Ancient Synagogue Inscription from Alexandrou Nesos, Egypt: 218 BC

Synagogue Inscriptions from the Oldest Synagogues in the world


Alexandrou Nesos, Egypt: May 11, 218 BC



 A. Synagogue Inscription:

1.       Inscription text: “To King Ptolemy1, greeting from ...who lives in Alexandrou Nesos. I have been wronged by Dorotheos, (a Jew who lives in the) same village. In the 5th year, according to the financial calendar, on Phamenoth ... (as I was talking to) my co-worker, my mantle (which is worth... drachmae) caught Dorotheos' eye, and he took it. When I saw him, (he fled2) to the Jewish prayer hall3 [proseuche] (holding) the mantle, (while I called for help). Lezelmis, a holder of 100 arourai, came up to help (and gave) the mantle to Nikomachos the (prayer hall) official4 to keep till the case was tried. Therefore I beg you, my king, to command Diophanes the magistrate (to write to the) chief of police telling him to order Dorotheos and Nikomachos to hand over the mantle to him, and, if what I write is true (to make him give me the) mantle or its value; as for the injury... If this happens, I shall have received justice through you, my king. Farewell.””

2.       Epigraphic evidence: Greek Synagogue text on papyrus           

3.       Provenance: Alexandrou Nesos, Fayum region, Egypt, 1910 AD

4.       Current location: Unable to determine current location.

5.       Occupation Date (SOD) = Excavation date + Inscriptional date + Literary date = 218 BC

a.        SOD computation system details

b.        Excavation date: none

c.         Inscriptional date: none

d.        Literary date: May 11, 218 BC

6.       Contemporary Ruler: Ptolemy XV Caesarion: Last King of Ptolemy (44-30 BC)

7.       References:

a.         CPJ: Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, Tcherikover, vol 1, no. 1.129, 1957 AD

8.       Related Literary references:

a.         Acts 16:13

b.        1 Cor 6

c.         Philo, Embassy 132-134

d.        Josephus, Life 277

e.        3 Macc 2:28; 4:18; 7:17-22

f.          Philo Special 1.156

g.         Josephus Wars 1.153.

9.       Further documentation and comments:

a.         This inscription clearly shows that synagogues were asylum and sanctuary “no-go zones” for non-Jews.

b.        It also shows that the Synagogue was a court.


B. Inscription footnotes:

1.      During persecution of Jews by Ptolemy IV. cf.: 3 Macc 2:28; 4:18; 7:17-22

2.      Early synagogues were legal sanctuaries like grabbing hold of temple altar horns. Like cities of refuge, they were also courts.

3.      Lit. proseuche = house of prayer, synagogue]

4.      Lit. nakoros = temple keeper, used of Jerusalem temple by Philo, Special Laws, 1.156 and Josephus Wars of the Jews 1.153. 



By Steve Rudd 2017: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections


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Master introduction: Summary overview is the place to start to tie it all together.

Providence: God’s eternal plan: The providential transition from Temple to Synagogue to Church

Origin: Synagogues originated at Alexandria Egypt in 280 BC spawned by the Septuagint

Jesus the Messiah of the Tanakh:

1.       First Century Jewish Messianic Expectation: As witnessed in the Dead Sea scrolls.

2.       Looking for the wrong thing: Mistaken Jewish ideas of the Messiah in 30 AD.

3.       Jesus fulfilled Prophecy: Master list of fulfilled messianic prophecies

4.       Jesus fulfilled Prophecy: "He shall be called a Nazarene (branch)" Matthew 2:23

5.       Jesus fulfilled Prophecy: “Jesus would rise the third day” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Synagogue Architectural Prototypes in the Church:

1.         Standard architectural synagogue typology: Introduction, Master Chart

2.         Mikveh for Ritual Purity: The Christian Maker

3.         Ritual purity stone Vessels: Stoneware cups and wash basins

4.         Freestanding Columns: Antitype of Christians

5.         Artwork: Heart-Shaped Columns

6.         The bema: Prototype of the Church Pulpit

7.         Synagogue Benches: Metaphor of Equality in Christ

8.         Women Seating in Synagogues: Not segregated from men

9.         The Moses’ Seat: Metaphor of Pride

10.    Niches & Ark of The Scrolls: Prototype of Church Apse

11.    Table of the Scrolls: Prototype of Communion Table

12.    Byzantine Church Architecture: Octagonal and Basilica

13.    Orientation: Early Synagogues did not Point to Jerusalem

14.    The Church replaced the Temple: Replacement theology is pure Christianity

Synagogue Worship Prototypes in the Church:

15.    Worship prototypes: Introduction and Master Summary Chart

16.    Collective Names of Synagogues: House of Prayer, Temple, Church

17.    Organization of Synagogues: Elders, officials, attendants, Independent, autonomous

18.    Attendance: Weekly Sabbath Assemblies in Synagogues absent from Tanakh

19.    Public Bible readings: Preaching and Teaching In Synagogues

20.    Greek Septuagint: The Standard Tanakh of every ancient synagogue

21.    Greek Septuagint scroll of the Twelve Minor Prophets written in 50 BC

22.    Prayer in Synagogues: “House of prayer” Proseuche

23.    Food: Sacred Passover Meals, No Common Meals In Synagogues

24.    Sermon Topics in Synagogues: How Christians used the Tanakh to convert Jews

25.    Singing in Synagogues: Non-Instrumental Acapella Responsive Singing

26.    Benevolence Money: Freewill Weekly First fruits Collections for poor in Synagogues

27.    Education: Schools and Literacy of Jews In Synagogues

28.    Role of Women in Synagogues: Never leaders, preachers but never segregated

29.    Sanctuary Status: Refugees seeking Asylum in Synagogues

30.    Appendages: Hostels, Housing and Food Banks in Synagogues

31.    Civil Court: Judgements, beatings and scourging in Synagogues

32.    Civic Meetings: Political Town Hall assemblies in Synagogues

33.    Christians replaced Jews: Replacement theology is pure Christianity

Synagogue Occupation Date (SOD)= Excavation date + Inscriptional date + Literary date 

Allusions: Synagogue worship allusions and imagery in the New Testament

Master builder Stonemason Jesus: “Upon this Rock I will build My church

Everyday life: Archeology of Everyday Life and Homes at the time of Jesus

Master List: Master list of First Temple Period, Pre-70 AD Synagogues

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By Steve Rudd 2017: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections




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