Ancient Synagogue Inscription from Ostia, Italy: 200 AD

Synagogue Inscriptions from the Oldest Synagogues in the world


Ostia, Seaport of Rome, Italy: 200 AD



     A. Synagogue Inscription:

1.             Inscription text: “For the health of the emperor. Mindius Faustus with his household constructed [the synagogue] and built and produced from his own gifts1, and he dedicated the ark for the sacred Law”

2.             Glyptic Artifact: First two lines Latin and Greek Synagogue text on limestone

3.             Provenance: Excavated in situ in secondary use in Ostia synagogue.

4.             Current location: unable to determine current location.

5.             Synagogue Occupation Date (SOD) = Excavation date + Inscriptional date + Literary date = 50 AD

a.              SOD computation system details

b.              Excavation date: 50 AD

c.               Inscriptional date: 200 AD

d.              Literary date: None

6.             References:

a.              JIWE: Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, David Noy #1.13, 2011 AD

7.             Related Literary references:

a.       Gifts = Greek Doma in Septuagint: Num 18:11,29; Deut 12:11, LXX    


B. Discussion:

1.             The Septuagint was the “King James Version” of the ancient Jewish synagogue as far back as 282 BC.

a.       See also: Greek Septuagint: The Standard Tanakh of every ancient synagogue

b.      The Septuagint was the “standard issue Tanakh”, as an “accepted and trusted translation” in every synagogue much like the King James Version is in the Church today.

c.       Hebrew was extinct in Judea at the time of Christ, except for the Jerusalem elites (Sadducees) who ran the temple.

d.      The entire diaspora Jewish population from 300 BC spoke Greek and were unable to read Hebrew.

e.      As the Septuagint was distributed in 280 BC throughout the world, it spawned synagogues according to its disaposra circulation.

f.        See also: Origin: Synagogues originated at Alexandria Egypt in 280 BC spawned by the Septuagint

2.             “Recovered in the vestibule of the Ostia synagogue, this discarded inscription was used as part of the flooring in that building's final renovations in the fourth century C.E. The stone dates two centuries earlier, when it recorded the dedication of an unnamed appurtenance of the synagogue. The mention of an ark's erection in line three suggests that this bequest was a wooden pedestal upon which the holy shrine was set. The original gift apparently needed to be replaced a century later, since the initial donor's name was scratched out and "Mindi(u)s Faustus" inscribed over it in letter-forms dating to that period. The construction of an aedicula in the fourth-century renovations would have made such a replacement obsolete, leading to the stone's removal to secondary use. The word doma, "gift," (11. 3-4) is rare outside of the LXX, where it appears fifty-four times, often describing sacred gifts (e.g., Num 18:11, 29; Deut 12:11, LXX). Accordingly, the term exists elsewhere in the epigraphic record only in several fourth-century inscriptions from the synagogue at Sardis (nos. 20-22 in Kroll, "The Greek Inscriptions").”  (The Ancient Synagogue from its Origins to 200 AD, Anders Runesson, p223, 2008 AD)

3.             “The synagogue inscription from Ostia was found in re-use as a repair tile in the last stages of the building. It was originally cut into the tile near the end of the second century C.E. or the beginning of the third century C.E., that is, about 200 C.E. The first line is in Latin, the remaining six are in Greek, but cut by the same hand, though there is a suggestion that the last two lines containing the name of Mindius Faustus are in a second hand. FOR THE WELL-BEING OF THE EMPEROR. MIND<I>US FAUSTUS ME[…] […]DIO[…] CONSTRUCTED [THE SYNAGOGUE] AND MADE [IT] FROM HIS OWN FUNDS, AND HE DEDICATED THE ARK FOR THE SACRED LAW. The additional “I” in the name Mindius was suggested from the find of the name “Mindius” in other inscriptions in the environs of Ostia. This is a large plaque, about 29 × 54.5 cm., presumably originally installed in a wall. It is noteworthy that the Greek word translated “ark” was evidently already used as a technical term in this inscription.” (The encyclopedia of Judaism, Neusner, Volume 3, Page 1375, 2000 AD)


C. Inscription footnotes:

1.      The Greek word doma, "gift," is rare outside of the LXX, where it appears 54 times often describing sacred gifts (Num 18:11, 29; Deut 12:11 LXX) proving that the Septuagint was used in 200 AD. 

a.       "And this will be for you: firstfruits of their gifts [Greek: doma] from among all the contributions of the children of Israel; to you I have given them and to your sons and your daughters with you as a perpetual ordinance. Every clean person in your household will eat them." (Numbers 18:11, LXX)

b.       "From all your gifts [Greek: doma] you will separate out the choice portions for the Lord or from all the firstfruits the consecrated portion from it.’" (Numbers 18:29, LXX)

c.       "And it shall be the place, wherever the Lord your God may choose his name to be called there, you shall bring all that I commanded you today: your whole burnt offerings and your sacrifices and your tithes and the first fruits of your hands and all your choicest gifts [Greek: doma] —all that you might vow to God." (Deuteronomy 12:11, LXX)




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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