A Nomen Sacrum in the Sardis Synagogue by ProQuest

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									JBL 128, no. 4 (2009): 813–821




                      A Nomen Sacrum in the
                         Sardis Synagogue

                                 james r. edwards
                                jedwards@whitworth.edu
                         Whitworth University, Spokane, WA 99251




      The Sardis synagogue displays several notable differences from other ancient
synagogues known to us. At eighty-five meters long and twenty meters wide—large
enough to accommodate a thousand people—it is “the largest synagogue ever found
in the Roman world.”1 Many synagogues in the ancient world were located on the
periphery of towns and cities, but the Sardis synagogue shares pride of place in
city-center with a colonnaded row of shops on the south and a spacious palaestra
and mammoth bath-gymnasium complex on the north and west. Unlike other
known synagogues of antiquity, there is no evidence of benches along the outer
walls of the Sardis synagogue, and no staircase or upper gallery for the separation
of women from men. Whether these two features imply mixed-gender worship or
the exclusion of women from worship is not clear. No less unusual is the presence
of a huge marble table in the apse of the synagogue, the supports of which are dec-
orated by Roman eagles clutching thunderbolts. The table is flanked by two sixth-
century b.c.e. sculpted lions from the Temple of Cybele, recycled in the synagogue
ostensibly as lions of Judah. The synagogue of Sardis is the largest known and prob-
ably most magnificent synagogue of antiquity—and compared to other synagogues
of the Mediterranean, the most eclectic and syncretistic.2
      To this list of unique features of the Sardis synagogue may now be added

       1 A. Thomas Kraabel, in Andrew R. Seager and A. Thomas Kraabel, “The Synagogue and

the Jewish Community,” in Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeologi-
cal Exploration of Sardis 1958–1975 (ed. George M. A. Hanfmann, assisted by William E. Mierse;
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 179.
       2 On the Sardis synagogue, see Seager and Kraabel, “Synagogue and the Jewish Commu-

nity,” 168–90; John G. Pedley, “Sardis,” ABD 5:982–84; and Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish,
A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2003),
303–13.

                                              813
814                    Journal of Biblical Literature 128, no. 4 (2009)

another—the presence of a nomen sacrum in the wall inscriptions. This appears to
be the first known example of a nomen sacrum in a synagogue, and perhaps the
first certain example of a nomen sa
								
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