Page 190 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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by two paths, the cosmic and the abstractly on to lo g ica l . . . the
artist [of Dura], like Philo, presumed that the Old Testa-
ment text is to be understood not only through its Greek
translation, but through its re-evaluation in terms of Greek
philosophy and religion.
Goodenough’s diligent collection o f all relevant Jewish artistic
remains from the Greco-Roman period has won him the admira-
tion and gratitude of all scholars (such a task still has to be
undertaken for the art of other periods of Jewish history), and
his work w ill remain a monumental standard reference for a long
time. His conclusions, however, that the artistic remains are the
proof texts for a dominant and widespread mystic or Hellenistic
Judaism during the Ta lmud ic period, have been challenged and
questioned by many scholars. Recently I undertook such a critique
in “The Dura Frescoes”
(R e co n s tru c t io n is t ,
April 2, 1965). Since
the synagogue paintings of Dura-Europos represent the richest
collection of Biblical art that has come down to us prior to the
great cycles of the medieval churches, many scholars are convinced
that behind the synagogue frescoes lie older illustrated Jewish
manuscripts which not only served as models for the synagogue
paintings, but also influenced later Old Testament cycles in
Christian art. Since, I regret to say, no book has yet been pub-
lished on this subject, the reader might wish to consult my article,
“The Illustrated Jewish Manuscript in Antiquity: T h e Present
State of the Question”
(G es ta ,
V [1966]).
Again, no comprehensive study exists on early synagogue archi-
tecture or on the many fascinating synagogue floor mosaics that
have been excavated in recent years, especially in Israel. A short
and useful summary o f early synagogue art was recently published
in German by Baruch Kanael,
D ie K u n s t d e r a n t ik en Synagoge
(Munich and Frankfurt/M , Ner Tam id, 1961). T h e mosaic
floors, primarily from the Byzantine period, date from the 4th
to the 7th century, and samples of them have been published
in two excellent introductory volumes on this subject—Meyer
Schapiro and Michael Avi-Yonah,
Israe l: A n c ien t M osa ics
(Greenwich, Conn., New York Graphic Society, 1960) and Ernst
Kitzinger,
I srae li M osa ics o f th e B y za n t in e P e r io d
(New York,
T h e New American Library, 1965). These floor mosaics, as the
authors rightly point out, are an integral part of the common
artistic heritage of the Greco-Roman world. T h e remarkable
floor mosaic in the 6th-century synagogue of Beth A lpha has
probably received the greatest attention. It was done by two folk
artists who, according to Prof. Kitzinger, spoke “their own minds,
as it were, unfettered by traditions and conventions, and thus
established a fresh and direct rapport w ith the beholder.” Bern-
ard Goldman focuses in depth on the Beth A lpha mosaic in his
fine study,
T h e Sacred P o r ta l
(Detroit, Wayne State University