Chapter Four | Contents | Bibliography

Astrology and Judaism in Late Antiquity

Chapter Five
Astrology In Synagogue Art

In this fifth and final chapter, we will discuss the synagogue zodiac mosaics mentioned so often in earlier chapters. We will begin with a discussion of art and the synagogue generally, and progress to descriptions of the zodiacs themselves. Next we will discuss the various theories which try to explain the presence and meaning of the synagogue zodiacs. Finally, I will present my own explanation, incorporating the best points of the others.

The Synagogue

The synagogue was a unique invention, unlike any earlier religious institution. A temple in the ancient world was the home of a deity and only professional priests entered routinely. Devotees, whether individuals or communities, worshipped outside the temple, usually with a request and an offering./1/ This was as true of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as any of other. But the synagogue introduced congregational prayer, and, particularly, ritual reading and study of a sacred scripture. Worship might be led by anyone, not only members of a hereditary priesthood./2/ This sort of worship did not exist before the synagogue, but has since come to be the norm throughout much of the world. The church and the mosque are the children of the synagogue.

The origins of the synagogue as an institution are unknown, and little more is known of its early history./3/ The Hebrew Bible never mentions the institution explicitly, although prayer is a common topic. Instead, the Temple was the focus of formal worship./4/ The first concrete evidence for the existence of the synagogue is a series of dedicatory inscriptions from Ptolemaic Egypt./5/ By the first century BCE, when literary evidence becomes common, the synagogue was definitely a well-established institution, found wherever Jews lived./6/ Both Josephus and the Gospels speak of synagogues quite casually, as if it were an old, traditional, institution. Indeed, the synagogue was so well-known a Jewish institution in the Diaspora, that anti- Jewish rioting often began with an attack on the local synagogue./7/ After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the synagogue became the center of Jewish life in Palestine, too. Most of the literary evidence dates to the era after the destruction./8/

The synagogue as an institution is rather older than the synagogue as a building. Originally, a synagogue was a congregation./9/ People met to read and study the Bible wherever was convenient, in community buildings or private homes, much as the early Christians did. The oldest known synagogue buildings all date to the late first century BCE or early first century CE. The oldest known synagogue building from the Diaspora, c. 50 BCE, is on the Aegean island of Delos./10/ Inscriptions tell us there were synagogues in Ostia during the time of Augustus./11/ The Greek Theodotus inscription from first century BCE Jerusalem is the oldest evidence for synagogues in Israel proper./12/ Three buildings are known from Israel, at Masada, Herodium, and Gamla. All have a rectangular plan, benches along the walls and internal columns./13/ The Masada and Herodium synagogues were built during the First Revolt, 63-70 CE. Gamla's synagogue was built some time before the Revolt, perhaps 50 CE./14/ But, as with literary evidence, most of the material evidence for the ancient synagogue dates from the Talmudic era, the third through sixth centuries. The zodiac mosaics date to this period, as well.

The study of ancient synagogue buildings begins in the mid nineteenth century, with the first archaeologists. Western scholars, such as Robinson, Renan, and Kitchener, began to travel throughout Palestine, trying to identify ancient sites, and recording the remains visible./15/ The Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, at the turn of the century, sponsored the first large scale surface survey devoted solely to recording the remains of ancient synagogues./16/ The printed account of this research, Antike Synagoge in Galila,/17/ is still an important reference work.

Excavation of synagogue buildings became common under the British Mandate. Enough examples were known to group them into three types, based on artistic style./18/ The groups were also thought to represent successive periods of time. The first type was the early or "Galilean" synagogue, where the first and best examples were discovered. It had an elaborate facade, including three portals, in one of the short walls, facing Jerusalem. The members of the congregation entered and turned 1800 to worship. The scrolls of the Torah, the focus of ritual, were stored outside the prayer hall, and brought in when needed. The "Galilean" synagogue was dated to the second and third centuries CE./19/ Eventually, it was thought to evolve into the "Byzantine" or "basilica" synagogue, so-called because it resembles the basilical parish churches of Byzantine Palestine./20/ "Byzantine" synagogues were built from the fourth through seventh centuries CE./21/ The "Byzantine" synagogue had an apse in the wall facing Jerusalem, and the main entrance in the wall opposite. The scrolls were permanently placed in a book case, the aron or Holy Ark, which was kept in the apse. A "transitional" category, dated to the third and fourth centuries CE, held buildings which did not fit into these two categories./22/ The change in the orientation of the main entrance was assigned to this era. Likewise, most examples of the "broadhouse" plan, with the entrance in one of the long walls, were put into this pigeon hole. All three varieties typically had benches along the walls, a U-shaped colonnade separating a nave from aisles, and an ornate artistic decoration./23/

This typology of synagogues was widely accepted for a generation. It is the one found in such standard reference works as the Encyclopedia Judaica and the works of E. L. Sukenik and Michael Avi-Yonah./24/ But, beginning in the 1950s, newer methods of archaeology have allowed sites to be dated more precisely and objectively. Since the 1970s, the old typology has been largely abandoned. The "Galilean" and "Byzantine" synagogues exist as artistic categories, perhaps reflecting local traditions, but not as chronological ones./25/ Synagogues are now known to have been built in a variety of styles throughout the centuries of Roman rule. These developments in methodology are important to this chapter because the synagogue zodiacs are known solely from archaeology. Moreover, most of them were excavated using older methods and approaches, and thus, their dates are not very precise. It is safe to date all the zodiacs to the Byzantine period of Israeli archaeology, the centuries between Constantine and Umar. But attempts to put them into chronological order and construct a typology of the development of the Jewish zodiac are premature, to say the least./26/ Too few examples are known, and their dates are too imprecise.


The Jewish attitude towards visual arts varied a great deal over the centuries. The Hebrew Bible forbids idolatry as part of its ban on worship of other gods,/27/ and the prophets never tire of ridiculing the folly of worshipping the product of a man's hands./28/ At the same time, the Biblical writers did not hesitate to tell how Solomon ornamented his Temple with lions, bulls, and cherubim./29/ Even when Solomon is criticized for worshipping foreign gods, his images are not mentioned. In contrast, Josephus, born and raised during the Second Temple period, saw these animal figures as the first sign of polytheism./30/ With very few exceptions,/31/ Josephus' attitude was the common one among Jews of the Second Temple period./32/ There were serious riots in Jerusalem when Herod placed an eagle over the entrance to his Temple and when Pilate brought standards bearing Tiberias' portrait into Jerusalem./33/ And even Herod preferred aniconic motifs in his palaces, as any visitor to Masada may see.

This attitude changed dramatically in the centuries after the destruction of the temple. Synagogues and tombs of the Talmudic period were highly ornamented with human and animal figures. The eagle, absolutely unacceptable on Herod's Temple, is very common over the entrance of synagogues./34/ The discovery of this art was a genuine revelation, quite unanticipated by scholars at the turn of the nineteenth century./35/


Naaran/36/ was not only the first zodiac mosaic, but the first synagogue mosaic of any sort to be discovered./37/ It was uncovered, in a suitably dramatic way, by a Turkish shell in 1918./38/ The site is at Ein Duk, the ancient Naaran, and is next to a spring about 6.5 kilometers from modern Jericho./39/ Naaran was never an important settlement, but it is mentioned several times in ancient literature./40/ The most important notices for our purposes are in Byzantine period Christian sources, which tell us it was a thoroughly Jewish village./41/

The ruins were inspected casually by British officers on the spot in 1918, and more thoroughly in 1919, by Vincent and Lagrange of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. In 1920, Vincent and Carri the synagogue completely./42/

The excavation consisted of clearing debris from the floor and wall stubs, and drawing up a plan of the remains, with rather less attention given to the earth covering the ruins. Approximately 350 square meters were cleared. The synagogue proper was part of a larger complex inside a courtyard (figure 47). Walking north from the entrance to the complex, one came into a courtyard, an atrium with a pool, an L-shaped narthex, and finally the synagogue proper. About 10 meters separated the facade of the synagogue from the entrance to the courtyard. The atrium, narthex, and prayer-hall were all on a north-south axis, and thus were not oriented to Jerusalem. A door in the west wall of the prayer-hall led into another room./43/

Three doors connected the narthex and the prayer-hall proper, which was built according to a basilica plan, meaning that it was rectangular with two parallel rows of columns. The south end of the prayer-hall does not survive, but what remains measures 14.94 meters wide and 19 meters long, with ten square columns. It was perhaps 22 meters long originally. Vincent's restoration has a square south wall, without apse, but that does not rule an apse out./44/ Apses on synagogues were not known when Naaran was excavated. The walls were of mud-brick on a foundation of stone rubble and mortar. The frames of the doors were cut stone. The building was apparently remodelled twice, and was violently destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake./45/

The most notable feature of the Naaran synagogue is its "sumptuous" mosaics (figure 48)./46/ Sadly, the human and animals figure were deliberately vandalized in antiquity, but enough survives to allow reconstruction of the original conception./47/ Entering the narthex and walking north, one comes to an unusual menorah/48/ with twelve flames and an inscription panel listing donors in Hebrew./49/ Next, just within the main portal, are two gazelles feeding on a bush. This panel was damaged and repaired in antiquity. In the prayer-hall proper, the aisles are covered with ornate abstract designs, forming a carpet in stone. But the most important designs are in the nave of the prayer-hall./50/

The mosaic in the nave is surrounded by a guilloche pattern and is subdivided into four panels./51/ The first and largest is a series of circles and polygons separated by geometric pattern ribbons. The medallions once contained pictures of plants and animals./52/ The second panel, in the center of the building, is the zodiac./53/ Beyond the zodiac panel is a biblical scene of Daniel in the lions' den, and a Hebrew inscription, "Shalom Daniel," and a list of donors./54/ The last panel is one often found in ancient synagogues. It shows Jewish symbols, particularly the Ark which held the Scrolls of the Law, standing between two menorahs. Hanging from the menorahs are vases resembling mosque lamps. Above the menorahs is another Hebrew inscription listing more donors./55/ Presumably the genuine Ark of the congregation stood beyond the panel picturing it, perhaps in an apse or aediculum./56/

The Naaran zodiac panel (figure 49) is a large square, 4.05 meters on a side, containing two concentric circles, 1.6 meters and 3.5 meters in diameter, respectively./57/ The corners hold female figures. They are damaged, but Hebrew labels tell us that they represent the four seasons. Each season was named for one of the Jewish months it contained. Summer is Tebet, for example. The seasons are also marked with appropriate symbols. Spring, for example, has a bird and tree, while Fall has a star, perhaps for Sirius, the Dog- star, which appears in the autumn./58/

The space between the two circles is divided into twelve wedges, each just over a meter long. Each held a figure for one of the signs as well as a label in Hebrew./59/ The signs run clockwise, while the seasons run counterclockwise. The signs are not aligned with the proper seasons. Spring, for example, is next to Libra and Virgo, rather than Aries or another of the spring signs./60/ The figures are badly damaged,/61/ but they seem to follow the usual Greek iconography of the signs. The only unusual figure is the crab. It is portrayed as a species found in the Jericho region, Maia squinado./62/

The center circle holds a picture of Sol Invictus, the deified sun, driving a four horse chariot (figure 50). Two horses are on either side of the chariot. He wears a cloak with stars, a crown of rays, and holds a whip. His face is gouged out, as are those of the horses./63/ Again, the iconography is quite typical./64/

The mosaics are not great works of art, but the style is distinctive. All the figures in the synagogue are in a "Oriental" style reminiscent of Palmyra or Khirbet Tannur, which became typical of Byzantine art in general./65/ All surfaces are shown in the same plane, with the result that Sol is shown full-face, while the wheels of his chariot are portrayed side-on and the horses run to either side./66/ The most unusual feature about the Naaran mosaics is the vandalism which they have suffered. The iconoclasts attacked only animals and humans, especially their faces. Plants, Jewish symbols, and Hebrew inscriptions were left untouched. This may imply that the vandals were Jews, probably with religious motives, since they showed respect for the sacred script./67/ Moreover, the scale of the damage is impressive. It is not unusual to find a few small figures hammered into oblivion in ancient synagogues, but rarely so many. But whether the vandals were local zealots, or representatives of a larger Iconoclastic movement is impossible to say without more evidence./68/

Vincent originally dated the Naaran synagogue to the third century CE for several reasons. The building overall resembled the "Galilean" synagogue, which in those days was assigned to the second and third centuries./69/ Literary evidence confirmed that there had been a Jewish village at the site in the third century./70/ Finally, he identified a Samuel mentioned in the entrance inscription with the third century Babylonian rabbi, Mar Samuel, who was a noted astronomer. This seemed to fit with the zodiac panel./71/ However, now much more is known about ancient synagogues than in the 1920's, and the building is currently dated to the fifth or sixth century CE./72/


The next synagogue zodiac discovered was at Beth Alpha. Its mosaics are probably the most famous found in any synagogue, and are certainly the best preserved. As works of art, too, they are impressive, and probably have inspired more research than any of the other examples.

The Beth Alpha synagogue was discovered by a group of kibbutzniks digging an irrigation canal in December, 1928. They reported the discovery to the authorities at the Department of Antiquities of the Palestine Mandate, who sent Eleazer Sukenik to investigate. Sukenik excavated the site for the Hebrew University during January and February, 1929./73/

The synagogue is part of an ancient village, Khirbet Beit Ilfa. It is on the slopes of Mt. Gilboa, overlooking the Jezreel Valley, and west of Beth Shan./74/ It is never mentioned in any ancient source. The name is ancient and may imply that it was once the property of a landowner named Alpha, a common name in rabbinic literature./75/

The synagogue complex at Beth Alpha consisted of a courtyard, a narthex, a prayer-hall, and a subsidiary room./76/ The first three are on a north-south axis, with the courtyard at the north end, and the prayer-hall at the south end, nearest Jerusalem (figure 51). The subsidiary room adjoins the southwest corner of the prayer-hall. The prayer-hall has a basilica plan, with two rows of columns dividing it into three aisles, and there is an apse in the southern wall, facing Jerusalem./77/ The overall complex is 27.7 meters long and 14.2 wide, while the prayer-hall measures 10.75 X 12.4 meters. The apse is 2.4 meters deep, 75 centimeters higher than floor level in the prayer-hall, and probably held the Ark./78/ Benches lined the east, south, and west walls and both were covered with lime plaster. A fourth bench and a bema or reading platform were added later, atop the mosaic, near the apse./79/

The synagogue was built in the later fifth century and went through several phases. Byzantine ribbed pottery in the wall-plaster, a hoard of Byzantine coins hidden in the apse and a mosaic inscription all date the structure to the Byzantine period./80/ It was destroyed by earthquake at some date between the sixth and seventh centuries CE./81/

The courtyard, narthex, and prayer-hall were all paved with mosaics (figure 52). Most are simple geometric designs, with the more elaborate figures reserved for the nave, as at Naaran./82/ Inside the main portal one comes on two mosaic inscriptions, each in a tabula ansata. The first is in Aramaic, and although fragmentary, dates the mosaic to the reign of one of the two emperors Justin. Both lived in the sixth century CE. Justin I, 518-27 CE is somewhat the more likely, as Justin II was a persecutor of non-Christians generally./83/ The second inscription is in Greek and asks for a blessing on the builders of the mosaic, Marianos and his son, Hanina./84/ In all likelihood, they were Jews. Hanina, in particular, is a common name in Rabbinic literature. Both men worked on other mosaics in the Beth Shan area./85/

The entrance inscriptions are flanked by a bull and a lion, part of a frame of animals and plants surrounding the three main panels./86/ The first panel, closest to the door, shows the sacrifice of Isaac, called the Akedah in Jewish tradition./87/ From left to right, we see Abraham's two servants with a donkey, a sheep tied to a bush,/88/ Abraham holding a knife and his son Isaac, and a burning altar. All are labelled in Hebrew. A hand from a cloud is probably the "angel of the Lord" who stopped Abraham in the biblical story (Gen. 22)./89/ It is labelled by a quote from Genesis 22: 11-12: , 'l tslh . . . , "Do not lay [your hand upon the boy]."/90/

The second panel is the zodiac (figure 53). It is the largest of the three panels at Beth Alpha, and, in general, is quite similar to the Naaran zodiac, if rather more detailed./91/ It is nearly square, 3.55 X 3.75 meters. As at Naaran, the square holds two concentric circles, 3.12 and 1.2 meters in diameter, respectively./92/ The corners contain winged female busts representing the seasons. Each is labelled with its Hebrew name, such as Tequphat Tishri, as well as with appropriate attributes./93/ Spring, or Nisan, holds a shepherd's crook, for example, while Summer (Tammuz) sits among fruit and grain crops. Fall has a star overhead, as at Naaran. Winter is marked by red cheeks./94/ The Beth Alpha seasons are somewhat closer to the usual Greco-Roman iconography than Naaran's, although still not too close./95/ Both seasons and signs run counterclockwise./96/

The space between the circles is, again, divided into twelve segments. The figures generally follow the usual Greek iconography, but at a distance. Marianos and Hanina took a traditional design and made it their own by means of style and details. The Ram is the middle eastern fat-tailed sheep and the Bull is the Indian Zebu. Gemini is a pair of Siamese Twins. The Crab is a species found in the Jezreel Valley, Potamion potamios. Virgo is portrayed as a queen, sitting on a throne and wearing shoes of Imperial purple./97/ Libra is a man holding the scales, which is not unusual; but he has only one leg! The other is omitted because it is behind the balance./98/ In two cases, the image is based on the Hebrew name rather than the traditional iconography. Sagittarius is , qst, or "Bow" in Hebrew; at Beth Alpha, the bow is held by a man, rather than the usual centaur. Capricorn was damaged and crudely repaired in antiquity. Aquarius is , dly or "pail" in Hebrew. The figure is a person pulling a pail from a well, an everyday sight, even today./99/ In general, the iconography is similar to the signs at Naaran./100/ Each figure is labelled in Hebrew. As in the inscriptions, the Hebrew letters are less skillfully made than the Greek ones. There are a few spelling mistakes. , tlh, or Ram, is spelled , tl', that is with an aleph ( ) instead of a h ( ). , 'ryyh, or Leo, is spelled with two yods ( ) instead of one. Aquarius and Pisces, the last two signs, each have a waw ( ) or "and," , wdly wdgym, not just the final Pisces./101/

As at Naaran, the center circle contains Sol Invictus and a four horse chariot. It is in a particularly abstract style. The head and forelegs of the horses are visible, two on either side of the chariot. Sol wears a crown of rays and is surrounded by the moon and stars. Only his head and neck are shown. Beneath is a square covered with curving colored stripes, perhaps representing the rainbow colors seen at dawn and dusk. The square is probably Sol's chariot, not his torso, since it is attached to small wheels./102/ The third panel, next to the apse and the aron, is a panel of Jewish symbols like Naaran's, but more elaborate. The Ark is flanked not only by menorahs but also by lions, palm fronds, citron-fruits, ram's horn trumpets or shofars, and square objects usually identified as incense shovels and shrubs. Drawn curtains frame the whole scene. The Ark itself has acroteria, and a gable with birds running up the sides. Probably the real Ark stood in the apse just behind this panel./103/

Marianos and Hanina made their mosaic in a rather idiosyncratic "Oriental" style. It particularly resembles Palmyrene art in its frontality and in the line outlining the brow and nose of human faces. Sol is especially non- classical. But their work is by no means as childlike or primitive as is sometimes stated./104/ They were skilled and imaginative artists, and produced an impressive work of art.


A third zodiac was discovered in 1930, in the Arab village of `Isfiya (Husifa in Hebrew), on Mt. Carmel, about 12 kilometers from Haifa. The present village of Isfiya is no older than the eighteenth century, but it is on the site of a Jewish village dated by coins and pottery to the Roman, Byzantine and Early Arab Periods. The synagogue was excavated for the Department of Antiquities of the Palestine Mandate by N. Makhouly and Michael Avi-Yonah in 1933./105/

The structure was in the midst of the modern village, beneath a private dwelling, a public courtyard and some outbuildings. Only the portion of the building beneath the courtyard and the outbuildings was excavated, between one half and three fifths of the whole (figures 54, 55)./106/ The building was apparently oriented toward Jerusalem,/107/ with the result that the corners are closer to the cardinal directions than the walls. The whole of the northwest wall, 10.1 meters long, was excavated, as well as 6.2 meters of the southwest wall and 5.5 meters of the northeast one./108/ The building was probably close to square, without an apse. One line of columns was uncovered and it is probably a safe deduction that a parallel colonnade lies unexcavated. The entrance was probably at the southwest wall, and there is some evidence of a narthex beyond./109/

The whole floor was originally paved with mosaics, now badly damaged. Probably the damage was done by the modern village, not in antiquity, since the damaged area corresponds to the public courtyard. The layout seems to have been similar to those we have seen up to now. The aisles next to the walls was paved with geometric designs, one meter wide,/110/ while the nave and the entrance had images of living creatures. Three small panels survive near the southwest wall. The two outer panels each hold a menorah with other symbols, as at Beth Alpha (figure 55). The center panel is damaged, and contains a wreath with a Hebrew inscription: , slwm `l ysr'l, "Peace upon Israel." The phrase comes from Psalm 125: 5. It is very common in synagogue mosaics, and is usually found near the entrance, as here./111/

The nave has three panels. The first, walking from southwest wall, is a narrow one listing donors. Next is a large panel, mostly destroyed, of grapevines and birds./112/

The third panel, at the eastern end of the nave, closest to Jerusalem, is the zodiac (figure 56). It, too, is badly damaged./113/ Like the other zodiacs so far discovered, it is in the form of two circles inscribed on a square. It is the smallest synagogue zodiac yet found. The square is 2.76 meters on a side, and the outer circle is 1.38 meters in diameter. The inner circle is almost entirely destroyed, but is estimated to have been 6 centimeters in diameter. No central figure remains./114/ The north corner is intact, with one female bust of a Season. Heads of grain and pomegranates designate it Fall./115/

Fragments of five signs, from Sagittarius to Aries, may be identified. The iconography of the figures resembles that of Beth Alpha. Their style is "Oriental" and comparable to both Naaran and Beth Alpha. Sagittarius is a nude human, not a centaur, holding a bow, and draped in a mantle, somewhat like Hercules' lion skin. Only two horns remain of Capricorn. Aquarius is reasonably intact. It is an amphora emitting water, but without any person pouring it. Pisces is destroyed, save for a fin and a tail. Only Aries' hind hooves and tip of tail are still intact. All have their heads toward the center, unlike Beth Alpha or Naaran. Neither the signs nor the seasons were labelled, nor are they correlated. The signs run counterclockwise, as at Naaran./116/

The Husifa synagogue cannot be dated directly, but it is similar enough to the Beth Alpha and Naaran synagogues that it may be safely dated to the Byzantine era as well. It was destroyed by fire, perhaps during the reign of Justinian./117/


The most recent zodiac to be discovered is at Hammath-Tiberias. It is probably the best preserved and the best known example, after Beth Alpha. "Hammath" means "hot springs"/118/ and the site is indeed a group of hot springs along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee./119/ The rabbis identified them with the Hammath-Naphtali of Joshua 19: 35./120/ The place first became important when Herod Antipas founded the city of Tiberias near the springs in 18/19 BCE. Named for the Roman emperor, it was meant to be the capital of the Tetrarchy of Galilee, Antipas' share of his father's kingdom. It remained one of the major cities in the region well into the Arab period./121/ Tiberias was a Hellenistic city, but it also became an important Rabbinic center from the third century CE until 429 CE, when the Patriarchate was abolished./122/ The Jewish Patriarchs, whom the Romans allowed to function as hereditary supreme judges of Jewish law,/123/ had their headquarters in Tiberias, from the time of Judah the Prince, in the mid third century. It was here that the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in the early fifth century CE./124/

The synagogue with the zodiac/125/ is about one mile south of the modern city of Tiberias. It is close to the lake shore, and to the hot springs. The city wall of the Byzantine city is just south./126/ Ruins in the area have long been known, but the synagogue in question was discovered in 1947, while expanding the bath house at the hot springs. A trial excavation in 1948 was stopped by the Israeli War of Independence, and work did not resume until the 1960s. The site was excavated by Moshe Dothan, for the Israeli Department of Antiquities, in 1961-63./127/

The synagogue is on one of several natural terraces which run SE--NW, parallel to the lake shore. Dothan excavated an area of about 1200 square meters, and found four major periods of occupation, labelled I-IV, top to bottom./128/ Period II is the "Synagogue of Severus,"/129/ containing the zodiac wheel. It was left largely intact, which means that the greater part of lower levels were left buried. Period IV apparently held a settlement of some sort dating to the Hellenistic and Hasmonaean periods./130/ A somewhat larger area of period III was uncovered. It held a public building of some sort, perhaps a synagogue, perhaps a gymnasium, and dates to the first or early second centuries CE./131/

The site was apparently abandoned for some time between periods III and II./132/ Period II holds the zodiac wheel, and received the greatest attention from the excavator. The building which he found is definitely a synagogue, and went through two phases of construction, IIb, the older, and IIa, the younger./133/

The level II synagogue is a somewhat strange looking building (figure 57). Due to the terrace on which it was built, it has an odd orientation./134/ The corners are closer to the cardinal directions than are the walls./135/ The prayer-hall has an odd shape. It is almost rectangular, but none of the corners are truly square, and none of the sides have the same length./136/ The northern corner has a 1.2 meter "nook"/137/ which makes the plan look more like a boot than a basilica. Nine columns are arranged in three rows of three. The aisles between have unequal dimensions. The second from the west wall is the widest and functioned as a nave./138/ It held the major mosaic panels (figure 59). There are two small rooms stuck onto the main structure. This is common, in itself. But these rooms do not seem related to the overall plan in the way extra rooms do at, for example, Beth Alpha.

The long narrow room (11.3 X 3 meters; figure 11) on the southeast side of the synagogue apparently functioned as a narthex in synagogue IIb. Worshippers entered by a door in its northwest face, and turned 90o right to enter the prayer-hall. This second door was in one of the long walls, making the prayer-hall a "broadhouse." Once inside, worshippers had to turn 180o to face Jerusalem./139/ The other small room on the northwest, 5.0 X 2.7 meters, may have been a staircase./141/

Little remains of whatever art phase IIb had. Only a few bits of the IIb mosaic are visible beneath the panels which replaced it; what is visible is geometric and multicolored. A few fragments of painted plaster were found in the foundation of phase IIb's mosaics, implying that IIa may have had painted walls./141/ Potsherds and coins found throughout IIa date the layer generally to the third century CE. Dothan estimates that the synagogue phase IIa dated from ca. 230-306 CE. There was a large earthquake in the Tiberias region in 306, and it is reasonable to assume that earthquake damage made remodelling necessary./142/

There was no gap in occupation between phases IIb and IIa. The building was not replaced, or even modified greatly. The major change was the entrance, which shifted to the northeast wall (figure 58). The lintels no longer survive, but pilasters which probably framed the new doors do remain. The former narthex was subdivided into three small rooms. The external "nook" where the old entrance had been was walled off to form a fourth room. The room which may have been a staircase in phase IIb was destroyed, probably to make room for the new entrance./143/

Inside the remodelled synagogue, we find the same plan. One of the rooms in the former narthex (figure 59) became an aediculum for the ark. The old columns were still in use, but their bases are buried by about 15 centimeters of fill and mortar which separate the old and new mosaic floors./144/

Almost all the IIa mosaics, more than 100 square meters, survive. The only damage is from the walls of the succeeding phase, I. The two easternmost aisles and the westernmost one are paved with geometric panels, somewhat like carpets. The nave contains the only figural mosaics (figure 58). Entering from the north, one first came to a panel of two lions on either side of an inscription, in Greek, listing donors./145/ Beyond the lions, is the zodiac panel, followed by a panel, 3.46 X 2.17 meters, of menorahs, a Torah ark, and other Jewish symbols next to the cubical for the aron./146/ The entrance inscriptions are interesting from several points of view. They contain the first epigraphic reference to the Jewish Patriarch./147/ They also allow one to deduce the general date of the synagogue. The inscription is in the form of one large square divided into nine small squares. Seven give the name of one donor, while the most important benefactor gets two squares. His inscription says:

#n [ ] i n#g g #f# g#g ##g # n# en . # " # g . fn .

Seu[ros] threpts ton lamprotaton patriarxon epoisen. Eulogia auti. Amen.

Severos, disciple of the most illustrious patriarchs fulfilled "it. Blessing upon him. Amen."/148/

A second inscription in the eastern aisle also remembers Severos in nearly the same words, along with Iullus, another donor in the entrance inscription./149/

"Threptos," literally someone raised in the same family, probably means a member of the Patriarch's household here./150/ But it is the phrase "most illustrious Patriarchs" which is the key to dating the inscription, and by implication, the zodiac mosaic and phase IIb. "Lamprotatos," or "most illustrious," is not mere flattery, but an official title, the Greek equivalent of the Latin vir clarissimus. This is the official designation of the lowest of the three senatorial grades./151/ The Patriarchs were not members of the Roman senate, but the Theodosian Code, 16.8.17, issued 392 CE, tells us that the Jewish Patriarch held the legal status of a senator, or a Praetorian Prefect./152/ Probably this status dates to the time of Diocletian or Constantine. Giving legal standing to such titles and statuses was part of their reorganization of the Roman Empire. Since the office of Patriarch was abolished in 429 CE, the inscription can date no later than the early fifth century CE./153/ Dothan dates the synagogue to the late third or early fourth century CE./154/ In short, the Hammath-Tiberias synagogue and its mosaics dates to the same Early Byzantine period as our other synagogues and zodiac mosaics.

Thematically, the zodiac panel closely resembles the others which we have seen, although it is in a strikingly different style. The panel is nearly square (3.3 X 3.26 meters). The square holds two concentric circles, 3.20 and 1.40 meters in diameter, respectively. The corners of the square contain female busts of the seasons, the space between the circles is divided into wedges for the signs, and the inner circle holds Sol Invictus driving his quadriga./155/ Both signs and seasons run clockwise, and, unlike the other zodiacs, the seasons are aligned with the correct signs. Both signs and seasons are labelled in Hebrew. Aquarius is spelled backwards: dly, yld instead of yld, dly. The seasons have appropriate attributes as well as labels./156/ A wall of the succeeding phase I synagogue runs through the center of the panel, destroying most of the horses and chariot, the signs Virgo and Cancer, and parts of Gemini and Scorpio./157/

The most striking aspect of the zodiac mosaic at Hammath-Tiberias is its Classical style, forming quite a contrast with the "Oriental" style of the other zodiacs./158/ The iconography is completely in line with the typical Greek portrayals, to the point of including nude, uncircumcised, male figures for Libra and Aquarius./159/ None of the other zodiac mosaics discussed had nude figures. Some scholars have thought that the nudity implies that the artists were non-Jews. The misspelling of Aquarius is cited as further evidence./160/ But one need not be a Gentile to be less than skilled in Hebrew. Moreover, whatever the ethnic origins of the artists, they worked for Jewish employers, and would not have made something their patrons could not tolerate.

The image of Sol is particularly interesting. It closely resembles the classical iconography of the cosmocrator. He is shown dressed in Imperial garb, a scarlet paludamentum, with his right hand raised in benediction. His left hand holds a whip, and a globe with two circles crossing. This is probably the spherical universe, with the celestial equator and the ecliptic, symbolizing universal rule./161/ He looks right, and has both rays and a halo around his head. A crescent moon is shown beneath his right arm, and a seven-pointed star beneath his left./162/ Dothan believes that the iconography dates the mosaic to the late third or early fourth century CE. Certainly the era of Constantine saw a great deal of solar symbolism in art and imperial symbolism./163/ But without more objective archaeological data,/164/ artistic comparisons give only imprecise, subjective dates. For our purposes, the Early Byzantine date given by the entrance inscription is close enough.

Level II was destroyed at some time in the fourth or fifth centuries CE. The exact date is not known, nor is the exact cause, although both earthquake and human rioting are plausible./165/ In any case, the site was abandoned for a considerable period, judging by the amount of silt separating levels II and I. Level I was also a synagogue, but built according to a completely different plan. Indeed, its walls destroyed part of the mosaics in level II. Synagogue I also went through two phases, and was in use until it was abandoned in the Abbassid period./167/

The synagogues discussed up to this point are the most certain examples of the zodiac. But there are a number of other works of art which are sometimes cited as examples of the zodiac from Jewish contexts. Some are more likely than others. We will discuss several of them here.


The works of art discussed up to this point are definitely zodiacs. But there is a group of similar works of art which some, but not all, scholars have thought were zodiacs. We will discuss them here in descending order of plausibility. The first example is in a synagogue at Khirbet Susiya, in Idumaea, near Hebron. The ruined village was surveyed by Conder and Kitchener in the nineteenth century. In 1969 S. Gutman did a trial excavation at the site for the Israeli Department of Antiquities. A full scale expedition, led jointly by S. Gutman, Z. Yeivin, and E. Netzer, excavated and restored the synagogue in 1971-72./167/

The synagogue was on a hillside on the west side of the village. It is in four parts: an atrium, a narthex and the prayer-hall, on a single east-west axis, and two small rooms on the beyond the south wall of the prayer-hall (figure 59). The atrium is 1.5 meters lower than the floor of the narthex and prayer-hall. A staircase of five steps connect them. Three portals lead from the narthex to the prayer-hall proper./168/

The prayer-hall has a broad-house plan, meaning that the long, rather than the short, walls were oriented to Jerusalem. The worshippers entered in the eastern short wall, then turned 90o left. The northern long wall faced Jerusalem, with two bemas and a niche. There were no internal columns, and benches lined three walls. The prayer-hall measured 9 X 15 meters, and was perhaps 8-9 meters high./169/ Four dedicatory inscriptions in mosaic are found in the atrium, the narthex, and the entrance of the prayer hall./170/

The synagogue was in use from the fifth to the eight or ninth centuries CE./171/ It had a complex history, with several remodellings. This is particularly noticeable in the mosaics, with relics of several phases remaining. The first mosaic was merely white tesserae, at least in the surviving portions./172/ The succeeding phase is the one that most interests us. It filled most of the floor with three panels, east to west. (A small panel of a Torah Ark and Jewish symbols is found in front of the eastern bema.)/173/ The western panel was subdivided into three scenes. Of these three, one is largely destroyed, and one shows Daniel in the lion's den. The last scene shows a hunt. The eastern panel, next to the entrance, has two large octagons, surrounded by smaller polygons which held birds, now destroyed./174/ The original center panel has since been replaced by a geometric pattern. But the edge of the original panel remains. It shows the edge of a wheel, a divider, and what appears to be a wing (figure 59)./175/ It is clearly quite similar to the zodiac panels which we have discussed earlier. It is not certain that the wheel was a zodiac; wheels of the months are known from non- Jewish contexts, notably at Beth Shan./176/ But since zodiac circles are reasonably common in synagogues, while circles of the months are otherwise unknown, it is certainly tempting, and probably reasonable, to list Susiya among the synagogue zodiacs./177/ Perhaps it should also be classed with Naaran as the target of iconoclasts.


Another synagogue mosaic sometimes identified as a zodiac is at Yafia,/178/ a village in Galilee, about one mile southwest of Nazareth./179/ The village is an old one. It may be the IAPU of the Amarna Tablets and is probably the Yafia of Zebulon mentioned in Joshua 19:12./180/ It was Josephus' headquarters for a time while he commanded the Jewish forces in Galilee, and was destroyed by the Roman army as a result./181/ Later excavation has shown that Yafia was a sizeable Jewish settlement during the Byzantine period as well./182/

The synagogue of Yafia was first discovered in 1921, when Vincent published several sculptured fragments from the lintel./183/ After a mosaic floor was reported, the site was excavated by E. L. Sukenik and N. Avigad in July and August of 1951./184/ As at Susiya, the site is occupied by a modern village, and only a restricted area, within a garden, could be excavated./185/

The ancient synagogue was badly damaged by later building, but enough survives to tell us that the building was a basilica, with a double colonnade./186/ The nave was 6.9 meters wide, and was flanked by two aisles, each 2.9 meters, for a total width of 15 meters. Only one of the building's short ends survives, but the nave was at least 16.5 meters long, and perhaps as much as 19 meters. The long axis runs east-west, with the facade at the east end./187/ The synagogue was eventually destroyed by violence, but when or by what is unknown. Sukenik speculates that a Christian mob was responsible./188/ Certainly such behavior was not rare in the early Byzantine Empire but the theory lacks positive evidence.

The floor of the synagogue was paved with an elaborate mosaic, now largely destroyed (figure 60)./189/ The mosaics were skillfully made, with tesserae in thirteen different colors, in a style which is neither particularly classical nor especially "Oriental." On the basis of this style the excavator dated the Yafia synagogue to the late third or early fourth centuries CE./190/ The figures which survive in the nave are the most interesting. There were a series of panels at the west end, only one of which survives. The surviving panel contains an eagle atop two volutes, forming a chalice-like object. Surimposed upon the "chalice" is a human head. While the head has been variously identified as Helios or Medusa,/191/ it lacks identifying attributes and could just as easily be one of the masks commonly found in Hellenistic art.

Next to the eagle mosaic is the remains of a double circle inscribed on a square, superficially like the zodiac circles which we have discussed above. Indeed, when first discovered, this, too, was thought to be a zodiac./192/ The square is 4.2 meters on a side. The inner circle is 1.9 meters, the outer 3.8 meters, in diameter./193/ However, the space between the two concentric circles is not divided up into "pie slices," as in the other zodiac mosaics. Instead, the space is filled with smaller circles, each about 50 centimeter in diameter./194/ They might be compared to "ball bearings," rather than "pie slices." The corners of the square are filled with animals and plant designs. A tiger may be seen in the one intact corner. The triangles between the small circles hold dolphins./195/ The small circles between the two larger circles also held animals. Two circles survive, one largely intact. The nearly intact circle holds a bull, facing right. The circle to the right is largely destroyed, but the head and hoof of a horned animal remain./196/ More important, part of a label also remains. Three Hebrew letters and part of a fourth may be seen: , rym, -rim. These are almost certainly the end of the name, , 'prym, Ephraim, one of the twelve sons of Israel./197/

This gives the key to the whole panel. It is a circle, not of the zodiac, but of the twelve tribes, the first example of the motif discovered./198/ The horned animal of Ephraim is a wild ox, bos primigenius, and the nearly intact animal on its left is a domestic bull, symbol of Ephraim's brother, Manasseh./199/ In rabbinic tradition, each of the twelve patriarchs was identified with an animal, based on characterizations given in Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33. Numbers Rabbah 82 gives the symbols of all the tribes. Probably the intact mosaic held symbols of all twelve tribes./200/ It is possible that the circle of the tribes has a zodiacal aspect./201/ The twelve signs were certainly identified with the twelve tribes at some point. This is how zodiacs sometimes found in modern synagogues are interpreted./202/ Likewise, the biblical characterizations were used in interpreting horoscopes. But we do not know when signs and tribes were identified, or when the biblical attributes of the tribes were given to the signs./203/ At best, we can only say "not proven."


The mosaic zodiac inscription of En Gedi is not, strictly speaking, a picture of the zodiac. But it is closely enough related to the artistic motif that it cannot be ignored.

En Gedi is a famous oasis in the Judaean desert. It was inhabited in every period since at least the Chalcolithic period. Eusebius' Onomasticon tells us that there was still a large Jewish settlement in the region in the early Byzantine Empire./204/ In 1966, farmers discovered an ancient synagogue northeast of the oasis. The site was excavated by D. Barag, Y. Porat, and E. Netzer for Hebrew University and the Israeli Department of Antiquities in three seasons, 1970-1972./205/

The synagogue had an irregular plan, but was roughly square, approximately 12 X 15 meters (figure 63)./206/ One entered via a narthex four meters wide along the western wall. It forms a corridor with two entrances, one at the north, one at the south end. The floor was paved with plain white tesserae. One corner held a sink for ritual ablution before entering the prayer-hall, the first such installation to be found. Three portals lead from the narthex into the prayer-hall proper./207/ Inside, there is a nave, facing northwest to Jerusalem, surrounded by a U-shaped aisle. Thus the worshipper had to make two 900 turns. The western aisle holds five mosaic inscriptions. "Bleachers" line the southern wall./208/ The center of the nave contains a mosaic of intersecting squares. The squares, in turn, are decorated with geometric and floral motifs and birds. A panel of three menorahs is north of the squares. Beyond is a panel for a bema, 2 X 4 meters. The north wall contains a niche for an ark./209/

Overall, excavators found three phases to the synagogue,/210/ although only the uppermost phase, containing the inscriptions, was fully uncovered. Fragments of a mosaic belonging to the first phase probably date to the third century CE./211/

Probably because of its isolated location, the site was unusually well preserved, with no evidence of looting. As a result, an unusual number of artifacts were found in situ./212/ In the niche, excavators found fragments of glass lamps, several whole ceramic lamps, traces of a wooden aediculum and curtain, and a charred lump which may be the remains of a Torah scroll. Nearby, they found a bronze menorah, a goblet-shaped container, also of bronze, and a hoard of several thousand bronze coins./213/ The coins provide the major dating information. They date to the reigns of the emperors Anastasius I, Justin I, and the early years of Justinian I. The excavators conclude that the synagogue was destroyed by fire, perhaps about 530 CE./214/

For our purposes, the most interesting find at En Gedi was the inscription in the western aisle (figure 62). It has no date formula, but probably dates to the latest phase of the synagogue./215/ It is one of the longest synagogue inscriptions known, and includes a unique list of the signs of the zodiac. Actually, it is five inscriptions together, 2 in Hebrew, 3 in Aramaic. (It may be significant that none are in Greek.)/216/ The 18 lines are short enough to quote in full:

1. Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared,|
2. Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet,|
3. Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo,|
4. Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Aquarius, Pisces.|
5. Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul,|
6. Tishrei, Marheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat|
7. And Adar. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Peace.|
8. Hananiah, Mishael, and `Azariah. Peace unto Israel.|
9. May they be remembered for good: Yose and `Ezron "and Hizziqiyu the sons of Hilfi.|
10. Anyone causing a controversy between a man and his friend, or whoever|
11. slanders his friend before the Gentiles, or whoever steals|
12. the property of his friend, or whoever reveals the secret of the town|
13. to the Gentiles--He Whose eyes range through the whole earth|
14. and Who sees hidden things, He will set his [sic] face on that|
15. man and on his seed and will uproot him from under the heavens.|
16. And all the people said: Amen and Amen Selah.|
17. Rabbi Yose the son of Hilfi, Hiziqiyu [sic] the son of Hilfi, may they be remembered for good,|
18. for they did a great deal in the name of the Merciful, Peace.|/217/

This inscription is rather a mystery and has attracted quite a bit of scholarly attention./218/ While images of the zodiac are fairly common, no other inscriptions of it are known./219/ Moreover, the list of the twelve signs is only part of a larger complex. The first two lines are a list of the first generations of humanity, taken from I Chronicles 1:1-4./220/ The signs are followed by a list of the twelve Jewish months, also rare in synagogue inscriptions. Then follow the first three Patriarchs, the word "Peace," Daniel's three companions in Babylon, and the phrase "Peace upon Israel."/221/ After these eight lines, a new segment begins, separated by a double line. The language changes, from Hebrew to Aramaic, and so does the subject matter./222/ Instead of lists, we find a dedication, a lengthy but obscure curse formula, and another dedication, this time for repairs./223/

The biggest mystery is, what do the different parts of the inscription have to do with each other?/224/ The midrash Pesikta Rabbati correlates signs and months./225/ Likewise, they are paired in piyyutim, or liturgical poems, such as those of Eleazer ha- Kallir in the sixth century CE./226/ The peculiar word order , gdy wdly dgym, "Capricorn, and Aquarius, Pisces," instead of "Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces" is also sometimes found in piyyutim./227/ But that does not explain the connection; it merely pushes it back one step. What is the connection between the lists of the months and signs, on one hand, and the three other lists, each of persons, on the other? The zodiac is by no means as central in the En Gedi inscription as it is in, for example, the artistic program of Hammath-Tiberias./228/ Likewise, the connection between the Hebrew and Aramaic portions of the inscription is unexplained. Some scholars see a chronological progression, from fully accepted classical art at Hammath-Tiberias, in the fourth century, to iconoclasm at Naaran and a zodiac in words, without pictures, at En Gedi, in the sixth century./229/ But, in my opinion, the dates of the various synagogues are too imprecise for such a typology.

No zodiacs are known from Diaspora synagogues, but one related example does occur in the Jewish catacombs along the Via Nomentana in Rome (figure 64). This is a panel of Jewish symbols similar to the one at Beth Alpha and elsewhere. It shows a Holy Ark as a pedimented cabinet. The doors are open, showing six scrolls inside. The Ark is flanked by the familiar menorahs, palm-branches, shofars, and so on. But above the ark we see the sun, a star, and the moon./230/ Is the whole composition a short-hand version of the zodiac and symbol panels so often found in Israeli synagogues? Probably it has a similar meaning. Rome had one of the largest Jewish communities in the empire, and probably it had close communications with the Holy Land.

Another object sometimes cited as a Jewish zodiac is the relief which Sukenik excavated in a synagogue at Baram, near Lake Huleh, in 1928./231/ The relief is of a meander pattern with figures of animals and plants interspersed. Sukenik thought the relief was a zodiac, an earlier parallel to the Beth Alpha zodiac. Since he dated the Baram synagogue to the third century CE, this would be the oldest Jewish example known./232/ A number of other scholars, most notably E. R. Goodenough, agreed with him./233/ However, the relief is very battered, and the version one usually sees is heavily restored. The figures have been re-evaluated by Ruth Amiran and probably are not zodiacal./234/

Other proposed zodiacs include a circular chandelier, perhaps from Galilee,/235/ a vandalized relief of a menorah from Naveh in the ancient Batanea,/236/ and isolated pictures of capricorns or fish at sites such as er-Rafid and Dura-Europus./237/ These should be discounted, however. Not every picture of a fish is Pisces, nor do twelve lamps in a circle around a thirteenth necessarily represent the sun in the zodiac.


After describing the synagogue zodiacs themselves, it is appropriate to describe the various attempts to explain them. There are many (some think too many) theories trying to do so. They do fall into several broad categories, and rather than discuss every minute variation, we will here discuss the most important examples.

One of the most widely accepted theories is that the synagogue zodiacs represent the Jewish calendar. This explanation was invented and most ably presented by the distinguished Israeli scholar, Michael Avi-Yonah, and it is his version which we will discuss here./238/

Avi-Yonah thought that the rabbis did not object to images per se because paganism was in "utter decay" in the Byzantine period. Likewise, the rabbinic remark "There is no star for Israel" ruled out any explicit connection between the zodiac mosaics and the practice of astrology, whether "scientific" or "religious."/239/ Instead, he proposes that the zodiac was paired with inscriptions of the twenty- four priestly courses to represent the Jewish calendar.

Judaean priests had long been divided into 24 groups, each serving in the Temple for one week two times a year./240/ When the Temple was finally destroyed and the Jews expelled from Judaea after the Second Revolt, members of the various courses settled in towns in Galilee./241/ Inscriptions listing each course and its town were sometimes placed in synagogues, and have been found both in Israel and abroad./242/ Congregations prayed weekly that the Temple and the appropriate course might be restored, a hope not completely dashed until after the time of the emperor Julian./243/

Avi-Yonah and his disciples believe that the inscriptions of the courses and the mosaics of the zodiac functioned together as a more convenient method of calculating when to celebrate the feast than the official Jewish calendar. Nearly all Jewish festivals take place at the full or new moon, which must be seen before the celebration can begin./244/ As we have seen in earlier chapters, it was not at all easy to calculate in advance when a new moon or a full moon will come. It would have been much easier to count days and weeks than to struggle with mathematical formulas in Hebrew numerals./245/ Modern day Orthodox Jews use the weekly lectionary cycle in this way. (Cf. the column "Torah Today" in the Jerusalem Post.) But in antiquity Jews used several competing lectionary cycles./256/ To use the list of courses would have been more convenient. The Qumran sect used the courses in just this way, although they modified the list to fit with their idiosyncratic version of the calendar./247/ According to Avi-Yonah's theory, the list of courses designated the weeks, while the signs of the zodiac represented the months in the Jewish calendar. "Each sign of the zodiac represents one of the twelve months of the year; the list of priestly courses divides the year into weeks; together they form a complete set of chronological indications."/248/ They reminded worshippers that the cycle of the seasons was mirrored in the liturgical year of the Temple and the synagogue./249/ This may be seen in the liturgical poetry or piyyutim composed to supplement the liturgy./250/ Eleazer ha- Kallir's poem, "Remember how we are humbled," correlates course, town, sign and month in each stanza./251/

Avi-Yonah's theory is certainly an elegant one, at once explaining the zodiacs and the inscriptions of the courses. But one may make several objections. The strongest is that zodiac results in a solar calendar, while the Jewish calendar is lunar. Zodiacal calendars existed in the ancient world. Ptolemy refers to a "Dionysiac" calendar which had its New Year on summer solstice, when the sun entered Libra./252/ Likewise, parapegmata, such as Geminus', used the signs as months./253/ But they never replaced to official calendars of the Greco-Roman world, and there is no other evidence that they were used by Jews, either. It is true that the midrash Pesikta Rabbati, in chapters 20 and 53,/254/ equates the Jewish months with the signs of the zodiac. But Pesikta Rabbati, in chapter 15, also emphasizes very strongly that Jews use a lunar calendar. ". . . God's intention from the beginning having been that the nations of the earth reckon by the sun, and Israel by the moon. . . ."/255/ Moreover, the phases of Israelite history are prefigured by the phases of the moon. Just as the moon waxes and wanes over thirty days, so Israel grew more powerful, then less so over thirty generations. At the end of the cycle Israel will grow powerful again, just as the moon waxes again./256/

Because lunar months shift relative to the sun, a month in the Jewish calendar can never be identical with a zodiacal sign. But since the intercalation system adds one extra month roughly every third year, the Jewish months are in a rough correspondence with the signs. Nisan is always in the spring, near the vernal equinox, when the sun enters Aries. But 1 Nisan is not the first degree of Aries each year, as 21 March is. This explains Pesikta Rabbati's equation of the months with the signs.

If the signs of the zodiac at Beth Alpha are identical with the months, why not simply put in the names and pictures of the months? Circles of the months are common in mosaic art, as we have seen. Some of them, such as the one found at Antioch portray lunar months./257/ The seasons at Beth Alpha and elsewhere are named for the proper Jewish months. The best conclusion is that the zodiacs do not equal the Jewish calendar.

Another theory is that the zodiacs, and art in the synagogue generally, were without any particular meaning. E. E. Urbach is perhaps the leading proponent of this point of view, partly in reaction to the views of E. R. Goodenough./258/ Urbach notes that there was a change in attitude toward images after the Second Temple period. Earlier, Jews had been rather hostile to images because they were equated with the worship of foreign deities./259/ After the failure of the First and Second Revolts, Jews lived in different circumstances. A Jewish state no longer existed and Jews generally lived in closer contact with non-Jews than before./260/ This meant that they came into close contact with pagan images, as well, as they bought and sold artifacts or rented farmland./261/ Jewish religious leaders knew that their own people felt little temptation to pray to statues. The rabbis did not usually share the opinion of the early Christians that demons lived in idols./262/ They next made a distinction between possession of an image and idolatry. In general, "That which is treated as a god is forbidden, but that which is not treated as a god is permitted."/263/ Too, the rabbis believed that few of the images one met in any Greek or Roman city were genuine objects of worship./264/ To be certain that an image was not worshipped, one might "annul" it by damaging it in some way, or persuading a non-Jew to do so./265/ Thus, a Jew could make a lamp with a mythological image for sale to a Gentile clientele without feeling a traitor. The Babylonian Talmud even mentions Jews making cultic images for Gentiles to worship. This was a dubious case, but at least some intellectuals thought it was tolerable if the craftsman did not pray to the statue himself. Likewise, if a Jew did not worship an image, he could use it for decorative purposes without a qualm./266/ This explains zodiacs along with the other Jewish art of the era. They were not worshipped, and thus were mere ornaments, not idols. The rabbinic catacombs at Beth Shearim are a prime example. Inscriptions there call the buried rabbis "Holy Ones," a title applied in rabbinic literature to sages who scrupulously avoided idolatry, such as Nahum bar Simai. The implication is that the many carvings at Beth Shearim, where pious Jews came to be buried from around the world, did not damage anyone's reputation for holiness./267/

The major problem with Urbach's theory is that the zodiacs are major works of art, in prominent places in the synagogues. They are not graffitti scratched out during dull sermons. Likewise, there was very little art in the ancient world which had no meaning. It strains belief too far to say that a panel of menoroth and other Jewish symbols is meaningful, while a panel of the zodiac standing beside it, and equal in size, is meaningless. It is surely more reasonable to postulate a Jewish interpretation of the zodiac.

The third group of theories may be called astrological or, more broadly, cosmological. They usually explain the synagogue zodiacs as representing God and the universe in some way. At the same time, they usually discount any connection with "scientific" astrology./268/ The most famous example is the theory of E. R. Goodenough./269/ Goodenough's explanation of the synagogue zodiacs is distinctive because it is only a part of a comprehensive explanation of synagogue art generally. Goodenough believed that many Jews during the Greco- roman period saw Judaism as a mystery religion. By this he did not mean a cultus such as the mysteries of Isis or of Demeter at Eleusis. Instead, many Jews interpreted their ancestral cult in light of Platonic philosophy in the much same way that pagans such as Plutarch did with Isis./270/ His major source for this Judaic mystery religion was the writings of Philo of Alexandria, but Goodenough believed that Philo was merely the best known representative of a wide-spread point of view./271/

. . . the mystic Jew saw the supreme revelation of saving truth "in his Torah, when properly understood by allegory, and for that "because he had unique access to and revelation of the immaterial "world, he had it also in the sense that he and he alone, had the "divine [orgia], the right celebration of which meant coming "into the fellowship and joy of God Himself. However we may now "want to these the term, the mystic Jew himself gloried in the "fact that his was not only a "real" mystery, but the only "real "one./272/
In simpler terms, Philo and others believed that what Isis promised, YHWH delivered./273/

This attitude extended to art, as well. The symbolism found in the synagogues came from an artistic lingua franca, used throughout the hellenized world. Jewish artists borrowed the symbols because they said things which seemed to fit with Jewish religion./274/ Thus, a cupid reminded people of salvation through God's love, while ". . . the dove . . . represented Israel the beloved of God, or the individual Israelite."/275/ The rabbis might be hostile to Jews using art, but the rabbinic movement had little power over ordinary Jews, Goodenough thought, until the early Middle Ages. The average Jew in the Roman Empire was Hellenized, and separated from the rabbis by an ideological Grand Canyon./276/

Goodenough's understanding of the synagogue zodiacs follows from his beliefs about Jewish mysticism and Jewish art generally. First, he discounted any connection with "scientific" or magical astrology. The fact that the seasons were not correlated with the correct signs showed that the congregations either did not know, or did not care, about the details of astrology./277/ Those who did practice astrology kept it in a separate mental compartment from their religion./278/ The astrological references in Kallir's piyyutim did not disprove this, because Goodenough dated them to the Middle Ages, and, anyway, they are mystical too./279/ The overall meaning was more important. The zodiac meant the same thing at Beth Alpha as it did in Palmyra. It told the viewers that God ruled the world and it also held out hope of immortality.

". . . the [mystical] experience could be depicted in terms of "the zodiac, the planets, the cosmos, with which man unites "himself as he becomes the macrocosmus [sic], or as he is carried "by the solar eagle to the top of the universe, if not outside it "altogether to that Sun and Ideal World of which the material sun "and universe are only imperfect copies."/280/

One distinctive part of Goodenough's explanation of the zodiac is that he believed that the motif the Seasons, when found in Jewish art, were a shortened version of the zodiac. Likewise, domed rooms in the Jewish catacombs of Rome were symbolic of the heavens, and thus of astral immortality. In this way he found allusions to Jewish astral mysticism in the western parts of the Roman Empire, where no one else had seen them./281/

Goodenough's Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period has been the subject of high praise and great criticism, often from the same people./282/ The book is a monumental collection of evidence,/283/ useful to anyone interested in the period. But almost no one else believes in the Jewish mystery religion which supposedly sponsored the art.

"His pandemic sacramental paganism was a fantasy; so was the "interpretation of pagan symbols based on it, and so was the "empire-wide antirabbinic, mystical Judaism, based on the "interpretation of these symbols."/284/

One scholar compares Goodenough's work to that of Columbus. Like Columbus, Goodenough failed to reach his goal, but in the process, he opened up a new world to the rest of us./285/

Goodenough's Judaic mystery religion almost certainly did not exist. But this does not wholly destroy his interpretation of the synagogue zodiacs. Jews could still borrow symbols and re-interpret them, and this is probably what happened with the sun and the zodiac. The imagery of astrology does speak of God taking care of the universe via the planets. Goodenough's problem, in my opinion, is that he often goes too far. Philo certainly used the rhetoric of contemporary philosophy and mysticism, but it is not possible to know how many other Jews did the same./286/ Also, it is quite unlikely that the personified seasons when found alone are a short hand version of the seasons-zodiac-sun motif found at Beth Alpha and elsewhere. Without some type of explicit astral symbolism, the seasons are just the seasons.


My own explanation of the synagogue zodiacs is also astrological. It is that the zodiacs symbolize God, His care for His universe, and especially for His people, the Jews.

Astrology began as an aspect of Mesopotamian religion. The planets manifested the great gods in the same way that everything else in the universe did. Likewise, the gods signaled their plans for humanity via the planets, just as anything out of the ordinary might be a message from the gods. Looking into the sky for guidance was especially popular in the Assyrian Empire. When mathematical astronomy developed and it was possible to predict the planets' motions against the backdrop of the stars, this, too, was used to divine the gods' will. "Scientific" astrology was the result. But the religious assumptions were still present. The motion of a planet might signal a god's intentions, but the appropriate ritual might still be used to change his mind. What we call natural laws, a Mesopotamian might call divine habits.

Astrology, in both "scientific" and religious aspects, spread. The idea that the planets were divine was well-known in Bronze Age and Iron Age Syria and Palestine. Mesopotamian systems of interpretation were known as well. The Greeks, too, learned of Mesopotamian astrology and, especially in the centuries after Alexander, modified it heavily. A new and even more elaborate system of interpretation, based on Hellenistic science, was developed. Hellenistic astrology, in turn, spread throughout the known world. Other societies adopted it and reinterpreted it to fit their own needs and beliefs. The basic principles and the rules of interpretation became common knowledge through the hellenized world.

Hellenistic astrology kept both "scientific" and religious or magical aspects. In geographical Syria, in particular, astrological symbolism was used to praise the gods. The most expensive temples and the cheapest ex votos alike emphasized that the rules of astrology were the same thing as the powers of the gods. The supreme god, especially, was portrayed as the master of the planets and astrology, making the events of the universe and the life of the individual take place via the "laws" of astrology.

Ancient Jews were part of the larger society, although with some distinctive customs, notably the worship of a single god, YHWH, and a disdain for the use of religious images. During the Hellenistic period, Jews adopted the practice of astrology enthusiastically, but they gave the principles of astrology their own Judaic interpretation. Thus, the planets were still imagined as personal beings, who might answer requests. But the beings were seen as subordinates of the single God, angels of YHWH, not independent deities. The power of astrology came from YHWH, and was administered by the angels. In the same way, Jews adopted the use of astrological art for religious symbolism. But, as with astrological practice, the art was given a distinctive Judaic interpretation. Thus, it was not possible to portray YHWH directly in a synagogue. But it was possible to portray Him indirectly, by portraying His satraps, the planets. In the examples which survive, Sol Invictus in the center of the zodiac represents the whole planetary system, pars pro toto. The seasons may indeed be a reference to the Jewish calendar. At the same time, they may have reminded worshippers that

""I will never curse the ground again because of man . . . "neither will I ever again destroy the every living creature . . ". . While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and "heat, and summer and winter, shall not cease (Genesis 2: "21-22).

The entire composition not only praised God's power, but also reminded worshippers of God's love and care for Israel. It is no accident that the zodiac is coupled, at Beth Alpha, with the sacrifice of Isaac or, at Naaran, with Daniel in the lion's den. These two panels reminded viewers of how God rescued Isaac and Daniel when they needed Him. Moreover, all the zodiacs are found in connection with panels of symbols from Jewish cult. Just as God is faithful to care for the universe, including the Jews, so the pious Jew will be faithful to worship the Almighty God, who so often, in the Bible, declares His love for Israel.

The virtues of this theory are that it explains the zodiac mosaics by taking astrology and its role in Jewish society seriously. We do not require Jews to be either totally isolated from the rest of the human race, or apostates from Jewish tradition. Jews used the same horoscopes, spells, and symbols as their neighbors, but they used them in a Judaic way for Judaic purposes. Like their modern descendants, they were both part of the larger surrounding society, and at the same time faithful to the Israelite tradition.

Chapter Four | Contents | Bibliography


/1/ Bernard M. Goldman, The Sacred Portal: A Primary Symbol in Ancient Judaic Art [Portal] (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1966; repr. Brown Classics in Judaica, University Press of America, 1986), pp. 31-32, 38; Lee I. Levine, "The Second Temple Synagogue: The Formative Years," ["Formative"] in Lee I. Levine, ed., The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (Philadelphia: ASOR, 1987), p. 7; Lee I. Levine, "Ancient Synagogues-A Historical Introduction," ["Introduction"] in Lee I. Levine, ed., Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982), p. 1; Rachel Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Land of Israel [Art] (Leiden: Brill, 1988), p. 135.

/2/ For a discussion of offices in the Greco-Roman synagogue, see Harry Joseph Leon, The Jews of Ancient Rome [Rome] (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960/5721), pp. 171-94, passim, and Goldman, Portal, p. 39.

/3/ For a survey of the various theories of the origin of the synagogue, see Levine, "Formative," pp. 7-33, and the sources cited there.

/4/ Goldman, Portal, p. 35; Levine, "Introduction," p. 1; Momigliano, "Josephus," p. 112.

/5/ The inscriptions may be found in Alexander Fuks and Avigdor Tcherikover, Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, III (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, for the Magnes Press, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1957-1964), pp. 138-44. For a discussion of them, see Martin Hengel, "Proseuche und Synagoge; J dische Gemeinde, Gottehaus und Gottesdients in der Diaspora und Palstina," ["Proseuche und Synagoge"] in Gert Jeremias, Heinz- Wolfgang Kuhn, and Hartmut Stegemann, eds., Tradition und Glaube: Das fr he Christentum in seiner Umwelt; Festgabe f r Karl Georg Kuhn zum 65. Geburtstag (Gttingen: Van Den Hoeck and Rupprecht, 1971), pp. 157-184.

/6/ Levine, "Introduction," p. 1.

/7/ Levine, "Formative," p. 24, n.1. See also Flavius Josephus, Jewish War, 2.14.4-5, in Flavius Josephus, Complete Works, 9 Vols., trans. by H. St. John Thackeray, II (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1926-63), pp. 328-29, and the rioting which sparked the First Revolt against Roman rule.

/8/ Levine, "Formative," p. 8.

/9/ Ibid., pp. 9-10.

/10/ See Michael L. White, "The Delos Synagogue Revisited: Recent Fieldwork in the Graeco-Roman Diaspora," HThR 80 (1987): pp. 133-60 for the most recent discussion.

/11/ Michael Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," in Michael Avi-Yonah and Menahem Stern, eds., Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land [EAEHL], 4 Vols., IV (Englewood-Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975), p. 1129.

/12/ Hachlili, Art, p. 137; Levine, "Formative," p. 10; Goldman, Portal, p. 39; Hengel, "Proseuche und Synagoge," p. 180. See J. B. Frey, ed., Corpus Inscriptionum Judaecorum; Receuil des inscriptions juives qui vont du IIIe si VIIe si Christian Archaeology, 1936), no. 1404 for the inscription.

/13/ Hachlili, Art, p. 84.

/14/ Levine, "Formative," pp. 10-11; Hachlili, Art, p. 84; Avi- Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, pp. 1129.

/15/ Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, pp. 1132-33.

/16/ E. L. Sukenik, Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece [Palestine] (London: British Academy, 1934; repr. 1980), pp. 3-5; Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, pp. 1131-32.

/17/ H. Kohl, and C. Watzinger, Antike Synagogen in Galila (Leipzig: J.C. Heinrichs, 1916).

/18/ Bibliographical works on ancient synagogues include: Frowald H ttenmeister and Gottfried Reeg, Die Antike Synagogen im Israel (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1977); A. T. Kraabel, "The Diaspora Synagogue: Archaeological and Epigraphic Evidence Since Sukenik," ed. W. Haase and Temporini, ANRW II.19.1 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1979), pp. 477-510; S. J. Saller, Second Revised Catalogue of the Ancient Synagogues of the Holy Land (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1972); Eleanor K. Vogel, Bibliography of Holy Land Sites, Part I (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1982); and Eleanor K. Vogel, and Brooks Holtzclaw, Bibliography of Holy Land Sites, Part II (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1982); Eleanor K. Vogel, Bibliography of Holy Land Sites, Part III (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1988).

/19/ Amos Kloner, "Ancient Synagogues in Israel: An Archaeological Survey," ["Survey"] in Lee I. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982), p. 18.

/20/ Levine, "Introduction," p. 6.

/21/ Kloner, "Survey," p. 18; Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, p. 1132.

/22/ Kloner, "Survey," p. 18; Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, p. 1130.

/23/ Kloner, "Survey," p. 18; Levine, "Introduction," pp. 6-7.

/24/ See, e.g., Avi-Yonah, "Synagogues," IV, pp. 1129-38 or E. L. Sukenik, The Ancient Synagogue of Beth Alpha [Beth Alpha] (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932), p. 51.

/25/ Kloner, "Survey," p. 18; Hachlili, Art, pp. 141-43; Goldman, Portal, p. 41.

/26/ See Hachlili, Art, pp. 305, 308-09 for an opposite opinion.

/27/ Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8.

/28/ Isaiah 44: 9-20; 46: 1-8.

/29/ I Kings 6: 26-35, passim; 7: 25-44, passim; Goldman, Portal, p. 34; Sukenik, Palestine, p. 63.

/30/ I Kings 11: 4-8; Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 8.7.5, in Flavius Josephus, Complete Works, 9 Vols. trans. by H. St. John Thackeray, V (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1926-63), pp. 676-77.

/31/ Exceptions include fifth century CE Judaean imitations of Athenian coins, including Athena's owl and a table top decorated with a fish from first century CE Jerusalem. Donald J. Wiseman and Edwin Yamauchi, Archaeology and the Bible; An Introductory Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), pp. 82-83; Carl H. Kraeling, et al., The Synagogue [Synagogue] (Augmented ed.; New Haven, CT: Dura-Europus Publications, 1956; repr. NY: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1979), p. 345; Hachlili, Art, p. 81.

/32/ Kraeling, Synagogue, p. 343; Hachlili, Art, pp. 65, 235.

/33/ Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.2; 18.3.1 = Thackeray, VIII, pp. 438-443, IX, pp. 42-47; War, 1.33.2-3 = Thackeray, II, pp. 18-20.

/34/ Levine, "Introduction," p. 7; E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period [Symbols], 13 Vols., VII.2 (NY: Pantheon; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953-68), pp. 123-24.

/35/ Sukenik, Palestine, pp. 63-64; Levine, "Introduction," p. 7; Standard reference works which do not mention synagogue art include Kaufmann Kohler and J. D. E. Eisenstein, "Art, Attitude of Judaism Toward," in Cyrus Adler, et al., The Jewish Encyclopedia, II (London & New York: 1901-06), pp. 141-43; Emil Sch rer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (2nd rev. ed.; NY: Scribner, 1897-98); and Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1891-98).

/36/ The modern Ain Duk, in a variety of spellings.

/37/ Sukenik, Palestine, p. 28; Michael Avi-Yonah, "Na`aran," ["Naaran] in Michael Avi-Yonah, and Ephraim Stern, eds., EAEHL, III, p. 894; L.-H. Vincent, "Le sanctuaire juif d'Ain Doug," RB 28 (1919): pp. 442-43.

/38/ L.-H. Vincent, "Une sanctuaire dans la region de Jericho, la synagogue de Na`aran," ["Sanctuaire"] RB 65 (1961): pp. 163-64.

/39/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 163; G. Foerster, and Gabriella Bacchi, "Jericho," in Avi-Yonah, EAEHL, II, p. 550.

/40/ Joshua 16: 7 and I Chronicles 7: 28; Josephus, Antiquities, 13.8.1 = Thackeray, VII, pp. 342-47; Lamentations Rabbah, 1.17.52, trans. Dr. A. Cohen, in Midrash Rabbah, 10 Vols., ed. Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon (London: Soncino Press, 1939, reprint, 1961), VII, pp. 142; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891.

/41/ Eusebius, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen [Onomasticon], ed. Erich Klostermann (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1904; repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms verlagsbuchhandlung, 1966), p. 136, line 24, N## # #, Naaratha; Palladius, Lausiac History, 48, trans. and annot. Robert T. Meyer (NY & Ramsey, NJ: Newman Press, 1964), pp. 130-31; "Ducas" = Ain Duk; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891.

/42/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891; L.-H. Vincent, and A. Carri sanctuaire juif d'`Ain Douq," RB 30 (1921): pp. 442.

/43/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," pp. 164-65; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," pp. 891-92.

/44/ Hachlili, Art, p. 351.

/45/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," pp. 164-65.

/46/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 167 and Pl. VII.

/47/ Vincent, "Ain Doug," p. 443; G nter Stemberger, "Die Bedeutung des Tierkreises auf Mosaikfussbden sptantiker Synagogen," ["Tierkreis"] Kairos NF 17 (1975): p. 23.

/48/ The menorah was the most important Jewish symbol in the Hellenistic world; when Titus wanted to emphasize his victory in the First Revolt, he showed the Menorah on his triumphal arch. Goldman, Portal, p. 111.

/49/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 891; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," pp. 167-68, Pls. 8 and 9; Joseph Naveh, On Mosaic and Stone. Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Ancient Synagogues [Stone] [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Carta, 1978), no. 59, p. 95. All Naaran's inscriptions are published and discusses in Naveh, Stone, no. 58-67, pp. 93-103.

/50/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168.

/51/ Ibid., Pl. 7.

/52/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 892.

/53/ See Naveh, Stone, no. 67, p. 102, for the zodiac inscriptions.

/54/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 169; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," pp. 893-4; Sukenik, Palestine, p. 30.

/55/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," pp. 893-94; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 169; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 25-26.

/56/ This panel is perhaps the most common motif in ancient Jewish art. For a discussion of its meaning in Jewish art generally, see Goldman, Portal.

/57/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 893; Goodenough, Symbols, VIII.2, p. 168; Sukenik, Palestine, p. 29- 30.

/58/ Vincent, "Ain Doug," p. 443; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168; Avi- Yonah, "Naaran," p. 893; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 40; Naveh, Stone, no. 67, p. 102.

/59/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168.

/60/ Pierre Benoit, "Note additionelle," ["Note"] RB 65 (1961): p. 176; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 38.

/61/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 893.

/62/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 36; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," Pl. 20, b.

/63/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 35; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 168.

/64/ For the typical iconography of the Sun see Karl Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," Art Bulletin 22 (1945): pp. 1-17 and W. Roscher "Helios," in W. Roscher, ed., Ausf hrliches Lexikon der griechischen und rmischen Mythologie, 6 Vols. in 9 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1884-86; 1923-24), I.2, cols. 1993-2026; A. Alfldi, Die Kontorniaten (Budapest: 1943) contains perhaps the best collection of examples from the later Roman Empire.

/65/ For an authoritative account of the "Oriental" style in popular art of the Hellenized Near East, see the essays in Michael Avi-Yonah, Art in Ancient Palestine; Selected Studies, Collected and Prepared for Republication by Hannah Katzenstein and Yoram Tsafrir (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, The Magnes Press, 1981).

/66/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 35; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 893.

/67/ Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 23; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 894.

/68/ Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 894; Benoit, "Note," pp. 175-76; Hachlili, Art, p. 398.

/69/ Vincent, "Ain Doug," p. 442; Vincent, "Sanctuaire," pp. 170-71.

/70/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," p. 170.

/71/ Vincent, "Sanctuaire," pp. 171-72.

/72/ Benoit, "Note," p. 175; Avi-Yonah, "Naaran," p. 894; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 23.

/73/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 5; Sukenik, Palestine, p. 6.

/74/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 5, 8-9.

/75/ Goldman, Portal, p. 24; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 10-11.

/76/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 15; Nahman Avigad, "Beth Alpha," in Michael Avi-Yonah, ed., EAEHL, I, p. 187.

/77/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 11-12; Goldman, Portal, pp. 24-25.

/78/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 11, 13, 15.

/79/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 12-14; Goldman, Portal, p. 26.

/80/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 12-13, 57; Goldman, Portal, p. 25; Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 188. See Naveh, Stone, no. 43-45, pp. 72-76 for all the Beth Alpha inscriptions.

/81/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 13, 58.

/82/ Ibid., pp. 21-22.

/83/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 43-48, passim, 57-58; Goldman, Portal, pp. 26-27; Naveh, Stone, no. 43, p. 72.

/84/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 47.

/85/ Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 190; B. Lifschitz, Donateurs et fondateurs dans les synagogues juives [Donateurs] (Paris: 1967), p. 69; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 47; Goldman, Portal, pp. 27-28. Ordinarily, it was unusual for mosaicists to sign their work. To do so was a sign of pride in a particular work of art. Doro Levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements [Antioch], 2 Vols., I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947), p. 8.

/86/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 22; Goldman, Portal, pp. 53-54.

/87/ Hans-Peter Sthlin, Antike Synagogenkunst (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1988), p. 63; Goldman, Portal, p. 29.

/88/ In the Bible, the ram was not brought along, but appeared by coincidence. Such re-writing of biblical stories is common in rabbinic literature. See Goldman, Portal, p. 55.

/89/ Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 188; Goldman, Portal, p. 29.

/90/ Naveh, Stone, no. 44, p. 75.

/91/ Sukenik, Palestine, p. 34.

/92/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 35.

/93/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 38; Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 188.

/94/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 38-39; Rachel Wischnitzer, "The Beth Alpha Mosaic. A New Interpretation," ["Beth Alpha"] Jewish Social Studies 17 (1955): pp. 142-43.

/95/ Wischnitzer, "Beth Alpha," p. 142. George M. A. Hanfmann, The Seasons Sarcophagus in Dumbarton Oaks, 2 Vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1951) discusses the Seasons in Classical art, especially the late Roman Empire.

/96/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 36.

/97/ Ibid., p. 37.

/98/ Ibid., p. 37.

/99/ Ibid., pp. 37-38.

/100/ Ibid., pp. 35-37.

/101/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 36-38; Naveh, Stone, no. 45, p. 75. See A. Mirsky, "Aquarius and Capricornus in the `En Gedi Inscription," ["Inscription"] Tarbiz 40 (1971): pp. 376-84, Hebrew with an English summary, p.vii, for a discussion of the extra "and."

/102/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 35.

/103/ Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 188; Wischnitzer, "Beth Alpha," pp. 133-36, 138-42; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, pp. 22-23, 26-28, 32-34; Goldman, Portal, pp. 59, 65-69, 110-12. Wischnitzer, "Beth Alpha," pp. 133-144 is largely devoted to an explanation of this panel.

/104/ See, e.g., Goldman, Portal, p. 143-44, 154-57 and Avigad, "Beth Alpha," I, p. 190.

/105/ Michael Avi-Yonah, and N. Makhouly, "A Sixth-Century Synagogue at `Isfiy," ["Isfiya"] QDAP 3 (1933): pp. 118-31, passim; Michael Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," in Michael Avi-Yonah, ed., EAEHL, II, p. 524.

/106/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 118; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 524.

/107/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 130.

/108/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 118; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 524.

/109/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," pp. 119-20, 131; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 526.

/110/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 120; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 524.

/111/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," pp. 120-30, passim; Avi- Yonah, "Husifa," pp. 524-25; Naveh, Stone, no. 38 and no. 39, p. 65-68.

/112/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," pp. 123-24, 129-30.

/113/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 124; Sukenik, Palestine, pp. 85-6; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 525.

/114/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," pp. 124-26; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 525; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 168.

/115/ Makhouly, and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," pp. 125, 127; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 525.

/116/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 125, 127; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," p. 525.

/117/ Makhouly and Avi-Yonah, "Isfiya," p. 131; Avi-Yonah, "Husifa," pp. 514, 526; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 24.

/118/ Moshe Dothan, "The Representation of Helios in the Mosaic of Hammath-Tiberias," ["Representation"] in Atti del Convegno internazionale sul tema: Tardo antico e alto medioevo, Roma 4-7 aprile 1967 (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Quaderno no. 105) (Rome: 1968), p. 99.

/119/ Moshe Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias: Early Synagogues and the Hellenistic and Roman Remains, Final Excavation Report [Hammath-Tiberias]: I (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, University of Haifa, Department of Antiquities, 1983), p. 5, figure 1.

/120/ Moshe Dothan, "The Synagogue at Hammath-Tiberias," ["Synagogue"] in Lee I. Levine, ed., Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Detroit: Wayne State University Press; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society), p. 63; Moshe Dothan, "Tiberias, Hammath," in Michael Avi-Yonah and Ephraim Stern, eds., EAEHL, IV, p. 1178.

/121/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 3-5; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 63; Josephus, Antiquities, 18.2.3 = Thackeray, IX, pp. 30-31.

/122/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 4; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 63; Dothan, "Tiberias," p. 1178; Dothan,"Representation," p. 99.

/123/ For discussions of the office of the Jewish Patriarch in the Roman Empire, see Lee I. Levine, "The Jewish Patriarch (Nasi) in Third Century Palestine," in W. Haase and H. Temporini, eds., ANRW II.19.2 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1979), pp. 649-88; Gedaliah Alon, The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age, trans. and ed. by Gershon Levi (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1980, 1984); and Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1987).

/124/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 4.

/125/ This synagogue, excavated by M. Dothan, is sometimes confused with another, about 50 meters away, which was excavated in the 1920s by N. Slouschz. Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 5; N. Slouschz, "Excavations of the Society at Hammath-Tiberias," BJPES 1 (1921): pp. 5-37 and pp. 49-52.

/126/ Dothan,"Representation," pp. 99-100; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 63; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 7.

/127/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 5; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 63.

/128/ Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 63; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 1, 13-14.

/129/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 27.

/130/ Ibid., p. 14.

/131/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 15-18, passim; Dothan, "Synagogue," pp. 63-64.

/132/ Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 64.

/133/ Dothan, "Synagogue," pp. 64-65; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 20, 22, 28.

/134/ Dothan,"Representation," p. 100.

/135/ See Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, Plans C and D.

/136/ It is approximately 12 X 15 meters, but the north side is 12.55 meters long, while the south is 13.10 meters. Dothan, Hammath- Tiberias, p. 21.

/137/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 21.

/138/ Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 64; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 21.

/139/ Dothan, "Synagogue," pp. 64-65; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 21.

/140/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 21.

/141/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 22; Dothan, "Synagogue," pp. 63-64.

/142/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 26, 66-67; Dothan, "Synagogue," pp. 64-65.

/143/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 22, 27-28, 30, 67; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 65.

/144/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 27, 30-32.

/145/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 30, 55; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 66-67; Naveh, Stone, no. 26-27, pp. 47-50.

/146/ See Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 33-38, for a discussion of Hammath-Tiberias's panel of Jewish symbols.

/147/ Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 69.

/148/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 54-57; Baruch Lifschitz, "L'ancienne synagogue de Tiberiade; sa mosaique et ses inscriptions," ["Tiberiade"] Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period 4 (1973): p. 52; Lifschitz, Donateurs, p. 63, no. 67.

/149/ Lifschitz, "Tiberiade," p. 52; For discussion of the other inscriptions, both Greek and Aramaic, see Dothan, Hammath- Tiberias, pp. 53-62.

/150/ Lifschitz, "Tiberiade," pp. 50-52; Dothan, Hammath- Tiberias, p. 57.

/151/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 58, 67, 85, n. 405.

/152/ Ibid., pp. 58, 85, n. 405.

/153/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 58-59, 67. On titles and reorganization of the Roman Empire, see A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 284-602, 3 Vols. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964).

/154/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 42.

/155/ Ibid., pp. 39, 43.

/156/ Lifschitz, Donateurs, pp. 61-63; Dothan, Hammath- Tiberias, pp. 43-45; Naveh, Stone, no. 26, pp. 49-50; Lifschitz, "Tiberiade," p. 45.

/157/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 40, 45.

/158/ Ibid., p. 40.

/159/ Libra may be Minos or Rhadamanthus, the judges of the dead in Greek mythology, while Virgo may be Persephone, goddess of the underworld. Michael Avi-Yonah, "Le symbolisme du zodiaque dans l'art Jud o-Byzantin," in Michael Avi-Yonah, Art in Ancient Palestine; Selected Studies, Collected and Prepared for Republication by Hannah Katzenstein and Yoram Tsafrir (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, The Magnes Press, 1981), p. 396.

/160/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 47, 53.

/161/ Cf. the ostracon from Khirbet Ab Dhr, near Palmyra, chapter 3, n. 132, and the sources there.

/162/ Dothan,"Representation," p. 100; Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 41-42; See H. P. L'Orange, Studies in the Iconography of Cosmic Kingship in the Ancient World (Oslo: 1953) for a thorough discussion of the iconography of the cosmocrator, and particularly the raised right hand as a gesture of benediction.

/163/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, pp. 40-42, 80, n. 193; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 66; Dothan, "Representation," p. 100. On the cult of Sol Invictus in the age of Constantine generally, see Gaston H. Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972).

/164/ Eric M. Meyers, "Review of Moshe Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias: Early Synagogues and the Hellenistic and Roman Remains," JAOS 104 (1984): pp. 577-78, for a critique of Dothan's excavation methodology and the resulting imprecision of his dates.

/165/ Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias, p. 67; Dothan, "Synagogue," p. 68.

/166/ Dothan, "Hammath-Tiberias.," pp. 66, 68-69; Dothan, Hammath- Tiberias, p. 30.

/167/ S. Gutman, E. Netzer, Z. Yeivin, "Susiya, Khirbet," ["Susiya"] in Michael Avi-Yonah and Ephraim Stern, eds., EAEHL, IV, p. 1124; S. Gutman, E. Netzer, Z. Yeivin, "Excavations in the Synagogue at Horvat Susiya," ["Excavation"] in Lee I. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed, p. 123; Hachlili, Art, p. 305.

/168/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, pp. 1124-25; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," pp. 123-25.

/169/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1125; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 126.

/170/ Gutman, Yeivin, and Netzer, "Excavations," pp. 126-28; Naveh, Stone, no. 75-86, pp. 114-25.

/171/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1128; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 128.

/172/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1125; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," pp. 124-26.

/173/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1125; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 126.

/174/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1125; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 126.

/175/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, p. 1125; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 126; Hachlili, Art, p. 305.

/176/ G. M. Fitzgerald, Beth Shan Excavations, IV, A Sixth Century Monastery at Beth Shan (Philadelphia: University Museum, Pennsylvania, Palestine Section, 1939); See also M. J. Chiat, "Synagogues and Churches in Byzantine Beth She'an," Journal of Jewish Art 7 (1980): pp. 6-17; Nehemiah Zori, "Beth-Shean," in Michael Avi-Yonah, ed., EAEHL, I, pp. 207-29. For an example from Antioch, see Levi, Antioch, I, pp. 36-40. On the months as an artistic motif, see Sophie Korsunska, "Zu den rmischen Monatsbildern," Deutsches Archologisches Institut Mitteilungen. Rmische Abteilung (1933): pp. 277-83, and Michael Avi-Yonah, "The Mosaic Pavement at el-Hammam, Beisan," QDAP 5 (1935-36): pp. 11-30. This last discusses a second calendar mosaic from Beth Shan, arranged in a square rather than a wheel.

/177/ Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Susiya," IV, pp. 1125, 1128; Gutman, Netzer, Yeivin, "Excavation," p. 126; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 25.

/178/ Also Yafa, Japhia, and Iaphia.

/179/ D. Barag, "Japhia," in Michael Avi-Yonah, ed., EAEHL, p. 541; E. L. Sukenik, "The Ancient Synagogue at Yafa near Nazareth, Preliminary Report," ["Yafa"] Bulletin of the Louis M. Rabinowitz Fund for the Exploration of Ancient Synagogues 2 (1951): p. 6; See figure 3 in Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 10 for a sketch map of the area.

/180/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 8; Barag, "Japhia," p. 541; J. A. Knudtzon, ed., Die El-Amarna Tafeln, mit Einleitung und Register bearbeitet von Otto Weber und Erich Ebeling, 2 Vols. (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1915; Aalen: Otto Zeller Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1964), I, pp. 579-87, tablet 138, lines 6 and 85 and I, pp. 884-87, tablet 294, lines 20 and 35.

/181/ Josephus, War, 2.20.6, 3 = Thackeray, II, pp. 542-43, 658-63; Josephus, Life 45, 52 = Thackeray, I, pp. 84-85, and note "b"; Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 9-11; Barag, "Japhia," p. 541.

/182/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 11, 13.

/183/ L.-H. Vincent, "Vestiges d'une synagogue antique Yafa de Galilee," RB 30 (1921): pp. 434-38; Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 7.

/184/ Barag, "Japhia," p. 541; Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 7.

/185/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 13. See figure 4, p. 12 for map of the village.

/186/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 13-15, Barag, "Japhia," pp. 541, 543.

/187/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 14-15, 23; Barag, "Japhia," pp. 541, 543.

/188/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 18.

/189/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 14, 16-17; Barag, "Japhia," pp. 541, 543.

/190/ Barag, "Japhia," p. 543; Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 14, 18. Sukenik does not report any datable artifacts found in conjunction with the building or the mosaic floor.

/191/ Sukenik "Yafa," pp. 16-17; Barag, "Japhia," p. 543.

/192/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 23; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 24; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 168; James H. Charlesworth, "Jewish Interest in Astrology during the Hellenistic and Roman Periods," in W. Haase and H. Temporini, eds., ANRW, II.20.2 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1987), p. 942.

/193/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 15, 17; Barag, "Japhia," p. 543.

/194/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 17; Barag, "Japhia," p. 543; Hachlili, Art, p. 295; Andr Grabar, "Recherches sur les sources juives de l'art pal ochr tien: II, Les mosaiques de pavement," ["Recherche II"] Cahiers arch ologiques 12 (1962): p. 117.

/195/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 17-18.

/196/ Hachlili, Art, p. 295; Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 17; Barag, "Japhia," p. 543.

/197/ Hachlili, Art, p. 295; Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 17; Naveh, Stone, no. 41, p. 69.

/198/ Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 18, 20, 23.

/199/ Hachlili, Art, pp. 295-97; Sukenik, "Yafa," pp. 17, 23; Barag, "Japhia," p. 543.

/200/ Sukenik, "Yafa," p. 18. Grabar, "Recherche II," p. 117.

/201/ H. G. Gundel, "Zodiakos. Der Tierkreis in der Antike," RE, X.A, (Munich: J. B. Metzler, 1972), cols. 650-51, no. 134, 1.

/202/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, pp. 170-71.

/203/ See Wolfgang H bner, Zodiacus Christianus; J disch- christliche Adaptionen des Tierkreises von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Knigstein: Hain, 1983), especially pp. 16-29, "Tierkreiszeichen und Jacosshne (Patriarchen)," and Nicolas Sed, La mystique cosmologique juive (Paris: Editions de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1981), pp. 293-317.

/204/ Eusebius, Onomasticon, pp. 86-87; D. Barag, Y. Porat, and E. Netzer, "The Synagogue at En-Gedi," ["Synagogue"] in Lee I. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed, 1982, p. 119.

/205/ D. Barag, Y. Porat, and E. Netzer, "En-Gedi," in Michael Avi- Yonah, ed., EAEHL, IV, p. 378; Barag, Porat, and Netzer, "Synagogue," pp. 116, 118.

/206/ Barag, Porat, and Netzer, "Synagogue," pp. 116-17.

/207/ Ibid., pp. 116-17.

/208/ Ibid., p. 116-17.

/209/ Ibid., p. 117.

/210/ See Herschel Shanks, Judaism in Stone: The Archaeology of Ancient Synagogues, preface by Yigael Yadin (NY: Harper & Row; Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1979), p. 138 for the successive plans.

/211/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," p. 119; Barag, Porat, Netzer, "En-Gedi," IV, p. 378.

/212/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," pp. 116-17.

/213/ Ibid., pp. 117-18.

/214/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "En-gedi," IV, p. 378; Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," pp. 117, 119.

/215/ Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 24.

/216/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "En-gedi," IV, p. 379; Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," p. 118; Lee I. Levine, "The Inscription in the `En Gedi Synagogue," ["Inscription"] in Lee I. Levine, ed., Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Detroit: Wayne State University Press; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1982), pp. 140, 142.

/217/ Levine, "Inscription," p. 140 for this translation and a Hebrew text. See also Naveh, Stone, pp. 105-09, particularly the photograph on p. 106 and the transcription on p. 107, no. 70.

/218/ Levine, "Inscription," pp. 140-45 and the sources there.

/219/ Levine, "Inscription," p. 142; Lee I. Levine, "Introduction," p. 6.

/220/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," in Lee I. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed, p. 118; Levine, "Inscription," p. 140; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 24.

/221/ Levine, "Inscription," pp. 140-42.

/222/ Levine, "Inscription," pp. 142-43; Hachlili, Art, p. 225.

/223/ Barag, Porat, Netzer, "Synagogue," p. 118.

/224/ Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 54; Levine, "Inscription," p. 142.

/225/ Pesikta Rabbati, 20 = Braude, I, pp. 388-99.

/226/ Levine, "Inscription," p. 142; David Feuchtwang, "Der Tierkreis im der Tradition und im Synagogenritus," Monatschrift f r Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 51 (1915): pp. 252, 257, 265. Feuchtwang offers a German translation of the two piyyutim, "On Dew," pp. 259-263 and "On Rain," on pp. 263-65. See Editors, "Kallir, Eleazer," in Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, eds., Encyclopedia Judaica, X (New York: Macmillan; Jerusalem: Keter, 1971), Cols. 713-15; Y. Yahalom, "Traces of Greek Culture in the Ancient Hebrew Piyyut," Proceedings of the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies III (Jerusalem: 1977), pp. 202-13 [Hebrew]; and Ezra Fleischer, "Piyyut," in Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, eds., Encyclopedia Judaica, XIII (New York: Macmillan; Jerusalem: Keter, 1976), Cols. 547-602.

/227/ Levine, "Inscription," p. 142. See also Mirsky, "Inscription," pp. 376-84, p. viii.

/228/ Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 54.

/229/ Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 54; Levine, "Inscription," p. 142.

/230/ Leon, Rome, pp. 207, 209, and fig. 43; E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VII.2, p. 175.

/231/ Sukenik, Palestine, pp. 24-26; Ruth Amiran, "A Fragment of an Ornamental Relief from Kfar Bar`am," ["Relief"] IEJ 6 (1956): pp. 239, 242, fig. 1; Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 57, fig. 50, and Plate 7b.

/232/ Sukenik, Beth Alpha, p. 57; Amiran, "Relief," p. 239; Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 25.

/233/ Cf. Stemberger, "Tierkreis," p. 25; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 942; Goldman, Portal, p. 60; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 169.

/234/ Amiran, "Relief," pp. 240-41.

/235/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 168, figs. 149 and 158; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 943; Naveh, Stone, pp. 34-36, no. 16.

/236/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, pp. 169-70; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 943.

/237/ Goldman, Portal, p. 61; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p 169; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 943; Grabar, "Recherche II," p. 140; Kraeling, Synagogue, Pl. IX, p. 42.

/238/ It is accepted, for example, by the excavator of Hammath- Tiberias, Moshe Dothan, Hammath-Tiberias and by Rachel Hachlili, Art; Ibid., "The Zodiac in Synagogue Mosaic Pavements in Israel," Ariel 47 (1978): pp. 58-70; and Ibid., "The Zodiac in Ancient Jewish Art; Representation and Significance," BASOR 228 (1977): pp. 61-77. This last article has perhaps the best single collection of illustrations of the synagogue mosaics and related art. A somewhat different calendaric theory is that of A. G. Sternberg, The Zodiac of Tiberias [Hebrew] (Tiberias, Israel: Tanberg, 1972). The various theories of the zodiac are well surveyed by Stemberger, "Tierkreises" and Charlesworth, "Interest."

/239/ Michael Avi-Yonah, "The Caesarea Inscription of the Twenty-four Priestly Courses," in E. J. Vardaman, and James Leo Garrett, eds., and J. B. Adair, assoc. ed., The Teacher's Yoke: Studies in Memory of Henry Trantham (Waco, TX 1964), pp. pp. 56-57; Avi-Yonah, "Symbolisme," p. 397.

/240/ I Chronicles 24, Nehemiah 12:1-21, and Luke 1:5, 9-11. Avi- Yonah, "Courses," p. 47; Yigael Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness [War] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 204-05.

/241/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," p. 48. See E. Jerry Vardaman, "Introduction to the Caesarea Inscription of the Twenty-four Priestly Courses," in E. Jerry Vardaman, and James Leo Garrett, eds., and J. B. Adair, assoc. ed., The Teacher's Yoke: Studies in Memory of Henry Trantham (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 1964), p. 45, for a map showing the towns.

/242/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," pp. 48-49, 53; Hachlili, Art, p. 225; Joseph Naveh, "Ancient Synagogue Inscriptions," in Lee I. Levine, ed., Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982), p. 136.

/243/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," pp. 50-51; Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae [Histories], 23.1, 3 Vols., trans. John C. Rolfe, III (Loeb Classical Library, London: William Heinemann; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935-39; revised edition, 1950-52), pp. 310-11.

/244/ Avi-Yonah, "Course," p. 54. Roger T. Beckwith, "Cautionary Notes on the Use of Calendars and Astronomy to Determine the Chronology of the Passion," ["Cautionary Notes"] in Jerry Vardaman and Edwin M. Yamauchi, eds., Chronos, Kairos, Christos; Nativity and Chronological Studies Presented to Jack Finegan (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989), p. 187.

/245/ Beckwith, "Cautionary Notes," p. 187.

/246/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," p. 54; Charles Perrot, "The Reading of the Bible in the Ancient Synagogue," in Martin Jan Mulder, ed., and Harry Sysling, exec. ed., Mikra; Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, II.1, ed. Aschkenazy, et al. (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress Pr., 1988), pp. 138-43.

/247/ Avi-Yonah, "Symbolisme," p. 397; Avi-Yonah, "Courses," pp. 54-55; Yadin, War, pp. 205-06.

/248/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," p. 56.

/249/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," p. 57; Avi-Yonah, "Symbolisme," p. 397.

/250/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses,"pp. 50-51, 55.

/251/ Avi-Yonah, "Courses," pp. 53, 55; Avi-Yonah, "Symbolisme," p. 397. See Israel Davidson, , 'Osar ha-Sirah ve-ha- Piyyut [Thesaurus of Medieval Hebrew Poetry], II (NY: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1929), no. 108, p. 211, for an example.

/252/ Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, 3 Vols, I (NY: Springer Verlag, 1975), pp. 1066-67; Claudius Ptolemy, Ptolemy's Almagest, trans. and annot. G. J. Toomer (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1984), pp. 14-15, 450-52, 464, 502, 522.

/253/ Geminus, Gemini Elementa Astronomiae ad codicum fidem recensuit Germanica interpretatione et commentarius instruxit Carolus Manitius (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1924), chapter 18.

/254/ Pesikta Rabbati = Braude I, pp. 388-99 and II, pp. 886-89.

/255/ Pesikta Rabbati, 15.1 = Braude, I, p. 304.

/256/ Pesikta Rabbati, 15, preface = Braude, I, pp. 301-02.

/257/ Levi, Mosaic, I, p. 36, II, Pls. Vb, VI, VIIa, CXLIX, CLXXXIIa. See Beckwith, "Cautionary Notes," pp. 183-89 and Frank Parise, ed., The Book of Calendars (NY: Facts on File, Inc., 1982), pp. 12-13 and 44-54, for general information of the Jewish and Macedonian calendars.

/258/ E. E. Urbach, "The Rabbinical Laws of Idolatry in the Second and Third Centuries in the Light of Archaeological and Historical Facts," ["Laws I"] Israel Exploration Journal 9.3 (1953): pp. 150-51; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 944.

/259/ Urbach, "Laws I," p. 155.

/260/ Ibid., pp. 157-62, passim.

/261/ Ibid., pp. 156-58, 229.

/262/ Urbach, "Laws I," pp. 154-55. See Tertullian, de Idolatria, Opera Montanistica. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, II (Turnholti: Typographi Brepols Editores Pontifici, 1954, pp. 1101- 1124), for an example of the usual early Christian attitude toward images. Tertullian lived during roughly the same years that saw the composition of the Mishnah.

/263/ Tosefta "Abodah Zarah," 5.3, quoted in Urbach, "Laws," p. 230. See also Mishnah, "Abodah Zarah," 4.4, in The Mishnah, trans. Herbert Danby (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 442.

/264/ Urbach, "Laws I," p. 164, and "Laws II," p. 231; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 944.

/265/ Urbach, "Laws II," pp. 230-33.

/266/ Urbach, "Laws I," pp. 158-59.

/267/ Urbach, "Laws I," pp. 152-53; Charlesworth, "Interest," p. 944. For Nahum bar Simai, see Ecclesiastes Rabbah, 10.10, in Midrash Rabbah, 10 Vols., Translated into English with notes under the editorship of Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, VIII (London: Soncino Press, 1939, reprint, 1961), pp. 273-74.

/268/ The major exception is I. Sonne, "The Zodiac Theme in Ancient Synagogues and in Hebrew Printed Books," Studies in Bibliography and Booklore 1 (1953): pp. 3-13, who believes that the zodiac at Beth Alpha is a subtle anti-Roman message in astrological symbolism.

/269/ Other astrological or cosmological theorists include: Bezalel Narkiss, "Pagan, Christian and Jewish Elements in the Art of the Ancient Synagogue," in Lee I. Levine, The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (Philadelphia: ASOR, 1987), pp. 183-88; E. Romagnolo, "Bet Alfa. Sinagoga eritica?," Terra Sancta (1975): pp. 44-50; E. Romagnolo, "Beth Alfa. Alcune ipotesi sulla raffigurazione dello Zodiaco nella sua antica sinagoga," Terra Sancta (1978): pp. 169- 75; Sthlin, Antike Synagogenkunst, pp. 61-63; J. Wilkinson, "The Beit Alpha Synagogue Mosaic: Towards an Interpretation," Journal of Jewish Art 5 (1978): pp. 16-28; Rachel Wischnitzer, "The Meaning of the Beth Alpha," [Hebrew] Bulletin of the Israel Exploration Society 18 (1954): pp. 190-97; Ibid., "The Beth Alpha Mosaic. A New Interpretation," Jewish Social Studies 17 (1955): pp. 133-144.

/270/ E. R. Goodenough, "Literal Mystery in Hellenistic Judaism," ["Literal Mystery"] in Ernest S. Frerichs and Jacob Neusner, Goodenough on the History of Religion and on Judaism (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Pr., 1986), pp. 56-57; E. R. Goodenough, By Light, Light; The Mystic Gospel of Hellenistic Judaism [Light] (Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1969), p. 7. For Plutarch and Isis, see Plutarch, de Iside et Osiride, ed. with an introduction, translation, and commentary by J. Gwyn Griffiths (Cardiff: University of Wales, 1970).

/271/ Goodenough, Light, p. 8. The entire work should be consulted for his detailed account of Philo and the Jewish Mysteries.

/272/ Goodenough, "Literal Mystery," p. 61.

/273/ Ibid., p. 101.

/274/ E. R. Goodenough, "Jewish Symbolism," in Ernest S. Frerichs and Jacob Neusner, Goodenough on the History of Religion and on Judaism (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Pr., 1986), pp. 101-02; E. R. Goodenough, "Evaluation of Symbols Recurrent in Time, as Illustrated in Judaism," ["Evaluation"] in Ernest S. Frerichs and Jacob Neusner, Goodenough on the History of Religion and on Judaism (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Pr., 1986), p. 115; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VII.2, p. 219; The theoretical portion is now conveniently available in Jacob Neusner, ed. with a foreword, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, abridged ed. (Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 36-80.

/275/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, 8.2, pp. 21, 46.

/276/ Goodenough, "Jewish Symbolism," pp. 102-04; Goodenough, "Evaluation," pp. 108-10, 141; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 202.

/277/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, pp. 167-69, 178. Goodenough's discussion of astrological symbolism is now conveniently to be found in Neusner, ed., Jewish Symbols, abridged ed., pp. 116-176.

/278/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, p. 197.

/279/ Ibid., p. 199, n. 183.

/280/ Goodenough, "Evaluation," p. 130; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, pp. 184-85.

/281/ Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, VIII.2, pp. 185-86, 217; Goodenough, "Evaluation," p. 130.

/282/ E. J. Bickermann, "Symbolism of the Dura Europus Synagogue: A Review Article," HThR 58 (1965): p. 127; Morton Smith, "Goodenough's Jewish Symbols in Retrospect," ["Retrospect"] JBL 86 (1967): pp. 55-57, 65. See Gary Lease, "Jewish Mystery Cults Since Goodenough," in W. Haase and H. Temporini, eds., ANRW II. 20.2 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1987): pp. 858-80, for a full account of the reactions to Goodenough's theories.

/283/ E. J. Bickermann, "Sur la th ologie de l'art figuratif propos de l'ouvrage de E. R. Goodenough," Syria 44 (1967): p. 131.

/284/ Smith, "Retrospect," p. 65.

/285/ Ibid., p. 66.

/286/ For Philo's position in Greek philosophy, see John Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 BC TO AD 220 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. pp. 139-83.