Ancient Synagogue Land Survey Inscription from Crocodilopolis, Egypt: 113 BC

Synagogue Inscriptions from the Oldest Synagogues in the world


Crocodilopolis, Egypt: 113 BC



    A. Synagogue Inscription:

1.         Inscription text:

a.          Col. II: “Situated to the north, a sacred garden the property [total: 2.5 acres] of Hermione daughter of Apollonides (5 13/32 arourai). Of these a quarter (of an aroura) is occupied by a storehouse, 1/32 by an empty dovecote, and 5 1/8 are waste land. Neighbours: to the south, waste land belonging to Demetrios the Thracian; to the north, a prayer hall1 [proseuche]; to the west the city boundary; to the east the canal of Argaitis. Situated to the north, a Jewish prayer hall [proseuche] represented by Pertollos, and a sacred garden cultivated by a tenant, Petesouchos son of Marres, of 3 13/16 arourai and 1 1/2 arourai [1 acre] planted with flowers and vegetables. Neighbours: to the south Hermione daughter of Apollonides; to the north and west the city boundary; to the east the canal of Argaitis. Situated to the north, and narrowing to the west outside the city for 4 1/2 schoinia, Sarapion, who holds from the Queen 1 aroura of sacred land, of which half is occupied by empty houses, and half is unoccupied

b.         Col. III: “Neighbours; to the south the Jewish prayer hall1 [proseuche]; to the north and west the city boundary; to the east the canal of Argaitis. Northwards as far as the city boundary...”

2.         Epigraphic Evidence: Greek Synagogue text on papyrus

3.         Provenance: Tebtunis, Egypt, 1902 AD

4.         Current location: P.Tebt.0085, Bancroft Library, Berkley University.

5.         Synagogue Occupation Date (SOD) = Excavation date + Inscriptional date + Literary date = 240 BC

a.          SOD computation system details

b.         Excavation date: none

c.          Inscriptional date: Crocodilopolis 240 BC

d.         Literary date: 113 BC and Crocodilopolis 113 AD

6.         Contemporary Rulers: Ptolemy IX Soter II King of Ptolemy (116-107 BC)

7.         References:

a.          CPJ: Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, Tcherikover, vol 1, no. 1.134, 1957 AD

8.         Related Literary references:

a.          Acts 16:13

b.         Philo, Embassy 132-134

c.          Josephus, Life 277

9.         Further documentation and comments:

a.          This papyrus is a record of a land survey.

b.         This is probably the same Synagogue as in the Synagogue inscription that dates to 240 BC and also one of the two synagogues referenced in the papyrus of 113 AD around the time of Trajan.

c.          Synagogue inscription at Crocodilopolis 240 BC

d.         This Synagogue papyrus references two different synagogues in 113 AD at the time of Trajan: Crocodilopolis 113 AD


B. Inscription footnotes:

1.       Lit. proseuche = house of prayer, synagogue

2.       The land and outbuildings of the “Synagogue plantation”: This was probably typical of all synagogues everywhere.

a.          The “Synagogue plantation” is about 2.5 acres in total size.

b.         A formal Synagogue building called a “prayer hall”

c.          a sacred garden for flowers and vegetables cultivated by a tenant who lived in a house on site

d.         a storehouse

e.          an unused dovecote

f.           waste land

g.          sacred land

h.         several additional guest houses, half of which were occupied for visiting preachers or other important out of town guests.



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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