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Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period

Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period: (Abridged Edition)

Edited, with a Foreword, by Jacob Neusner
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 375
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period
    Book Description:

    This volume presents the most important portions of Erwin Goodenough's classic thirteen-volume work, a magisterial attempt to encompass human spiritual history in general through the study of Jewish symbols in particular. Revealing that the Jewish religion of the period was much more varied and complex than the extant Talmudic literature would lead us to believe, Goodenough offered evidence for the existence of a Hellenistic-Jewish mystic mythology far closer to the Qabbalah than to rabbinical Judaism.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5289-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxxviii)

    THIS ABRIDGMENT presents to a new generation of readers some of the more important parts of Goodenough’s now-classicJewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period(I–XIII). Goodenough took as his problem the interpretation of symbols of art and archeology in the study of religion. In his monumental work, published between 1953 and 1968, he developed a method for explaining, without recourse to literary testimony and evidence, the meaning and use of symbols. In this synopsis I mean to provide a clear picture of Goodenough’s method and how it works in substantial examples of his results. Let me first briefly explain the...

    (pp. xxxix-xlvi)

    • CHAPTER ONE The Problem
      (pp. 3-35)

      THE PROBLEM in the origin of Christianity to which this study hopes to contribute is that of its rapid hellenization. Christianity began, as far as we know, with a simple Galilean peasant, who, like Amos of old, spoke moving words to an audience which as a whole little understood or liked his message. As to details of Jesus’ message we are in almost constant difficulty, but his way of thinking seems to have been so genuinely a product of the Judaism of his environment that strongly as he denounced aspects of that Judaism, any real departure from it has usually...

    • CHAPTER TWO Method in Evaluating Symbols
      (pp. 36-78)

      STUDY OF THE rabbinic evidence has led to a negative conclusion.¹ It was not because the Greco-Roman world and its images had been accepted as valid for Judaism by the rabbis that such numbers of Greco-Roman figures were used in the Jewish tombs and synagogues of the time. The rabbis held to their aniconism [that is, non-utilization of graphic arts in general] with occasional but on the whole very insignificant modification. Accordingly, since the images were used so flagrantly, the rabbis could have had little control over the practices of the mass of Jews and I suspect that they had...


    • CHAPTER THREE The Shofar
      (pp. 81-115)

      THE SHOFAR, or trumpet of ram’s horn, has often been mentioned among the symbols appearing in the Jewish remains we are studying.¹ In Jewish ritual the straight horn of the wild goat was at one time used interchangeably with the curved horn of the ram, but by Greco-Roman times the goat’s horn was generally superseded by the ram’s horn, which is the shofar of the monuments. In the Temple the shofar and a pair of trumpets were used together, and it is this pair of trumpets, apparently, that is represented on coins of the Second Revolt,² though it appears nowhere...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Pagan Symbols in Judaism: Astronomical Symbols
      (pp. 116-174)

      LATE ANTIQUITY was deeply committed to an astral approach to religion. The religions of earlier Greeks and Romans largely revolved round seasonal festivals, but neither people seem to have understood clearly that the seasons themselves are controlled by the astral bodies and relations. Similarly Apollo had been a sun god, but not at all as distinctively so as the later Helios or Sol Invictus who largely came to take his place. As the astral conception came in from the East, most of the older myths and divine personalities, and a large part of ancient ritual, were interpreted or altered to...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Interpreting the Art of the Synagogue at Dura-Europos
      (pp. 177-194)

      FEW ARCHEOLOGISTS have had so amazing an experience as that of five young people when in November 1932 they saw the painted walls of a third-century synagogue emerge from the sands of Dura Europos. Their names should be freshly recorded: Clark Hopkins, Director; M. le Cte. du Mesnil du Buisson, Vice-Director; Miss Margaret Crosby; Frank E. Brown; and Van W. Knox. Others joined them when the magnitude of the discovery showed the need. The original group had gone out carefully coached by Franz Cumont, René Dussaud, and, above all, Michael Rostovtzeff, who, with his usual flair for the best place to...

    • CHAPTER SIX Cosmic Judaism: The Temple of Aaron
      (pp. 195-221)

      IT WAS SAID at the outset that the guide to interpreting the paintings must be the details of the paintings themselves, and that what literary sources should be used to interpret the paintings must be determined by the designs and their relation to one another. Examination of the scenes to this point has strongly suggested that a master “philosopher” had planned the wall in general, and specified the artistic and symbolic details by which the Old Testament scenes should be represented. After studying the reredos with the portraits of Moses, we have examined the lowest register and found in balance two...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Judaism of Immaterial Reality: The Ark vs. Paganism
      (pp. 222-248)

      THE SCENE of the miraculous well illuminated the meaning of the Temple of Aaron beside it In the same way, I believe, the scene of the Ark of the Covenant, fig. 66, to which we now come, complements the scene of the Closed Temple.

      The painting appears at first to fall into two parts, divided by the Ark, which rests upon a cart. The painting has usually been described as containing two scenes, two episodes, but we shall have reason to suppose that, although details come from various sources and passages, the painting actually gives us a single composition which is...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Summary: Judaism at Dura
      (pp. 249-266)

      TO RECOVER the thinking of these Jews, I have felt all along that we must approach their paintings as nearly as possible with atabula rasa, ready for any impressions. For before the discovery of the Dura synagogue in 1932 anyone would have been thought mad who suggested that Jews could have made such a place of worship. Its discovery has maddened us all, but we do not return to sanity when we force the synagogue to conform a priori to Jewish literary traditions which through the centuries had never suggested to anyone that such a building could have existed....

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 267-276)
  9. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 279-282)
  10. Illustrations
    (pp. 283-330)