Religious Transformation in Late Antiquity
International Workshop on Expropriation and Destruction of Synagogues
The expropriation and destruction of synagogues in late antiquity are in the focus of an international workshop of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” from 14 to 17 September, organized by historian Prof. Dr. Johannes Hahn. In a public lecture on 14 September archaeologist Prof. Dr. Jodi Magness from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill deals with „Huqoq and the Fate of Late Roman Synagogues in Galilee“. The lecture will be held at 6.15 pm in room JO 1, Hörsaalgebäude des Exzellenzclusters, Johannisstraße 4 in Münster.
The traditional view of the religious history of the late Roman Empire after the Constantinian revolution as a straight triumph of the Christian Church has been forcefully challenged by historians, archaeologists and scholars of Jewish Studies over the last decades. The master narrative of the irrevocable conversion of the Imperium and of the collapse or destruction of pagan cults and of Judaism and Jewish communities as presented by late antique Christian authors denotes much more a discourse on Christian identity than a trustworthy historical account. We now know that there was no general decline of Jewish life in particular but rather existed flourishing Jewish communities in important regions of the Roman Empire.
Literary and Archaeological Sources
Still, various contemporary and later reports and traditions of the expropriation and of the destruction of synagogues and likewise relevant archaeological evidence refer to an increasingly tense religious atmosphere marked not only by religious competition and conflict but, in some cases at least, by the eruption of violence. These literary and archaeological sources deserve close scrutiny.
Important evidence has been brought to light by new excavations with particular rich results in former Palestine. But new synagogues have recently been discovered in the Diaspora as well. In addition, neglected literary sources can throw fresh light on important issues. The presentation, reevaluation and historical interpretation of the archaeological and literary evidence will thus be a major objective of the interdisciplinary discussion. The conference will offer, for the first time, a comprehensive critical overview of an important aspect of the religious transformation that marked late antiquity. (exc/ill)