Drawing upon literary, epigraphic and architectural evidence, this book examines the many facets of synagogues that existed during the Second Temple period. Most important, the study probes the relationship between the synagogues and the Jerusalem temple, proposing that synagogues in both Palestine and the Diaspora should be viewed not in opposition to the temple cult but as extensions of it, sharing with the temple common terminology, functions, functionaries, and, in some cases, even common architecture. In this interpretation, the synagogue served as a unifying institution that allowed worshipers from around the world to share in all the activities of the temple courts in Jerusalem, except for sacrifice, which was reserved to the central sanctuary. The book concludes with brief examinations of the synagogues’ transformation during the rabbinic period and their relationship to the early Christian assemblies.
“Binder has performed an invaluable service to the scholarly community, for no other source collects the data on Second Temple synagogues as thoroughly as does his.… This is a serious book for the serious reader of Jewish history who is willing to be challenged. It is also an essential resource for anyone studying Second Temple Judaism in all its complexity in Palestine and in the Diaspora.” —Hebrew Studies
“Donald Binder has done the scholarly world—and the proverbial intelligent lay audience—an immense favor by publishing this book. This is an archaeological and New Testament tour de force, where we see the literary and archaeological evidence woven in a masterly way into a tapestry that allows synagogue life in the first century to make its own statement to us. Now we can see the connection between the lay institution of the synagogue and the priestly institution of the Temple in Jerusalem with great clarity. There is no other work like it. It must be in your library.” —James F. Strange, University of South Florida
“Binder’s study of the synagogue in Second Temple Judaism is based on a methodologically rigorous examination of the literary, epigraphic, and architectural sources. His proposals, which are worked out in dialogue with other scholarly studies, identify important issues and point to promising avenues for still further research. Ultimately, the matters he has pursued here could contribute also to an understanding of how early Christian congregations were both indebted to and different from the ancient synagogue.” —Victor Paul Furnish, Southern Methodist University
“Stressing the connection between the ancient synagogue and Greco-Roman temple culture, Donald Binder has focussed upon an area of synagogue scholarship that had not previously been fully described. He has done a real service for all of us who study the ancient synagogue.” —Steven Fine, Baltimore Hebrew University
“Donald Binder has enriched us with a thorough study of the Second Temple synagogue … very important and useful” —Journal of Religion
“Binder has provided a very thorough study of the literary sources, inscriptions, and archaeological evidence that have been associated with synagogues in Palestine and the Diaspora during the Second Temple period (516 B.C. to A.D. 70).” —Catholic Biblical Quarterly
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