-We were starting in our dealings on the Magen David from the fact that the Symbol does not appear at all in Jewish art of antiquity, beside three exceptions:
In Capernaum (Kfar Nachum)
At Ein Yael near Jerusalem, and
At Kfar Shura (near Rosh Pina)
This scarcity of its appearance in the Holy land was explained by us by the hostility of the traditional Jewish population of the country against the new faith in their midst.
But, to our great surprise, we found the Davidic Sign already in the first century C.E. in Pompeii and other Italian cities. In Pompeii we found the sign at the Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolemo, which seems to have been the secret meeting place of an early Judeo- Christian community there. Other Italian places like the Museum of Aquileia or the Villa Romana del Casale, near Piazza Armerina, Sicily, and others, showed a rich development of the sign in single and multiple representations on Mosaic Floors and wall-decorations.
The chronological sequence, then, of the three above-mentioned monuments of the Holy Land is:
Ein Yael, near Jerusalem, which was excavated by Gershon Edelstein from the Archeological Authority was dated by its numerous remains of tiles of the 10th Roman Legion to the 2nd century C.E.. Capernaum, by its last excavations by Corbo and Loffredo was dated to the 3rd and 4th century C.E. As Kh. Shura was not excavated yet its date is only a supposed one, i.e. 2nd 3rd century CE.
It became clear that the first both monuments were founded by foreigners, Roman military commanders, who brought the knowledge of the Sign with them already from Italy. The first Synagogue of Capernaum was built, according to Luke 7:1-9, by a Roman military authority still in the life-time of Christ. This fact alone was enough for our sages not to mention Capernaum at all in their writings in spite of its being the finest Synagogue of the Galilee.
The second monument, Ein Yael, is an agricaltural farm (south of Jerusalem) containing the Synagogue in its buildings. It has to be dated to the second century C.E. after the numerous finds of tiles with a seal of the 10th legion, the Legio Fretensis.
The third monument, Kh. Shura, is known by its Magen David sign, and its six-partite Lily Sign, engraved on the lower side of voussoires of arches forming a Perestyle.
In Capernaum, then, David's Star belongs already to the second Synagogue. David Bloedhorn, who wrote a dissertation on the capitals of Capernaum, believes, that the Frieze was belonging to the second Synagogue, which was destroyed by the heavy earthquake of 363 C.E. but now, after it became clear that also the first Synagogue, after Luke 7:1-9, was built by a Roman military personality, it became highly probable that David's Star was already introduced then into the Synagogue, but, as a matter of fact, it could not have been introduced before Christ’s death and resurrection (28-9 C.E.), as only then Christ was recognized as God’s partner and son with the same triangular Symbol of the Magen David.
The almost constant combination of David's Star with the six-partite Lily Sign in its hexagonal center and the tri-partite one in its outer angles, was prepared, so we found, by several Mosaic Floors in Pompeii (and one in the Museum of Alexandria) which are composed by the six-partite and tri- partite Lily Signs in close combination. They excel by the beauty design and they have to be looked upon as "forerunners" of the Davidic Sign.
It is only in the Casa di Trittolemo in Pompeii, that both Floor types are to be found together, while all the other combined six-partite and three-partite Lily Floors are in other houses of Pompeii. They haven't yet the Davidic Sign beside them. So it seems that the Casa di Trittolemo was distinguished by its leading role in the development of the Judeo-Christian Movement and its Signs.
In the same context it is of interest, that in the Casa di Trittolemo are several Thresholds with the Magen David or some other early Judeo-Christian ornamentations like the Pelta, and others. They were arranged as guiding signs for the members of the congregation (in addition to their religious significance) as no written information could be given, not outside nor inside the house, for fear of persecution.
The Casa di Trittolemo in Pompeii, then, seems to have been the first secret center of the Judeo-Christian religious movement there.
Davids' Shield in Italy had a rich development; it appears in single and multiple representations. The single ones covering small spaces like entrances and the multiple ones covering greater interior ones. The multiple Floors had two typical appearances:
a) appearing in strong touch and closed compositions covering the whole Floor evenly without leaving any empty space, while
b) in loose and open compositions leaving the background "shining through" everywhere. The highly inventive compositions are belonging to the three first centuries CE.
Coming now to the 4th -6th centuries, the Constantinian Era, we found a heavy increase in the use of the Davidic Symbol in the now invigorated Neo-Christian Church architecture. It is apparent in Mosaic Floors, in Lintel-Ornamentation, in interior Church appliances like Chancel-screens in the decoration of sarcophagi and other religious objects. But at the same time of the increase of the Sign, there arose a tendency to its suppression. It was superseded by the Cross-, which became after the Milan Edict of 313 C.E. the universal sign of the imperial Constantinian Church.
But there is a time of transfer, when both signs, i.e. the Davidic Sign and the Cross-, appear side by side on the monuments, indicating that their religious significance was thought to be on the same level.
Yet, what remains for us important to remark is, that almost all the above mentioned religious activity of the first three centuries C.E. was borne by the religious movement of the Judeo-Christians, whose members were mostly of Jewish origin. This movement is looked upon as the “Mother-Church” of Christianity, which remained active and alive till the first quarter of the 5th century C.E., when in 425 the Edict of Theodosius II put an end to it. But to our great surprise, the Davidic star was received at the end of the 5th century and the first half of the 6th century by the Byzantyne kings Athenasius, Justin and Justinian into the Byzantine Numismatics from its creators the Judeo-Christian Community (by force?) and converted, then, into one of the main Symbols of the Byzantine Church. The first Church with the Davidic Signs on the pendentives of its two domes is the Hagia Irene, the most important Byzantine Church beside the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Yet, by that, the Davidic Star was saved from oblivion, and could be accepted now, after 636 C.E., by the Islam.
From this source, after the approachment of the Jewish and Arab peoples in the 8th and 9th centuries, the Davidic Star was accepted now as a full fledged Jewish Sign by the Massoretic Movement of the Jews between the 9th and 11th centuries.
And from then the Magen David has become the main symbolic Sign of the Jews, decorating the Jewish Flag in its center, after the founding of the State in 1948.
David's Shield in the 19th and 20th centuries
The Massoretic Movement of the 9th-11th centuries did not continue further on into the 12th to the 20th centuries.
The Davidic Shield, however, was saved and continued to exist as a single Jewish Sign, yet, at a much reduced importance. It became the exterior Sign of Jewishness and decorated most of the Synagogues and additional secular Jewish buildings.
At the declaration of the Jewish State in May 1948 it was declared symbol of the state (besides the Menorah, the seven armed candelabrum) and is honoring the Jewish flag.
It is to be hoped that further historic developments bring back to the Sign its original universal religious meaning in synthesis with its secular national one.
Cf. Gershom Sholem, ‘David’s Shield: On the History of a Symbol’. Ha’Aretz newspaper almanach 1948 (in Hebrew), pp. 148-163
Dto. ‘The Curious History of the Six-Pointed Star’, in Commentary 8:243-51, 1949
Dto. ‘Das Davidsschild: Geschichte eines Symbols’, in: Judaica I, F am Main, 1968, pp. 75-118
Dto. ‘Zum Verstaendnis der messianischen Idee im Judentum’, Vortrag auf der Eranos Tagung, 1959, Eranos Jahrbuch XXVIII: 193-239
Dto. ‘The Star of David: History of a Symbol’ in: The Messianic Idea in Judaism and other Essavs on Jewish Spirituality, New York 1971, pp. 257-281
On the interior decoration of the First Temple, see I Kings, 6: 18, 29, 32, 35. II Chronicles 3:3-17 offers a similar account, with some divergences
Gideon Foerster, Ancient Synagogues in Eretz Israel in the time of Mishna and Talmud, Zalman Shazar center for Jewish History, Jerusalem 1986, p. 64 (Hebrew)
From: G. Edelstein, Vila Romit b’Ein Yael. Qadmoniot, vo. 26, 3-4 1993, pp. 114-119
- ibid. ‘What’s a Roman villa doing outside Jerusalem…’ BAR Nov. Dec. 1996 16:6, p. 33
- ibid. What’s a Roman Vila doing outside Jerusalem, 16:6, p. 32-48
ibid. A guided walk through Ein Yael, undated
A somewhat similar open air baptistery was excavated in Jerusalem on the grounds of the YMCA. It is attributed to the Georgian community but it is later than Ein Yael and it belongs to the to the 4th century CE., as the Square cut-out water basin has in its north side an engraved Greek Cross. Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities, Vo 3, 1933. J. H. Iliffe. cemeteries and a monastary at the YMCA, Jerusalem, pp. 70-80, Pls. L, 2,3, ; L1, 1,2
Dr. Ze'ev Goldmann, Shnaton, Annual for Biblical and ancient Near-Eastern Studies, Part I (ed. by Moshe Weinfeld) Vol. XI. The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1997, pp. 197-221
Idem (Ed. by Sarah Yaphet) Vol XII, Part II, pp. 105-143
The six-partite version of the Lily sign seems to have become in use only from the 10th century B.C., when it was known as “Lily Work”, i.e. as crowning capitals of the two free standing pillars in front of the entrance of the First Temple
See: S. Yeivin, Eduth, Israeli Exploration Journal (IEJ), Vol. 24, no. 1, 1974, p. 17ff. This joining of Nezer and Shoshan seems to have been made possible by Solomon's elimination of Abiathar, the last member of the priestly family (I Kings 2:26,27). It is remarkable that this conjunction of Crown and Lily recurred in the Middle Ages, when the Lily-Crown and the Lily-scepter became the supreme expressions of European kingliness, particularly in France and England
See: Ze’ev Goldmann. 'Yehud Coins', Chap. 1, in part II of The Symbol of the Lily: Its Roots, Significance and History in Antiquity. Shnaton, Annual of Biblical and Near-Eastern Studies, Vol. XII, pp. 105-143, esp. l 18-121 (In Hebrew) Magnes Press. Jerusalem, 2000
See: Ze’ev Goldmann, ibid. Vol XII, Part II, Illustration: Group 10 (Hasmoneans) (In Hebrew)
I. Mancini, archeological discoveries relative to the Judeo-Christians, Jerusalem, 1970, fig. 37, p.154. Also: E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, vol. 3, fig. 226 (Jerash) text vol. l , p. 129; fig. 246 (Nablus), text Vol. 1, p. 137
B. Bagatti ‘nuevi Apporti Archaeologisi sul Pozzo di Giacobbe in Samaria' ln: Liber Annus XVI . 1965/6, fig. 8, p. 139
B. Bagatti , Antichi Villagi Christiani di Galilea Jerusalem 1971 fig. 109 p. 146
This Yakov the Min of Sakhnin is known from his discussions of religious matters with R. Eliezer of Sepphoris early in the 2nd centaury C.E. His sarcophagus must, therefore, be dated to the same century
Goodenough did not recognize the Pelta symbol in either of these two sarcophagi and did not mention the Bir Yakub sarcophagus
O. Seyffart, Dictionary of Classical Antiquity, New York 1956, the entries “peltestae” and
Y. Ben-Zvi, The Book of the Samaritans, Tel Aviv, 1946, pp. 26-7. (In Hebrew
A.D. Crown R. Pummer & A. Tal (eds.) A Companion to Samaritan Studies, Tubingen. 1993
See: Luke 17:11-19 and John 4:1-26
The excavator G. Edelstein reports that one of the inner walls of the bathhouse adjoining the villa had a cross cut into the plaster, which was later disfigured by casual visitors
This is also Edelstein’s belief. G. Edelstein & Y. Rapuano, BAR 1990 16:6, pp. 32-42; 44-49
Stanislao Loffredo, Capernaum, Jerusalem 1997, p.77
The four-times appearance of the Davidic Sign in the Capernaum Frieze is an indication of its importance as the main religious Symbol of the Judeo Christian Movement
Bloedhorn, Hanswulf, "The Capitals of the Synagogue of Capernaum - Their Chronological and Stylistic Classification with Regard to the Development of Capitals in the Decapolis and in Palestine", Ancient Synagogues in Israel, pp. 49-54
I have prepared already much material for detailed explanation of the Sign. Here we have to content ourselves with some few remarks for the explanation of the Sign.
Abraham Katsch Judaism and Hebraica Manuscripts in the U.S.S.R. Encyclopedia Judaica, Yearbook 1977-8 pp. 66-70. The Bible belongs to the Leningrad Public Library under the sign MS. B. 19,A. The illumination appears on fol. 490
Y. Magen, "Samaritan synagogues", Quadmoniot 25 (3-4), 66 ff. 1992 (Pls pp. 68-69 (Hebrew)
Also for the Tri Loop Sign a detailed treatment is planned for the future and most of the matirial is prepared already. Here we have to content ourselves with some few remarks
G. Orfalli, OFM, Capernaum et ses ruines. Paris 1922, p. 3 Yet, we have to add additional observations: both Parts of the Capernaum Frieze have above them the beautiful Cyma decoration. This decoration at a first stage of Part B, consisting of 5 Medallion units (II), was cut away completely. (Pl. ). It is obvious, that it has been done by human hands and not by natural force, for reason of its even cut. But, the question is, who could have done it? And our answer is that it certainly had been done by Orthodox Jews, for whom this heathen decoration was an abuse and offence
Another case of destruction of heathen ornaments by Orthodox-Jews occurred in Capernaum much later, in the 5th century CE (See p. 15 )
G. Downey, A History of Antioch in Syrie from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest, Prinston, N.J. 1961 pp. 280, 281
M. Avi Yonah, Oriental elements in Palestinian art. Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities, Vo. 14, p. 65. Reprinted in Art of Ancient Palestine, Ed. M. Katzenstein and G. Tsafaris, Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1981, p. 102, Fig. 17
See; Revue Biblique (R.B.) 1929 pp. 585 ff, Fig. 3.
Avi Yon ibid. (Reprint), p. 111, Fig. 30
ibid. (Reprint), p. 97, Fig. 10
See: M.Piccirillo, in Liber Anus XLI, 1991, pp. 26 ff.
The Scuta is an elongated hexagonal Sign, forming quarter-round designs at its small ends. 2 of the Scuta hexagons are always crossing each other at 90 degrees. 4 of the quarter-round ends of the Sign forming together a close circle, containing (mostly) a symbolic Sign. The meaning of Scuta is Shield. Where it comes from is not known perhaps Italy? It is a typical Samaritan ornament much in use. We shall deal with it in detail. Here we have to anticipate the results ofour future research, in order to be complete in our present investigation
M. M.Aulama, Jerash, 1995 pp.4l-45
Loffredo, Capernaum 1947
Bagatti O.F.M.,The church from the circumcision, Jerusalem 1971, p.40
Aharon Kempinski, Michael Avi-Yonah, Syria Palestine II. From the Middle Broze Age to the end of the classical world (2200 B.C.-324 A.D.), Geneva 1979. P1+.53
See: Gedalyah Alon, the Jews in their land in the Talmudic age (70-640 CE, translated and edited by Gershon Levy. Harward University Press, Cambridge MA. London England)
Cyril of Scytopolis, life of Euthymius, ed. By E. Schwartz, Leipzig, 1939
H. H. Hirschfeld, Euthymius and his monastery in the Judean desert, Liber Annus 43, 1993, 339-371
H. Hirschfeld, p. 339 ibid. p. 339
ibid. p. 340
ibid. p. 340
ibid. p. 340
ibid. p. 340
ibid. p. 340
ibid. p. 341
ibid. p. 341
ibid. p. 342
ibid. p. 342
ibid. p. 343