludes, the priests and Levites were in charge of some of the synagogues.

Synagogues in Jerusalem? January 10, 2010

Posted by Lee in MET Blogger Archive, Synagogues.
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[Originally posted on June 24, 2008.]

It is hotly debated whether or not there were any synaoguges in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. However, both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud give a different impression:

“There were four hundred and eighty synagogues in Jerusalem, each of which had a bet sefer and a bet talmud. The bet sefer was for [the study of] the Bible, and the bet talmud for [the study of] the Mishnah, and Vespasian destroyed them all” (y. Megillah 3.1.73a).

A similar claim is made in b. Kethuboth 105a, claiming the number of synagogues in Jerusalem was 394.

Do these late texts give sufficient evidence that there were synagogues in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, before 70AD? I seem to recall that in the Essene sector of Jerusalem, there is archaeological evidence for mikvehs, which may suggest the existence of a synagogue there. I will research this further.