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Books in Brief: The Synagogue: The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report, BAR 6:04, Jul-Aug 1980.

The western wall of the Dura-Europos synagogueThe Synagogue- The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report, Vol. VIII (Reprint with new foreword and indices).

Carl H. Kraeling

(KTAV, New York, 1980) 468 pp. $75.00.

The final excavation report of the Dura Europos synagogue was a massive work with an extremely limited circulation (only 800 copies were printed) but of enormous significance and influence.

Originally published in 1956 by Yale University Press, it has now been reprinted by KTAV, together with a new forward by Professor Jaroslaw Pelikan, Dean of the Graduate School of Yale University, new indices, glossaries and corrections in the original edition. The reprint also includes the 30 stunning color plates which graced the original edition.

Despite the scholarly quality of Carl Kraeling’s careful and meticulous text, this is not a book that the layperson need shun. To read it can be an exciting adventure, as the pictures, the buildings, and even the city of Dura come alive in detail after detail.

The scholarly world is still trying to absorb and understand the Judaism reflected in this third century building—with 58 panels of paintings in seeming contravention of the Second Commandment, with a naked women on its holiest wall, with a portrayal of the hand of God, and a strangely moving series of portraits. Here was a Judaism that lived peaceably and interacted with both Christianity and pagan religions. Indeed, many believe that Jewish art like that at Dura was an important source of and influence on early Christian art in the Byzantine period.

With its magnificent illustrations, black-and-white as well as color, this book is a fitting complement to Clark Hopkins’ excellent, but picture-less volume on the Dura excavations reviewed above.

The profit from this book will be used to finance publication of other final reports in the Dura Excavation series.

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