Religious Transformation in Late Antiquity

International Workshop on Expropriation and Destruction of Synagogues

© Museo Civico di Storia e Arte, Modena

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)

Workshop Expropriation and Destruction of Synagogues in Late Antiquity. History, Archaeology and Tradition in Context

Agora Tagungszentrum
Conferenceroom 1
Bismarckallee 11 B
48151 Münster

Public lecture Huqoq and the Fate of Late Roman Synagogues in Galilee by the achaeologist Prof. Dr. Jodi Magness from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

14.09.2017, 18.15-19.30 Uhr
Hörsaalgebäude des Exzellenzclusters
Room JO 1
Johannisstraße 4
48143 Münster


Thursday, 14.09.2017
16:15–17:30 Welcome, opening and coffee
18:15–19:30 Public Lecture
Huqoq and the Fate of Late Roman Synagogues in Galilee
Jodi Magness, Chapel Hill
20:00 Dinner
Friday, 15.09.2017
Historical Context
09:10–09:40 Introduction
09:40–10:30 Violence in Words: Christian Polemics against Religious Dissenters, especially Jews
Maijastina Kahlos, Helsinki
10:30–11:20 Ambrose of Milan’s Squabble with Theodosius I: Another Look at the Backstage of the Callinicum Affair (388/9 CE)
Oded Irshai, Jerusalem
11:20–11:40 Coffee break
11:40–12:30 Religious Conflict in the Urban Space of Late Antiquity. The Synagogues in the Greek Cities in Southern Balcans, in Ionia and in Lydia
Nadin Burkhardt, Eichstätt
12:30–14:15 Lunch
The East and Palestine
14:15–15:10 The End of the Synagogue in Gerasa/Jerash
Achim Lichtenberger, Münster
15:10–16:05 The Synagogue in Late Antique Palestine: Prosperity and Decline in Times of Shifting Hegemonies – Between Byzantium and the Umayyad Caliphate
Zeev Weiss, Jerusalem
16:05–16:45 Coffee break
16:45–17:40 Destroying the Temple, Again: Christian Destruction of Late Antique Synagogues and the Modern History of Judaism
Steven Fine, New York
17:40–18:30 General discussion
20:00 Dinner
Saturday, 16.09.2017
The West & North Africa
09:15–10:10 Destruction and Expropriation of the Synagogue on Menorca (418 CE)
R. González Salinero, Madrid
10:10–11:05 The Expropriation of Synagogues and the Expulsion of the Jews of Alexandria under Cyril
Edward Watts, San Diego
11:05–11:40 Coffee break
11:40–12:35 Spatial Supersession and Conversion of Late Antique Synagogues in North Africa
Shira Lander, Dallas
12:35–14:30 Lunch
Various Aspects
14:30–15:20 Synagogual Elites and the Surrounding Society
Walter Ameling, Köln
15:20–16:10 Byzantine Synagogue Legislation, Christianization, and Postcolonial Theory
Catherine Hezser, London
16:10–16:30 Coffee Break
16:30–17:15 Holy Men and the Destruction of Synagogues
Johannes Hahn, Münster
17:15–17:20 Break
17:20–18:15 General discussion
19:00–20:00 Dinner
Sunday, 17.09.2017
09:30–10:00 Walk to the Jewish community and to the Synagogue of Münster, Klosterstraße 8-9
10:00–11:00 Guided tour of the Synagogue of Münster by the architect, Nathan Schächter