A synagogue on the island of Delos

In the previous post we mentioned that there were numerous synagogues used by Jews of the Diaspora. Paul visited synagogues in many of the cities where he preached.

During his Spring travels, Dr. Carl Rasmussen visited the Greek island of Delos. Delos is one of those places that can only be reached with much effort. Carl has graciously granted permission for me to use a couple of his photos here. The first one shows a view to the west, southwest, showing various rooms of the synagogue. Note the “Moses Seat” in the upper right of the photo. The entrance is visible in the lower left.

Delos synagogue. Photo by HolyLandPhotos.

Delos synagogue. Photo by Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos.

The second photo shows a close up of the “Moses Seat” and the marble seats on each side. You may click on the photos for larger images provided by Dr. Rasmussen at the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog.

Delos synagogue. Photo by Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos.

Delos synagogue. Photo by Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos.

This large synagogue dates to the mid-second century B.C. Two inscriptions found in 1979-80 indicate that the worshipers here (Israelites) were likely Samaritans who revered Argarizein (Mount Gerizim). (See Kraabel, “New Evidence of the Samaritan Diaspora has been Found on Delos.” BA 47:1; 1984).

The Moses Seat. We commonly identify a special seat like the one in this synagogue as the Seat of Moses. Jesus may have made reference to such a seat (Matthew 23:2-3). For more information about the “Moses Seat” see here. Michael White suggests at least the possibility that this seat may be a “Proedrion, either for the major donor (or patron) or for the leader of the group” (HTR 80:2 (1987). I don’t see that this changes the fact that a reader and teacher of the Law might sit here.

If you have any interest in the synagogues scattered over the Mediterranean world, you will want to visit the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog here.

Tradition has it that Delos is the birthplace of Apollo, the son of Zeus, and his twin sister Artemis.

Marble head of Apolls from Perga. Second century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Marble head of Apolls from Perga. Second century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the Antalya Archaeological Museum.

An article by Gordon Franz a few years ago piqued my interest in Delos. He wrote on “The Synagogue On The Island Of Delos And The Epistle Of James” in Bible and Spade (18:3; 2005). Franz provides the history and geography of the island. He includes a photo of the “Samaritan inscription,” and then proceeds to use the synagogue of Delos to illustrate two passages from the Epistle of James. He discusses James 2:2-4 and selected verses from James 3.

For those who have an interest in visiting Delos, Prof. Rasmussen explains exactly how to reach the synagogue from the Delos Museum. Rasmussen is author of the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, and provides nearly 4000 thousand photos at the Holy Land Photos archive.

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