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New Archaeological Discovery in Israel Possibly Sheds Light on the Mysterious ‘Rekhabites’

December 16, 2015

UPDATE

Noted Near Eastern scholar Jim Davila doesn’t buy any connection with early Early Christianity here:.

This is a very important discovery for the history of Judaism in the Galilee in late antiquity. The potential connection with a site associated with a story about Jesus is also interesting, although let’s keep in mind that the story is set several hundred years earlier than this inscription.

The last quoted sentence sounds a bit dubious to me. The word “marmaria” looks an awful lot like a word known from the Targumim (מרמירא) which is just a transliteration of the Greek word for “marble” (μάρμαρος). The specific spelling of the word in the inscription in Hebrew letters is not given, so I can’t be certain, but, given that the object is a marble plaque, that interpretation sounds far more likely to me than any connection with Mary.

And on the subject of the language of the inscription, this report is careful to specify that it is written in “Hebrew letters” and not to claim that it is written in the Hebrew language. Other reports are less cautious, for example: 1,500 Year Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered on East Coast of Sea of Galilee (The Jewish Press); Israeli archaeologists find Hebrew inscriptions on ancient slab of marble near Lake Kinneret (Jerusalem Post). Caution is warranted because, from what I can see of the published photo, it looks to me as though it could well be written in Aramaic. The word “amen,” of course, is used in both Hebrew and Aramaic. That word for “marble” above is found in the Aramaic Targumim (see Jastrow, 844b). And on the photo on line 1, I see what could be יקר or יקרה, which means “glory” or “honor” in Aramaic (but it also appears more rarely in Hebrew meaning “precious” or “valuable”). On line 4, I see אתרה, which means “the place” or “the synagogue” in Aramaic and סייע, which is a root in both Aramaic and Hebrew meaning “to aid or support.” On line 5, I see the word יברך, which could be “he shall bless” in either Hebrew and Aramaic. I don’t have any more time to puzzle out the inscription, but what I see is adding up to Aramaic more than Hebrew.

Cross-file under “Aramaic Watch?”

UPDATE: I see from the original Hebrew version of this article that the word “marmaria” is spelled מרמריה. [I’m revising an earlier comment here, since after a closer look, I see that the spelling is very similar (and there is even some variation of the spelling in the Targumim), but it is not quite the same. I still think the word in the inscription is far more likely to mean “marble” than to have anything to do with the Virgin Mary.]

 

A new archaeological discovery in Israel may shed some light on the perplexing existence of people or groups calling themselves ‘Rekhabites’. See my previous post on the topic here.

An archaeological discovery on the northeastern shore of the Kinneret River (Tiberias), an inscription in Hebrew and Aramaic from 1500 years ago (Byzantine Period) in what may have been a synagogue for Jews or Jewish-Christians. The only words that have so far been deciphered are “amen” and “MarMaria” which is hypothesized to be a reference to St. Mary.
I haven’t been able to find anything about this in English just yet.
see here

A commenter there points out that archaeologists have long been aware of the existence of a Synagogue in that region.

וייתכן שיש לו רמז ברשימה מהמאה ה- 11 לספירה, המזכירה את בית הכנסת של יונדב בן-רכב “בכורסיא שמעבר לים טיבריא”.

Apparently an ancient source (where?) attests to the existence of a Synagogue on the anti-tiberias shore (specifically Kursi which is mentioned in the New Testament as a site where Jesus visited)  in the 11th century that was named “Jonadab ben Rekhab Synagogue”.

This purported synagogue appears on a list of ancient sites of veneration  that was discovered (when? where?) by Professor Elchanan Reiner of Tel Aviv University. I haven’t been able to obtain that list yet.

Can this new discovery actually be the Synagogue in question? If this is was indeed a synagogue for Jewish Christians, it would be quite curious since there is a dearth of material evidence on the existence of the “Jerusalem Church” flourishing in Israel at such a late period (and using Hebrew writing!). It may also explain the strange moniker, which as I mentioned in my blog post here was a popular biblical figure among the first Jewish-Christians (but also among ordinary Cohanim Jews) as I mentioned. Stay tuned as more information trickles down.66991115980100490489no

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