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Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity

Essays in Honour of Peter Richardson

Stephen G. Wilson

Publication Year: 2000

Can archaeological remains be made to “speak” when brought into conjunction with texts? Can written remains, on stone or papyrus, shed light on the parables of Jesus, or on the Jewish view of afterlife? What are the limits to the use of artifactual data, and when is the value overstated? Text and Artifact addresses the complex and intriguing issue of how primary religious texts from the ancient Mediterranean world are illuminated by, and in turn illuminate, the ever-increasing amount of artifactual evidence available from the surrounding world.

The book honours Peter Richardson, and the first two chapters offer appreciations of this scholarship and teaching. The remaining chapters focus on early Christianity, late-antique Judaism and topics germane to the Roman world at large. Many of the essays relate to features of Jewish life — the epigraphic evidence for gentile converts to Judaism or for Jewish defectors, ancient accounts of the Essenes or of the siege of Masada, and the material context of the first great rabbinic work, the Mishnah. Other essays connect early Christian texts with the social and cultural realia of their day — modes of travel, notions of gender, patronage and benefaction, the relation of tenants and owners — or reflect on the aesthetics of Christian architecture and the relation between building and ritual in Constantinian churches. One study relates the writing of the famous novelist Apuleius to a household mithraeum in Ostia, while another explores the changing appropriation of religious realia as the Roman world became Christian.

These wide-ranging and original studies demonstrate clearly that texts and artifacts can be mutually supportive. Equally, they point to ways in which artifacts, no less than texts, are inherently ambiguous and teach us to be cautious in our conclusions.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

In itself the presentation of a Festschrift says a great deal about the respect and admiration in which we hold the recipient. Peter is likely, I imagine, to think that we have gone to excess, since he would argue (and has argued) that only the great and the good are deserving of such a signal honour, and in his usually unassuming way he would not include himself in that category. This book is...

Partners in Publication

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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xvi

Part One: Peter Richardson: Writer and Teacher

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1. Giving to Peter What Has Belonged to Paul

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pp. 3-30

Ambiguities remain about what, where and when Paul of Tarsus wrote, and the degree to which his extant works reflect the man that others knew. The situation is different with Peter Richardson, who has spent the better part of his academic career engaged with Paul and his world. We can locate and date his books and articles, make reasonable sense of them, and place them in a late...

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2. The Professor's House

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pp. 31-32

Professor Richardson's students have noticed the good casting and the appropriate setting; his bushy beard, his large glasses framing those keen eyes, his ready smile, his warm voice, all accompanying a tall, trimly dressed man with a steady gait who roams the beautiful University College and toils away in his charming office, One reason so many of his students consider him such a...

Part Two: Text and Artifact in the New Testament World

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3. Reading the Text and Digging the Past: The First Audience of Romans

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pp. 35-44

Critical history and especially archaeology are relative latecomers to the study of biblical texts, and that can make all the difference. As Norman Golb has argued in connection with Qumran archaeology, including the new texts, and the Essenes of classical texts, what was first known became privileged and what comes later tends to be used as corroboration (1980). It is therefore salutary to...

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4. Peter in the Middle: Galatians 2:11-21

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pp. 45-62

As Paul tells the story, at Antioch Cephas1 was caught in the middle between two conflicting views. One view accepted Jewish believers in Christ eating with Gentile believers, another did not. Until the arrival from Jerusalem of the "men from James," Peter and the rest of the Jewish believers had eaten with Gentiles (Gal 2:12).2 After the Jerusalem delegation came, Peter and the others stopped...

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5. Phoebe, the Servant-Benefactor and Gospel Traditions1

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pp. 63-73

Over the last several years, Peter Richardson has demonstrated a strong interest in Corinth, the relationship between Paul and the various gospel traditions, and the Proto-Luke hypothesis (1984; 1984, with Peter Gooch; 1986; 1987). In this essay I hope to consider these separate themes while looking at the description of Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2...

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6. Paul and the Caravanners: A Proposal on the Mode of "Passing Through Mysia"

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pp. 74-90

The traditional image of Paul's travels is heroically footsore. For example, Stewart Perowne views him as an "ordinary foot-traveller" (Perowne 1973: 72; also 41-44, 49-50; see also Grant 1982: 215-22), and popular studies extol his heroic feats of hiking and climbing (Matthews 1916: 131-75; Muggeridge and Vidler 1972: 79-93; Buckminster 1965: 102-106). Scholarly studies usually...

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7. Benefaction Gone Wrong: The "Sin" of Ananias and Sapphira in Context

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pp. 91-110

In the early chapters of Acts Luke describes the early Christians in Jerusalem as holding all things in common (ᾰπαντα κοινά) and selling property and possessions to meet the needs of others (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-35).1 Two specific examples of those who have sold property are recorded, one positive and one negative. Barnabas lays the proceeds from the sale of a field (ἀγρός) at the feet...

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8. Isaiah 5:1-7, the Parable of the Tenants and Vineyard Leases on Papyrus

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pp. 111-134

Mark's parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-12) has from the beginning of parables research presented difficulties. It is one of the few parables that contains an obvious allusion to the Tanak and one whose point seems largely dependent on allegorization. While it is clear that Matthew, and certainly later Christian writers, displayed a strong tendency to interpret the parable as...

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9. The Parable of the Tenants and the Class Consciousness of the Peasantry

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pp. 135-157

One of Peter Richardson's most prominent contributions to the study of early Christianity, as both a scholar and a teacher, has been his methodological insistence on the critical importance of social and historical context for our understanding of early Christianity (see most recently Richardson 1997: 296- 307). Richardson has, moreover, provided outstanding examples of just how a...

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10. Placing Jesus of Nazareth: Toward a Theory of Place in the Study of the Historical Jesus1

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pp. 158-175

With his magisterial historical study, Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans, Peter Richardson has presented an intriguing parallel to historical studies concerning that other "King of the Jews": Jesus of Nazareth. The biblical narratives themselves make this connection. The Gospel of Matthew sets up Jesus as a kingly threat to Herod, who, according to the legend...

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11. Irony, Text and Artifact: Cross and Superscription in the Passion Narratives

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pp. 176-191

Although texts are essential to the Christian religion, the central and distinguishing object of Christianity is not a book, but a cross. Affixed to that artifact is a brief text: "King of the Jews."1 That text, however, is ironic. In this essay I offer some reflections on irony, text and artifact in the passion...

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12. On the Relation of Text and Artifact: Some Cautionary Tales

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pp. 192-206

When I first received the invitation to contribute to Peter Richardson's Festschrift and was asked to incorporate both text and artifact if possible, I was somewhat despondent. The term "artifact" in this context obviously belongs within the discipline of archaeology, and my knowledge of biblical archaeology is very modest and almost entirely derivative, apart from several fairly casual...

Part Three: Text and Artifact in the World of Christian Origins

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13. Physiotherapy of Femininity in the Acts of Thecla

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pp. 209-230

Paul apparently laid down a reconstituted charter for gender equality with his claim that in the Christ associations "there is neither male nor female, for ... all are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28; cf. 2 Clem. 12:1-6). But, as Dennis MacDonald has pointed out, one ought here to pay close attention to the gender of the one. The Greek masculine ϵἶς, rather than the gender-neutral ἔν...

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14. Sex and the Single God: Celibacy as Social Deviancy in the Roman Period

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pp. 231-248

Mediterranean cultures knew well how precariously close to extinction they lived and how profoundly survival depended on procreation. Bruce Frier's study offers credible data vis-à-vis the challenge of just maintaining a steady-state population. In Rome, he argues, the average life expectancy at birth was between nineteen and twenty-three years and the mean age of reproduction...

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15. "Good Luck on Your Resurrection": Beth She'arim and Paul on the Resurrection of the Dead

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pp. 249-270

That there existed a wide diversity of opinion within Second Temple Judaism regarding the fate of the dead—particularly on matters pertaining to the two main conceptual axes of "immortality" and "resurrection"—is today axiomatic. Oscar Cullmann, while laudable in his explication of Paul, considerably oversimplified the first-century situation when he argued that Greeks held to...

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16. The Earliest Evidence of an Emerging Christian Material and Visual Culture: The Codex, the Nomina Sacra and the Staurogram

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pp. 271-288

The main objective of this essay is to draw attention to some phenomena that are of considerable significance for a historical analysis of earliest Christianity but are not given the attention they merit.1 In understanding why greater account is not taken of such phenomena we will identify two unfortunate features of current scholarship: (1) a tendency for scholars who profess a...

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17. The Aesthetic Origins of Early Christian Architecture1

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pp. 289-307

The origin of early church architecture remains a mystery, despite considerable research done and pages written. On the basis of both literature and archaeological evidence there is general agreement regarding the historical development: (1) the first Christians met in homes; (2) some such homes were altered for church use (domus ecclesiae)] (3) eventually a few homes were...

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18. "Ascent and Descent" in the Constantinian Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

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pp. 308-322

In the ritual topography of Jerusalem that was established under the emperor Constantine, it was common for churches to incorporate both a shrine commemorating a theophany of the incarnation and a place for congregational worship. The combination of a centrally planned structure as martyrium and a basilica as domus ecclesiae was a way of properly fulfilling and differentiating...

Part Four: Text and Artifact in the World of Late-Antique Judaism

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19. Better Homes and Gardens: Women and Domestic Space in the Books of Judith and Susanna

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pp. 325-339

Archaeology holds a strong attraction for students of early Judaism and Christianity. The material remains of Second Temple Judaism not only are intrinsically interesting but also provide comfortingly solid evidence of a tumultuous period about which our textual sources can be maddeningly elusive and contradictory. Of course, archaeological artifacts and structures are...

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20. Tyros, the "Floating Palace"

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pp. 340-353

In his Antiquities of the Jews Josephus described events concerning Joseph, son of Tobiah (a Jerusalemite nobleman who had married the daughter of the high priest Hananel), and Hyrcanus, Joseph's own son. Joseph was nominated by Ptolemy III to be a tax-collector in various areas east of the Jordan. According to the detailed descriptions of Josephus (Ant. 12.156-222), he himself, and later...

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21. ΟΙ ΠΟΤΕ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΟΙ: Epigraphic Evidence for Jewish Defectors

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pp. 354-371

Under the broad rubric of this volume epigraphic evidence stands somewhere between text and artifact. Like text it is written, but it is not part of a sustained literary work. Like other archaeological evidence it is local and quotidian but, unlike mute stones, it speaks—if in a cryptic and laconic language of its own. It is artifactual evidence, but artifactual evidence of a particular kind. In the...

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22. Jerusalem Ossuary Inscriptions and the Status of Jewish Proselytes1

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pp. 372-388

According to sources as diverse as Philo and the rabbis, proselytes to Judaism in antiquity enjoyed equal status with native-born Jews. "When he comes up after his ablution," says one rabbinic tradition with respect to a newly made proselyte, "he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects."2 Philo too speaks of the "equal rank" (ἰσοτιμίαν, ἰσοτέλϵιαν) and "equal privilege" (ἰσονομίαν)3 of the...

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23. Behind the Names: Samaritans, ΙΟUDAIOI Galileans

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pp. 389-401

In recent times the question "Who were the Galileans in Hellenistic and Roman times?" has taken on an importance well beyond the bounds of Jewish historiography of the period. Population patterns in other outlying regions of Roman Palestine, such as Idumea, the Negev and Samaria, are just as significant in terms of our understanding of Second Temple history as a whole...

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24. Friendship and Second Temple Jewish Sectarianism

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pp. 402-422

Rodney Stark, in his book The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (1996: 18-19), makes a telling observation about those who join modern new religious movements. When asked why they joined, initiates frequently cited friendships and personal associations made with members of the movement. When asked about reasons for conversion years later, however...

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25. What Josephus Says about the Essenes in his Judean War

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pp. 423-455

Probably the most famous text-artifact connection made by modern scholarship in our field has been the marriage of Qumraner with Essene—a figure known for two millennia in Greek and Latin texts. Parallels between Josephus's Essenes, particularly those of War 2.119-61, and the people of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been crucial in forging this happy union, along with the...

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26. The Archaeological Artifacts of Masada and the Credibility of Josephus

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pp. 456-473

The best way to see Masada is to walk the steep "snake path" before dawn and watch the sun rise over the hills of Moab. As I joined a group of students from the University of Toronto up the desert incline in July 1999, I could not help but reflect on the reasons why the story of Masada moves so many people so deeply. One can easily imagine being a slave of King Herod carrying a lamb or...

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27. Mishnah's Rhetoric, Other Material Artifacts of Late-Roman Galilee and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild

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pp. 474-502

Attempts to bring to bear the material evidence for late-Roman Palestine upon the study of the social formation of the early rabbinic guild, also a development of late-Roman Palestinian society, have been fraught with difficulty and have been, largely, disappointing. Archaeology continues to shed light upon the material culture, social organization, economics and religion of the region in...

Part Five: Text and Artifact in the Greco-Roman World

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28. Some Thoughts on Theurgy

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pp. 505-526

It is a pleasure to contribute this essay to the celebration of Peter Richardson's career and influence on scholarship. Even before we became colleagues at the University of Toronto, his work on the people of God stimulated my own research and helped me to conceptualize Christian self-definition. After I left Toronto, we continued our conversations. It is a tribute to our friendship that...

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29. Apuleius to Symmachus (and Stops in Between): Pietas, Realia and the Empire

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pp. 527-550

Two hundred years apart two men stand before Roman officials pleading a case—one in a provincial North African town, the other in the imperial court in Milan. Both are well-known orators and argue eloquently, one at length, the other more briefly. The first, Apuleius of Madaura, a private citizen charged with practising magic (and alienation of affections), is on good terms with...

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30. Apuleius the Novelist, Apuleius the Ostian Householder and the Mithraeum of the Seven Spheres: Further Explorations of an Hypothesis of Filippo Coarelli

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pp. 551-568

In 1989, the Roman archaeologist and topographer Filippo Coarelli advanced the daring hypothesis that the proprietor of the Casa di Apuleio at Ostia was the same person as Apuleius of Madaura, the author of the (to us) well-known novel, The Golden Ass (or Metamorphoses). This identification, if true, is more than a mere prosopographical curiosity. The Casa di Apuleio is contiguous...


Modern Authors Index

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pp. 571-583

Ancient Sources Index

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pp. 584-606

Subject Index

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pp. 607-612

Series Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780889205512
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203563
Print-ISBN-10: 0889203563

Page Count: 632
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Studies in Christianity and Judaism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bible. N.T. -- History of contemporary events.
  • Bible. N.T. -- History of Biblical events.
  • Christian saints -- History.
  • Bible. N.T. -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
  • Judaism -- History -- Post-exilic period, 586 B.C.-210 A.D.
  • Jews in the New Testament.
  • Biblia. N.T. -- Historia -- Sucesos contemporáneos.
  • Biblia. N.T. -- Historia -- Sucesos biblicos.
  • Cristianismo -- ca. 30-600, iglesia primitiva.
  • Biblia. N.T. -- Crítica, interpretación, etc.
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