The Study of Man: Pagan Symbols in Jewish Antiquity
The decorations on Jewish graves and synagogues during the Greco-Roman period have long been known in part, but the number of such decorations uncovered is now increasing. They constitute a body of evidence more important for the history of Judaism (and Christianity) than the Dead Sea Scrolls, yet they have aroused little interest. They show a strange combination of recognizable objects used in Jewish worship—the shofar, lulab, ethrog, menorah, and Torah shrine—with figures from paganism. These latter range from the apparently innocent rosette and grapevine to representations of the eagle, and of pagan deities or semi-deities. Few figures are carved in the round, though some lions in the round have been uncovered, lions that apparently guarded the Torah. But Helios the Sun God, the Seasons, Winged Victories offering wreaths, Ares clothed only in helmet and spear, the goddess Fortuna or Tyche—these and many others appear in mosaic or painting or are represented in deep relief.
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