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Aphrodisias Inscription, 3rd century CE

Aphrodisias_Inscription

Aphrodisias Inscription

Kenan T. Erim of NYU excavated the ancient Roman city of Aphrodisias (today in Southwest Turkey) and found many stone-cut works of art, marble statues and a large public inscription written in Greek installed by the Jewish community at Aphrodisias.

This register of donors or founders inscribed in Greek on a doorjamb or pilaster from a third-century A.D. building at Aphrodisias provides incontrovertible evidence, says Louis Feldman, that a class of gentile “sympathizers” with Judaism called “God-fearers” did exist.

The six-foot-high marble pillar was part of a “memorial building” referred to in the inscription as having been built by the people whose names were listed there. Possibly this building was a community soup kitchen attached to a synagogue; neither building has been found.

The inscription, uncovered in 1976, includes two lists. The first is a register of common Jewish names, presumably, of ktistai (Greek for donors or founders). The second, shown here, lists Greek names under the phrase kai hosoi theosebeis, Greek for “and those who are God-fearers.” The phrase occurs in the first line of the inscription, to the left of the dot.

A second inscription (not seen here) from Aphrodisias’s odeum, or theater, reads “the place of those who are complete Hebrews,” and suggests that the citizens of the Anatolian city felt it necessary to differentiate between “full” Jews and pagan “half-converts” known as “God-fearers,” who may have observed some, but not all, Jewish religious practices.

“The God-Fearers- Did They Exist? The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers,” BAR Sep-Oct 1986.

Posted in: Roman Period II

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