First Century Synagogue Top Plans: Gamla 76 BC

Archeological Excavations of Oldest Synagogues in the world

 

Gamla 76 BC

 

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Introduction:

1.           Gamla means “Camel” for the single hump shaped hill it was built upon.

a.           Like a double humped camel, it was the home of two different zealot rebellions, first in 2 BC then in 66 AD.

b.          It was a formidable physical fortress that the Romans had great difficulty defeating with their Ballista and other slings.

c.           “Finds at the synagogue were from the final stage and battle. They included 350 ballista balls, 35 arrowheads, and many nails and pottery items, among them Herodian lamps, broken jars, and cooking pots.” (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p28, 2013 AD)

2.           Gamla was founded by Alexander Jannaeus no later than 76 BC (103-76 BC)

a.           As one of the most important spiritual leaders it is unthinkable that Alexander Jannaeus would found this town without a synagogue.

b.          The synagogue seen today is a one period occupation site that likely dates back to 76 BC and was used until destroyed in 67 AD.

c.           “Gamla is the earliest synagogue structure to have been discovered in Judaea to date'" The building may have been built around the turn of the first century C.E., although a mid-first century B.C.E. foundation, some time between Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.c.E.) and Herod (37-4 B.c.E.), has also been suggested. “The Gamla building is architecturally impressive. It is the only public building thus far excavated in that town and may well be the only one that ever existed there. Located adjacent to the eastern wall, the building runs on a northeast-southwest axis and is 21.5 meters long and 17.5 meters wide.” (The Ancient Synagogue, Lee Levine, p54, 1999 AD)

d.          Here is the famous widow’s mite (prutah) of Alexander Jannaeus dating to year 25 (78 BC): "And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”" (Mark 12:41–44)

3.           Gamla was always a Rebel fortress:

a.           76 BC: Founded by neo-zealot leader Alexander Jannaeus in 76 BC.

b.          2 BC: Judas of Galilee: “Judas of Galilee rose up and perished” 2BC: Acts 5:37; Lk 2:1-3

c.           67 AD: 1nd Jewish War: Pre-Masada: After 7 month siege, Romans defeat Jewish rebels Nov 67 AD Josephus Wars 4:1-83

4.           Synagogue details:

a.           The assembly hall was 25 x 17 meters with stone benches: 6x6 on outside long wall, 4x4 on outside short wall

b.          20 columns, including four heart shaped corner pillars.

5.           We know it had a flat root, not pitched because no ceramic roofing tiles were ever found in the excavation.  

6.           The roof was not tiled as no tiles were found, and it was probably constructed of wooden beams. (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p28, 2013 AD)

7.           Synagogue Mikvah: The Christian Maker

a.           A plastered mikveh near entrance was located beside the synagogue which was fed water from rain water from the roof.

8.           The Ark of the Scrolls niche:

a.           See also: Niches & Ark of The Scrolls: Prototype of Church Apse

b.          A wooden cabinet was place in this niche area to house the Septuagint scrolls.

9.           The synagogue features a stone bema in the center of the synagogue for either the reader or preacher to stand on.

a.           See also: The bema: Prototype of the Church Pulpit

b.          The bema could also been dual purpose for a table of the Scrolls.

c.           See also: Table of the Scrolls: Prototype of Communion Table

10.       Beautiful heart shaped in situ columns can be seen today:

a.           See also: Artwork: Heart-Shaped Columns

b.          These columns are typical of early synagogues.

A. Earliest Synagogue Occupation Date (SOD) = 76 BC

1.       Excavation date: first century

2.       Inscriptional date: none

3.       Literary date: Josephus 76 BC

4.       SOD computation system details: Excavation date + Inscriptional date + Literary date = SOD.

 

 B. Synagogue Compass Orientation:

1.         Orientation East or towards Jerusalem: No.

2.         Compass headings:

a.       Compass heading towards Jerusalem: 201 Degrees.

b.      Distance to Jerusalem: 132 Kilometers.

3.         When an archeologist begins excavating a newly discovered synagogue, the first thing he does to determine if it is a first temple, pre-70 AD installation is determine the orientation.

a.       If the synagogue points east it is not pre-70 AD but built after 200 AD.

b.      If the synagogue is oriented towards Jerusalem it is not pre-70 AD but built after 200 AD.

4.         See Orientation: Early Synagogues did not Point to Jerusalem

 

C. Acts 5:37 Judas of Galilee/Gamla founded the Zealot movement in 2 BC

1.       Bible reference:

a.         "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered." (Acts 5:37)

b.        “and besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have shown in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified” (Josephus, Antiquities 20.102)

2.       Judas began his rebellion against the census of Quirinius in 2 BC:

a.         "Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city." (Luke 2:1–3)

b.        Judas of Galilee/Gamla encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers.[2] He began the "fourth philosophy" of the Jews which Josephus blames for the disastrous war with the Romans in 66-70 AD.       

3.       Judas of Galilee was from Gamla:

a.         “yet there was one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.4),

 

D. Josephus describes the four Jewish sects:  Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots

1.       “The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now.” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.11)

2.       Zealot movement is born: 2 BC.

a.         Josephus records that Judas of Galilee/Gama and ,Zadok the Pharisee founded a "fourth sect" called the “Zealots” (Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots).

b.        “And now Archelaus’s part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponious, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of [life and] death put into his hands by Caesar. (118) Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders. (119) For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of whom are the Pharisees; of the second the Sadducces; and the third sect, who pretends to a severer discipline, and called Essenes.” (Josephus Wars 2.117-119)

c.         “In the meantime one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans) took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada,” (Josephus Wars 2.433)

d.        Sect of the Zealots: “Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money; (3) but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any farther opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Boethus, and high priest. So they, being over-persuaded by Joazar’s words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it; (4) yet there was one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty: (5) as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such counsels as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially, if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same; (6) so men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height. All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; (7) one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends, who used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murders of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; (8) whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left), and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemy’s fire. (9) Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by thus conspiring together; for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundation of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted withal; (10) concerning which I shall discourse a little, and this the rather, because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction. (Josephus, Antiquities 18.2-10)

e.        Attempted appointment of Judas’ brother to lead new revolt: “And when this calamity of the Jews was become so great, as they had never had experience of the like since their return out of Babylon, those that remained of the companions of Judas, seeing that the nation was about to be destroyed after a miserable manner, came to his brother Jonathan [successor to Judas Maccabeus: 160-143 BC], and desired him that he would imitate his brother, and that care which he took of his countrymen, for whose liberty in general he died also; and that he would not permit the nation to be without a governor, especially in those destructive circumstances wherein it now was.” (Josephus, Antiquities 13.5)

3.       Josephus describes the Doctrine of Zealots:

a.         But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kind of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man Lord; (24) and since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no farther about that matter; nor am I afraid that anything I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain; (25) and it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans; and these are the sects of Jewish philosophy.”

4.       Josephus describes the Doctrine of Pharisees:

a.         “Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced; (13) and, when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of men can act virtuously or viciously. (14) They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; (15) on account of which doctrines, they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities gave great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also.” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.11-15)

5.       Josephus describes the Doctrine of Sadducees:

a.         “But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of anything besides what the law enjoins them; for they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent; (17) but this doctrine is received but by a few, yet by those still of the greatest dignity; but they are able to do almost nothing of themselves; for when they become magistrates, as they are unwillingly and by force sometimes obliged to be, they addict themselves to the notions of the Pharisees, because the multitude would not otherwise bear them. (Josephus, Antiquities 18:16-17)

6.       Josephus describes the Doctrine of Essenes:

a.         “The doctrine of the Essenes is this: That all things are best ascribed to God. They teach the immortality of souls, and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for; (19) and when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple, they do not offer sacrifices, because they have more pure lustrations of their own; on which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple, but offer their sacrifices themselves; yet is their course of life better than that of other men; and they entirely addict themselves to husbandry. (20) It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness; and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other man, neither Greeks nor barbarians, no, not for a little time, so hath it endured a long while among them. This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs which will not suffer anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all. There are about four thousand men that live in this way, (21) and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former gives the handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves, they minister one to another. (22) They also appoint certain stewards to receive the incomes of their revenues, and of the fruits of the ground; such as are good men and priests, who are to get their corn and their food ready for them. They none of them differ from others of the Essenes in their way of living, but do the most resemble those Dacae who are called Polistae  [dwellers in cities.]” (Josephus, Antiquities 18.18–22)

 

E. Three Jewish defeats that ended in Suicide packs:

1.      Masada is well know where 960 killed themselves in 74 AD after the Romans finally breeched the upper wall.

2.      The Pre-Masada standoff #1: Yodfat.

a.       Josephus took refuge and surrendered at Jotapata, Iotapata, Yodefat

a.       Yodfat is about 40 km south west of Gamla and directly west of Cana.

b.      Josephus survived by cheating in the casting of lots, then surrendered to the Romans.

c.       Josephus spent two years in jail until he was hired by Titus as an interpreter and to record the wars and the final siege of Jerusalem.

d.      “By 67 A.D. a general rebellion against Rome engulfed Palestine. Jerusalem had repulsed a Roman attack and the Jews had set up their own government which divided the country into seven military districts, each with its own commander. The Galilee command fell to a young priest, Joseph, the son of Mattathias (the future historian, Flavius Josephus). Josephus had had no military experience, and wasted most of his time suppressing various factions who opposed him. The Roman Emperor, Nero, aware of the seriousness of the rebellion in Palestine, sent his best general Vespasian, with three legions, to quell the outbreak. Vespasian’s troops easily penetrated Josephus’ defences and dispersed the Galilean army. Josephus himself took refuge with 40 men in the fortress of Jotapata. There each man resolved to slay his neighbor rather than be captured. Josephus cast the lots, managing by deceit to be one of the last two alive, and then persuaded his companion to join him in surrendering to the Romans. (A communal suicide pact was also made by the 960 defenders at Masada, but, there, the commander Eleazar Ben Ya’ir died with all his followers.) Josephus relates that he was imprisoned by the Romans, but Vespasian spared his life when he—Josephus—foretold greatness for the Roman commander. By this trick Josephus lived to write his famous histories, The Jewish War and The Antiquities of the Jews, which today provide a window, distorted though it may sometimes be, to those violent and passionate times.” (The Fall of Gamla, Flavius Josephus, BAR 5:01, 1979 AD)

3.      The Pre-Masada standoff #2: Gamla

a.         so the Romans got up and surrounded them, and some they slew before they could defend themselves, and others as they were delivering up themselves; and the remembrance of those that were slain at their former entrance into the city increased their rage against them now; (79) a great number also of those that were surrounded on every side, and despaired of escaping, threw their children and their wives, and themselves also, down the precipices, into the valley beneath, which, near the citadel, had been dug hollow to a vast depth; (80) but so it happened, that the anger of the Romans appeared not to be so extravagant as was the madness of those that were now taken, while the Romans slew but four thousand, whereas the number of those that had thrown themselves down was found to be five thousand: (81) nor did anyone escape except two women, who were the daughters of Philip, and Philip himself was the son of a certain eminent man called Jacimus, who had been general of king Agrippa’s army; (82) and these did therefore escape, because they lay concealed from the sight of the Romans when the city was taken, for otherwise they spared not so much as the infants, of whom many were flung down by them from the citadel. (83) And thus was Gamala taken on the twenty-third day of the month Hyperberetaeus [Tisri], whereas the city had first revolted on the twenty-fourth day of the month Gorpiaeus [Elul].” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4.78-83)

b.        “Josephus’ account of the fall of Gamla follows. After the fall of Jotapataa such Galilaeans as still remained in revolt from Rome now, surrendered; and the Romans received the submission of all the fortresses and towns except Gischalab and the force which had occupied Mount Tabor. Gamla was also in league with these rebels. Gamla refused to surrender, relying even more confidently than Jotapata upon the natural difficulties of its position. From a lofty mountain there descends a rugged spur rising in the middle to a hump, the declivity from the summit of which is of the same length before as behind, so that in form the ridge resembles a camel; whence it derives its name. (The name Gamla has the same root as the word for camel.) Its sides and face are cleft all round by inaccessible ravines, but at the tail end, where it hangs on to the mountain, it is somewhat easier of approach; but this quarter also the inhabitants, by cutting a trench across it, had rendered difficult of access. The houses were built against the steep mountain flank and astonishingly huddled together, one on top of the other, and this perpendicular site gave the city the appearance of being suspended in air and falling headlong upon itself. It faced south, and its southern eminence, rising to an immense height, formed the citadel; below this an unwalled precipice descended to the deepest of the ravines. There was a spring within the walls at the confines of the town. … The Romans mounted the crest and quickly surrounded and slew them, some offering resistance, others holding out their hands for quarter; but the recollection of those who fell in the first assault whetted their fury against all. Despairing of their lives and hemmed in on every side, multitudes plunged headlong with their wives and children into the ravine which had been excavated to a vast depth beneath the citadel. Indeed, the rage of the Romans was thus made to appear milder than the frantic self-immolation of the vanquished, four thousand only being slain by the former, while those who flung themselves over the cliff were found to exceed five thousand. Not a soul escaped save two women; these were nieces, on the mother’s side, of Philip, son of Jacimus, a distinguished man who had been commander-in-chief to King Agrippa. They owed their escape to their having concealed themselves at the time of the capture of the town; for at that moment the rage of the Romans was such that they spared not even infants, but time after time snatched up numbers of them and slung them from the citadel. Thus, on the twenty-third of the month Hyperberetaeusj was Gamla taken, after a revolt which began on the twenty-fourth of Gorpia.” (The Fall of Gamla, Flavius Josephus, BAR 5:01, 1979 AD)

c.         “If the Romans thought the Jewish inhabitants of Gamla would surrender, they were badly mistaken. The Jews stood their ground against the Romans until finally forced by overpowering numbers to retreat to the upper part of the city. Then the Jews turned on their pursuers and attacked. The Romans tried to escape. For protection, the Roman soldiers crowded onto the roofs of the little houses perched on the steep slopes. The houses could not bear the weight of all the Roman soldiers and collapsed, killing hundreds. The Jews fought on, with swords taken from the dying Romans, and the remaining Romans fled for their lives. Josephus observed that the Romans “had nowhere so far met with such a disaster” and they were “ashamed of themselves for leaving their general to face danger alone.” In a speech to his men, the Roman commander Vespasian reassured them that their defeat was “attributable neither to any weakness on our part nor to the valor of the Jews, but to the difficulty of the ground.” The Romans mounted a second siege. The provisions in the city were short. Patiently, the Romans waited; soon, the people of Gamla were dying of hunger. The Romans dug under a large tower which eventually collapsed, leaving a gap in the city wall. But, Josephus notes, “the Romans with the memory of their former disaster deferred their entry” into the city until the next day. Again, the Jews fought, but the struggle was hopeless. When the Jews were surrounded and “despairing of their lives, multitudes plunged headlong with their wives and children into the ravine which had been excavated to a vast depth beneath the citadel. For at that moment the rage of the Romans was such that they spared not even infants, but time after time snatched up numbers of them and slung them from the citadel.” Only three people—two women and a man—survived by hiding among the ruins. And so Gamla fell. An Israeli archaeological survey of the Golan has located Gamla, and a team lead by kibbutznik-archaeologist Shmaryahu Guttman is now excavating. The first shovel went into the ground June 27, 1976. Following a short campaign in 1976, the diggers (who number many kibbutzniks as well as volunteers from around the world) were again in the field in 1977 and 1978. Guttman, who spent years excavating at Masada, says the material he is digging up at Gamla has the same feel as at Masada—as if they were the same people. Gamla is a magnificent site—as dramatic, in its own way, as the wilderness-fortress of Masada with which it is so often compared. Seeing Gamla’s stark pointed peak surrounded by deep ravines and still higher green mountains one understands why here, as at Masada, people believed that they could successfully defend their stronghold. Gamla is a one-period site. It was occupied only from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. After its destruction by the Romans, it was abandoned forever.” (Gamla: the Masada of the North, BAR 05:01, 1979 AD)

 

F. The Gamla and revolt first Jewish war coins: 66-70 AD

1.       The Gamla coin:

a.         The Gamla coin was a crude bronze replica of the Silver Jerusalem Shekel.

b.        It is difficult to read the inscription and it may be in either Paleo-Hebrew or Aramaic.

c.         If the inscription is in Paleo-Hebrew, then the inscription reads "for the redemption of Holy Jerusalem" or "for the redemption of Gamla".

d.        If Aramaic it would read: "Year 1 to the freedom of the Jewish people.

e.        The famous Josephus had joined the rebellion and was living at Gamla.

f.          The Romans conquered Gamla, (Aramaic for Camel after the shape of the hill the town was built upon) and Josephus surrendered.

2.       Second year of first Jewish revolt coins: 67 AD

3.       Third year of first Jewish revolt coins: 68 AD

 

G. Excavation details:

2.      “Gamla: There were two entrances: the main door with an unusual, indirect entrance on the axis of the large room faced approximately south-west, and a side entrance faced approximately southeast, dropping down via stairs to the street that ran along the south wall. Jerusalem lay to the southwest. The building was a simple community hall suitable for a variety of functions. There was little to differentiate functions in the building. The evidence is unclear whether it provided for liturgical functions. A niche in the northwest corner might have been a Torah niche and a row of stone pavers across the middle of the dirt floor has been thought suitable as the location of a reading desk.” (Building Jewish in the Roman East, Peter Richardson, p126, 2004 AD)

3.      “The Gamla synagogue is located just by the city wall, which it antedates. It is one of the best examples of a synagogue of the Second Temple period. The internal measure of the building is 20 x 16 m (floor space: 12 x 10 m), and all four walls are lined with tiers of benches. Rows of columns are located between the benches and the open space in the centre of the hall. A niche, possibly for storage, is found in the northwest corner of the hall. In the eastern aisle there is a small basin, perhaps for hand-washing. The floor of the main hall is pressed earth, except for the area of the possible peristyle [bema], which is paved with basalt flags. At the opposite wall of the main entrance, i.e., to the northeast is a smaller room (actually part of the city wall) that also contains benches. This may have been a study room (cf. Cana, No. 3). Adjacent to the building at the southwest is a large stepped pool (4 x 4.5 m) that served as a miqweh or ritual bath. The miqweh, along with an accompanying otzar (storage tank) by its northern corner, postdate the construction of the synagogue and were added in the first century C.E.” (The Ancient Synagogue from its Origins to 200 AD, Anders Runesson, p33, 2008 AD)

4.      Gamla: “Four colonnades (16 columns) with four double [heart-shaped] columns in the corners (two still in situ) divide the hall; the columns are capped by Doric capitals but have no bases. The colonnades are surrounded by rows of steps and an upper landing. The excavators propose that a row of columns existed in the center of the hall and that three pairs of Ionic columns were set between the Doric columns of the west and east rows. Netzer [2004:10-12] disagrees, arguing that no central row of columns should be reconstructed and that the Ionic capitals might have fallen from rooms on the upper level in the west. Five rows of stone benches along the walls surround the columns in the main hall on all four sides. Close to the benches is a basalt stone pavement about one meter wide; the hall area was divided into two uneven parts by a band of stone pavement; the central hall was unpaved and mats were probably placed on the compressed soil (Netzer maintains that the hall was completely paved with basalt stones). A small raised niche (1.3 x 1.2 m) in the north-west corner has been suggested, though without any proof, as a place for an ark in which scrolls may have been kept. ” (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p26, 2013 AD)

5.      Gamla: “The excavators (Yavor 2010:50-51; Fig. 2.43) reconstruct the Gamla synagogue as follows: Doric columns surmounted the four peripheral colonnades, while Ionic capitals were carried by the two columns of the fifth stylobate. The roof is gabled on, trusses and a central clerestory. Netzer (2004:10-13, Figs. 4-5) suggested a different reconstruction, with the center of the hall and the upper landing fully paved. The colonnades were placed directly on the paving and not built on stylobates with deep foundations. He also maintains that the strip in the center of the floor is a chance remnant of the dismantled paving. Moreover, the roof of the synagogue was flat, as was the general practice in that period (but see Yavor's reservations [2010:52] regarding Netzer's reconstruction). Netzer (2004:20) contends that the 1st century BCE Gamla synagogue was a prototype for the Second Temple synagogue plan. The dating of the Gamla synagogue is difficult: the early phase of the synagogue probably dates to the end of Herod's rule. The coins found on or below the hall floor are Seleucid (200-125 BCE) and Hasmonean (125-63 BCE); the latest coins are Herodian. It is possible that an even earlier synagogue existed at the site (Syon and Yavor 2001:11). Yavor (2010:60-61) now proposes that the synagogue was a single-phase building, except ffor the auxiliary rooms which were added slightly later, and that it could not have been constructed earlier than the turn of the era. Therefore, on archaeological grounds it should be dated like other buildings in the Western Quarter to the 1st century CE. He is right in suggesting that the Gamla structure functioned as "a Jewish community center serving religious and secular needs." (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p27, 2013 AD)

6.      Gamla: “Probes conducted under the synagogue floor (Yavor 2010:47) showed a fifth stylobate, carrying two Ionic columns with bases and capitals, dividing the Gamla synagogue hall into two parts (ratio of 2:3). This may have been where the Torah readings were held. The roof was not tiled as no tiles were found, and it was probably constructed of wooden beams. Finds at the synagogue were from the final stage and battle. They included 350 ballista balls, 35 arrowheads, and many nails and pottery items, among them Herodian lamps, broken jars, and cooking pots. ” (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p28, 2013 AD)

 

Conclusion:

1.             The synagogue from literary references clearly dates back to 78 BC and was most likely built by Alexander Jannaeus.

2.             Gamla is rightly named “the Rebel fortress”:

a.         “Finds at the synagogue were from the final stage and battle. They included 350 ballista balls, 35 arrowheads, and many nails and pottery items, among them Herodian lamps, broken jars, and cooking pots.” (Ancient Synagogues - Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Rachel Hachlili, p28, 2013 AD)

b.        It was founded by a neo-rebel: Alexander Jannaeus

c.         It was the home of the founder of the sect of the Zealots: Judas of Galilee/Gamla

3.             Gamla was the location of one of several great suicide “Masada-like” rebellions of the first Jewish war.

a.         “a great number also of those that were surrounded on every side, and despaired of escaping, threw their children and their wives, and themselves also, down the precipices, into the valley beneath, which, near the citadel, had been dug hollow to a vast depth; (80) but so it happened, that the anger of the Romans appeared not to be so extravagant as was the madness of those that were now taken, while the Romans slew but four thousand, whereas the number of those that had thrown themselves down was found to be five thousand: (81) nor did anyone escape except two women” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4.79-81)

4.             See also: First Century Jewish Messianic Expectation: As witnessed in the Dead Sea scrolls.

 

 

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

 

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Ancient Synagogues

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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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Jewish Messianic Expectations in DSS

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Excavations

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Synagogue Excavations

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Synagogue Inscriptions

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Synagogue Literary Sources

 

 

 

Jesus Master Builder of the Church/Temple

Archeology of First Century Houses

 

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Why not worship with a first century New Testament church near you, that has the same look and feel as the Jewish Synagogue in your own home town. As a Jew, you will find the transition as easy today as it was for the tens of thousands of your forefathers living in Jerusalem 2000 years ago when they believed in Jesus the Nazarene (the branch) as their messiah. It’s time to come home!

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