Page 189 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

here. T h e interested reader may wish to consult the article on
this subject in
J ew ish A r t .
Especially to be recommended is
James B. Pritchard’s
T h e A n c ien t N e a r East in P ic tu re s R e la t in g
to the O ld T e s tam e n t
(Princeton, University Press, 1954) and
his shorter work,
A rcha eo log y and the O ld T e s tam e n t
(Princeton,
University Press, 1958). The reader w ill find here a vast store-
house of material illum inating the B iblical past. The Temp le
in Jerusalem, probably the most significant Jewish monument
from B iblical antiquity, has unfortunately never been excavated.
For a quick survey of our knowledge on
T h e T em p le o f Jeru-
sa lem
(London, SCM Press, 1957), the book by Andre Parrot will
suffice, although many of his observations about the two columns
of Solomon’s Temp le, the cherubim and the ark, etc. need to be
revised in the light of new scholarly studies.
G
utm a n n
— R
ecent
L
iterature
on
J
ew ish
A
rt
169
The Dura-Europos Synagogue
Most exciting and of utmost significance have been the discov-
eries of synagogue art from the late Roman and Byzantine peri-
ods. The synagogue of Dura-Europos, in particular, has elicited
many books and articles, since its paintings may have a possible
bearing on the origins and emergence of Christian art. N ot so
well known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the synagogue of Dura, ex-
cavated in the 1930’s, was decorated with five bands of paintings,
sixty percent of which have been preserved. Dated by inscription
to around 245 C.E., the paintings show scenes drawn from the
Bible and from midrashic literature. Th e final report of the ex-
cavation by Carl H. Kraeling,
T h e Synagogue
(New Haven, Yale
University Press, 1956), is a masterly summary of previous writ-
ings on the subject and gives a detailed analysis of each painting.
Rejecting the theories which would see a single comprehensive
or canonical scheme in the paintings, Kraeling posits a range
of religious ideas, such as the historical covenant relationship,
reward and punishment, salvation and messianic expectation.
These themes, he feels, were often dictated by practical con-
siderations to inculcate historical, moral or liturgical lessons
or combinations of them. Both Kraeling and previous interpreters
of the Dura synagogue have generally agreed that any explana-
tion of the paintings must be firmly rooted in contemporary Rab-
binic Judaism. Only the late Erwin R. Goodenough in his 12-
volume work,
Jew ish S ym bo ls in the G reco -R om an P e r io d
(New
York, Pantheon Books, 1953-1966), has seriously challenged this
position. In Volumes IX-XI, he deals specifically with the Dura
synagogue frescoes and restates his hypothesis:
For the Judaism that seems expressed here is a Judaism
which finds its meaning in mystic victory, a victory reached