Two tombstones of two murdered/poisoned Jewish women:
A Greek Funerary
Prayer of vengeance for Heraclaea and Marthina
Discovered on Rheneia
Island near Delos Greece
Hebrew as a language was extinct at the time of Jesus
both inside Judea and the Diaspora Jews living outside the promised land.
Language of commerce
Default daily use language
Aramaic was the default language as seen in Jesus’ cry
in Aramaic: “My God, why have you forgotten me” on the cross.
Aramaic was the default language of the first century
Jews as seen in the Aramaic Lots found at Masada.
In 1901 AD, two tombstones were published that were
discovered at the same time and place on the island of Rheneia which is
near the Island of Delos in Greece.
The inscriptions were dated to 100 BC and determined to be of Jewish
origin from a colony living on the Island.
- "Two Jewish inscriptions from the island of Rheneia
near Delos from c. 100 bce imply the use of the LXX outside Egypt
also. The Alexandrian translation of the Pentateuch marched victoriously
throughout the whole Greek-speaking Jewish Diaspora." (The
Septuagint as Christian scripture: its prehistory and the problem of its
canon, M. Hengel, R. Deines, M. E Biddle, p76, 2002 AD)
The two Jewish women named Heraclaea and Marthina were
murdered by poisoning at the same time.
Nothing is known about who these women are although
suggestions have been made they were wives or daughters of the synagogue
official on the Island of nearby Delos.
The tombstone inscription is an angry commentary from
The wording of the inscription follows the unique wording in the
Septuagint in several places, especially Num 16:22 and Lev
"But they fell on their faces and said, “O God,
God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the
entire congregation?”" (Num 16:22)
b. "“If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same
day, he shall be cut off from his people." (Leviticus
The Lev 23:29 text is part of the day of atonement and the use of
these words on the tombstone show.
Two tombstones with almost identical inscriptions for
two women, Heraclaea and Marthina, who were poisoned at the same time.
The inscription for Heraclaea is identical on both
sides of her tombstone.
The tombstone of Marthina was found near it with the
similar inscription to the one found on the funerary marker of Heraclaea.
Here is the translation of the Greek inscription:
- “I call upon and pray the Most High God, the Lord of the
spirits and of all flesh, against those who with guile murdered or
poisoned the wretched, untimely lost Heraclea, shedding her innocent
blood wickedly: that it may be so with them that murdered or poisoned
her, and with their children; O Lord that seeth all things, and ye angels
of God, Thou before whom every soul is afflicted this same day with
supplication: that Thou mayst avenge the innocent blood and require it
again right speedily!” (Light from the ancient East the New Testament
illustrated by recently discovered texts of the Graeco-Roman world, A.
Deissmann, & L. R. M. Strachan, p434, 1910 AD)
- “I call upon and pray the Most High God,
the Lord of the spirits and of all flesh, against those who murdered or
poisoned the poor untimely lost Heraclaea, wickedly spilling her innocent
blood: may the same fate strike them that murdered or poisoned her, and
also their children, o Lord, who oversees all and you angels of God, You
(o God) before whom every person humbles himself on this day with
imploration, that You may revenge the innocent blood and claim it soon.” (The
New Testament Milieu, A.B. Du Toit, 1998 AD)
- Notice the following parallels:
the Most High God, the Lord of the
spirits and of all flesh, against those who murdered
“O God, God of the spirits of all flesh,
when one man sins, will You be angry” (Num 16:22)
every person humbles himself on this day
with imploration, that You may revenge the innocent blood
"If there is any person who will not
humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people."
II. Details of the two funerary
- “Both the vocabulary
and the phraseology echo the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known
as the Septuagint. For
example, “the day on which every soul humiliates itself with
supplications” is strongly reminiscent of Leviticus 23:29, “Every soul
that shall not humiliate itself on that day shall be cut off from its
people,” which is a reference to fasting on the Day of Atonement.” (Jewish Funerary Inscriptions—Most Are in Greek,
BAR, Pieter W. van der Horst, 1992 AD)
- “Originally, this tombstone from the
first century B.C. was accompanied by a twin stone. Together they are the
silent witnesses of the death of two beloved daughters (or wives?),
Heraclaea and Marthina, who were murdered at the same time. They are a
moving testimony of the mourning of those who remained behind in the
Jewish community of Delos. Note the typical appellation ‘Almighty God’
(cf. §1475). The day on which every person must “humble himself with
imploration” is probably the Day of Atonement. This indicates that the
Jews in the Diaspora also celebrated this feast (cf. §1186). In contrast
to the heathen incantational practices which were meant to operate in a
magical way (cf. §669–70), the hands here are stretched out pleadingly to God
to revenge the death of these two innocent people. To the bereaved the
murderers may be unknown, but not for God, who ‘oversees all’.”
(The New Testament Milieu, A.B. Du Toit, 1998 AD)
- “Jewish inscriptions of the pre-Christian period are very
rare, and merely on that account every increase of material is of
interest. But even in details the texts yield a respectable harvest. They
afford confirmatory proofs of the existence of a Jewish community at Delos
in the time of the successors of Alexander; they moreover render it
probable that the Jews of Delos also buried their dead at Rheneia. That
must have been in compulsory conformity with the customs of the place. But
the name Heraclea the ending of the name Marthina, the shape of the
gravestones, the symbol of the two hands on the stones, and notably the
whole style of the prayer—these are all adaptations to the Hellenic
surroundings. Hellenism is already at work on the
great task of peacefully secularising the Jewish faith, and this at
a time when in the old home of that faith men were still living who had
witnessed the great days when the Maccabean martyrs poured out their blood
for the law of their fathers. This Hellenisation from outside was assisted
from another direction by the Hellenisation of the Bible which originated
with the cosmopolitan Jews of Alexandria. The
Septuagint was already in use among the Jews of the Diaspora when the
inscriptions at Rheneia were composed. This is a very important fact. Our
inscriptions add to the literary evidence of the existence and use of the
Septuagint in early times an original document that is only a few
decades later than the celebrated testimony of the prologue to
Ecclesiasticus. In this respect they are more valuable than the tablet of
Hadrumetum. They show further that the great Day
of Atonement was actually celebrated by the Jews of Delos in the period
about 100 B.C. We are not particularly well informed about worship
in the Diaspora, and we therefore welcome the evidence that our stones
give as to the celebration of the Feast of Feasts one hundred and fifty
years before the time when the apostle Paul sailed in an Alexandrian ship
on Cretan waters, shortly after the Fast (i.e. the Day of Atonement).
Finally the inscriptions from Rheneia afford us a glimpse of the inner
life of the Jewish community at Delos. Two girls. Heraclea and Marthina,
have been murdered; the murderers, to whose guile or magic the poor things
have fallen victims. are unknown. The blood of the innocent cries aloud to
Heaven, for it is written, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his
blood be shed.” So vengeance is left to Him who visits the sins of the
fathers upon the children. On the most solemn festival of the year, when
all Israel afflict themselves and the prayers of the scattered children of
Abraham rise everywhere on the four winds of heaven to the throne of the
Eternal, whilst at Jerusalem the high priest enters the “Holy of
Holies,”—the mourners bring their grim petition before God; in fervent
prayer on the Day of Atonement they consign the murderers to the vengeance
of the Omniscient and His angels.” (Light from the ancient East the New
Testament illustrated by recently discovered texts of the Graeco-Roman
world, A. Deissmann, & L. R. M. Strachan, p434, 1910 AD)
These two funerary grave markers continue to cry out
today against the person who poisoned these two Jewish women living on the
Island of Rheneia, Greece.
Since the time of Alexander the Great (333 BC), the
Greek language was the working and default language of all the Jews living
outside the promised land of Judah.
These grave markers in Greek, are confirmation of this
The Greek Septuagint Old Testament (Tanakh) was the
scripture text found in every synagogue, not only outside Israel, but also in
Judea as well at the time of Christ.
Hebrew, as a language had gone extinct among the Jews
everywhere except for the Jerusalem Temple elites.
Outside Judea, Greek was the default working language
Inside Judea, Greek was the working language of
commerce but Aramaic was the default language as seen in Jesus’ cry “My God,
why have you forgotten me” on the cross.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the
author for comments, input or corrections.
Go To Start: WWW.BIBLE.CA