Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ein Yael

Ein Yael Floor was discovered in 1988 by Gershon Edelstein of the Antiquities Authority, while excavating an ancient agricultural farm. (Pl. 1) [4]

The farm overlooks the Repha’im Valley and all the buildings discovered stand on the valley’s steeply sloping southern side. A perennial spring is channeled (by rock-cut and built conduits) to a Roman villa, a bathhouse complex and three reservoirs, which irrigate eight extensively tilled terraces. The Mosaic Floor was found in a round, tower-like structure standing between the reservoirs.

The wall of the structure, preserved to a height of some 1.5 m., retains on its inner surface the remnants of fresco painting. Its northern side was partly demolished by the later construction of a masonry wall to support the large reservoir beside it.


4. Plan of of Roman villa, bath house and baptistery with Mosaic Floor of David's star at Ein Yael (near Jerusalem)


In the round building’s west side there is a 0.8 m. -wide opening, exactly opposite a square water basin, 4.35 m. long, 2.75m. wide, and 1.0 m. deep, and floored with ceramic tiles. I am convinced that we have here the open-air Baptistery of a Neo-Christian community before us. The round building served the consecrating priest while the square basin – it has a 0.85 m. -wide opening in its south side – served to immerse the catechumens . [Acts 2:38-41]

The design of the mosaic floor (Pl. 1) is conceived as a single dominating Star of David with two interlacing unilateral triangles (as usual), traced by a two-strand Guilloche and elaborately framed. The Star itself is inscribed into a single black encircling line. Its hexagonal center is filled by a six-petalled Lily sign (Shoshan), while its outer angles are filled by 3 tri-petalled Shoshan signs and three Pelta (Amazon) signs, juxtaposed. All six outer signs are pointing inside.

The circular frame comprises a two-strand Guilloche within an inner and outer circle of successive stepped triangles (“crew-steps”) turned towards the Guilloche circle). It is enclosed within a continuous black borderline like that encircling the Star itself. The predominant colours are red, yellow, and black . [5]

The Shoshan

The Shoshan (LiIy) and Pelta (Amazon shield) as Complements to the Star of David, and their Significance


We shall see in the following that the Shoshan and the Pelta found at Ein Yael are the constant companions of David's shield (see p. 1). While the Star of David is a newly appointed emblem - of the newly-created Judeo-Christian religion - its two companion signs are traditional, the Shoshan, in its twofold formulations from Jewish religious art and the Pelta from Greco-Roman mythology.

The Shoshan



5. 'Yehud' coin. Half Obol: obverse: bird :(eagle), with outstretched wings + ‘Yehud’ above right. Reverse: three foil Lily. From the first rule of the country by Ptolemy I, 320-315 B.C.E. Bessin collection, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. From: Y. Meshorer, Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period, Tel Aviv, 1967, pl. l,x.

I have shown in my paper, 'The Sign of the Lily, its Roots, Significance and History in Antiquity', that the Shoshan was the Symbol of the Torah [6]. It was derived from Aaron's Rod, placed by Moshe in the Ark of the Covenant, at God's command, in front of the Testimony (Eduth) in eternal remembrance (Num. 17:25). The Shoshan, the trifoil leaf of the Rod, became, pars pro toto, Aaron's distinguished sign (and of the High Priesthood altogether), worn by the priests at the front of their turban and called in the Bible ''the pure golden flower” (sis ha-zahav ha-tahor, Ex. 22:36-38; Ex. 39:30,31; Lev. 8:8,9. Inscribed on it were the words “Holy to the Lord'' (Ex. 28:36).

The “pure golden flower”, then, is the Shoshan's early designation, going back to the tribes’ wandering in the wilderness in the 13th century B.C.E.

In the Bible, the term ‘Shoshan' occurs for the first time in connection with the 10th-century Solomonic Temple - on the two free-standing pillars, Jachin and Bo’az (I Kings 7:21-22) and on the two engaged or supporting pillars at the Temple vestibule (I Kings 7:19). The two copper pillars, Jachin and Bo’az, were cast by Hiram, Solomon's Phoenician craftsman (I Kings 7:13-16), their capitals executed as “Shoshan work”' (I Kings 7:19, 22). The Shoshanim had to be full-size as seen from above, that is six-petalled, as the pillars stood free in front of the Temple, while the capitals of the two engaged pillars in the vestibule had to be tri-petalled, as seen from the side. In its six-petalled form, as well as in the tri-petalled side-view, the Lily came to be the paramount ornament of Jewish art and especially of Jerusalem’s ossuary decoration. Absorbed into the Judeo-Christian tradition, it became a constant companion to the David's Shield and, later, to the Cross.

In the First Temple's interior decoration the Shoshan was the most often used element, called “peturei sisim” i.e flower stems' (I Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 35) and it also figures prominently among the king's adornments. We learn from the description of King Joash's coronation (II Kings 11:12) that the “Eduth” was a feature of the ornamentation of the crown (nezer). Associating the crown with the Shoshan-Eduth lent the crown sanctity, as the Shoshan was a priestly appurtenance while the crown as such was a secular adornment possessing no religious meaning. [7]

In post-exilic times, the trifoil Lily appears on the very first minting of Jewish coins, the 'Yehud' coins of the late fourth century B.C.E. The issue, bearing the tri-petalled Shoshan emblem on its obverse, as we saw already, and the frontal eagle with outstretched wings on the reverse, dates to Ptolemy’s I first reign in the Land of Israel (320-315 B.C.E.) [8]

And this same obverse is now replicated on the modern Israeli state's New Shekel coin.

But, as the Shoshan, in its two versions, is an ancient Jewish symbol, it is no wonder that it was taken over by the Judeo-Christian movement. Yet, we are in a position to show the historical process, how this happened

The juxtaposition at Ein Yael of the Star of David with the tripartite and sixpartite versions of the Shoshan reveals that the new Judeo-Christian Creed is founded on the Bible, recalling Christ’s words in Matthew 5:17,18:

"Think not that I have to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished".

Yet the Star of David is a new creation of the Judeo Christian creed, which Christ did not know yet, as it was created only after his death and ressurection, becoming son and partner of God.

6. Three-foiled Shoshan - Symbol of Upper Egypt
Papyrus - Symbol of Lower Egypt. From the 2nd millenium B.C.E
Picture from Wikipedia

7. Thebes -two free standing pillars in front of the Temple of Amon, Kernak. Three-foiled Shoshan - Symbol of Upper Egypt and Papyrus - Symbol of Lower Egypt from the 2nd millenium B.C.E

8. Three-foiled Shoshan mosaics from Shikmona (near Haifa)
2nd century C.E.

9. Three-foiled Shoshanim on ceramic vessle from Middle-Minoan Crete between 2000 and 1550 B.C.E

The Pelta (Amazon Shield)


10. Amazon with Pelta fighting leopards. According to Cecile Dictiere, La Mosaique des Amazones, Bruxelles 1965. 4th century C.E.


The second symbol accompanying the Star of David at Ein Yael is the crescent-shaped Pelta or Amazon Shield. Rather rare in the Land of Israel, its few known occurrences are on sarcophagi. One is to be found at Bir Yakub (Jacob's Well) at Sychar in the Nablus (Samaria) area (Pl. 11 ), the other one is the sarcophag of Ya’acov the Min in the village of Sakhnin (Lower Galilee) (Pl. 12).

11. Pelta Sarcophagus with two Peltae framed by four posts connected by three horseshoe arks- From Bir Yakub (Jacob's Well), Nablus (Sebaste area at Sychar).The short side shows a Greek Cross supported by an oblong post. (From: B. Bagatti O.F.M.,The Church of the Circumcision, Jerusalem 1971, Fig 6)


12. Sakhnin (Lower Galilee) Sarcophagus of the righteous Jacob the Min (after inscription) with two Peltae separated by a wreath. Early 2nd century C.E. From: Ibid, pp.22, 95-97. See also: B. Bagatti, antichi Vilalagi Christiani di Galilea, Jerusalem 1971, fig. 109.

And a further two are at Nablus and Jerash (in Jordan) ; [10] The ornamentation on the long sides of the Samaria Sarcophagus from Bir Yakub [11] (dating apparently to the fourth century C.E.) features two large semicircular Amazon Shields framed by three continuous horseshoe-shaped arches. One of the short sides has a Greek cross atop a vertical post, clearly placing the sarcophagus in a Samaritan Neo-Christian context.

The Sakhnin sarcophagus is decorated in very similar fashion but lacks the elaborate frame and the Greek cross. It is certainly Neo-Christian for its inscription dedicates it to the “righteous Yakov the Min” , [12] ‘Min’ being the Hebrew epithet for the Neo-Christians [13]. The Jerash sarcophagus also has two Peltae on its long side while the second Nablus sarcophagus has, in the left-hand half of its long side, a group of four Peltae, one to each of the four points of the compass. [E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, III, 226, ibid. 246]

In the right-hand half are, one above the other, what seem to be two corrupt Peltae. [14] .

I am convinced, however, that the Samaritan Neo-Christian congregations had adopted the Pelta symbol in place of the Judeo-Christian Star of David. The Samaritans, as we know, recognized the authority only of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, (and the book of Joshua of the conquest of the Holy land) and not of the other books of the biblical anthology. This made it impossible for them to accept a symbol associated with David (who does not figure in the first Five Books) and so they replaced it by the gentile Amazon Shield. In this very act we find evidence that the Star of David symbol was attached to the name of David as early as the beginning of the 2nd century C.E., something which most scholars have believed till now did not take place until the late Middle Ages.

13. Amazon striding, left to right with semicircular wicker shield. From: Greek vase with Amazon. End of 6th century B.C.

The Pelta symbol was not invented by the Samaritans but borrowed from ancient Greco-Roman art, in which it is very common. Its first known origins are Thracian, where as far back as the 6th century B.C.E. it occurs as the semicircular shield borne by Amazon warriors (Pl. 13). The Greek army then adopted it as a shield for light infantry, the peltestae, and it continued in use with the Roman army, at their auxiliary forces.

In art it is known from Greek vase painting, from an Ephesian sarcophagus (4th century B.C.E.) in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, from a Thessalonikan sarcophagus (around 170 C.E.) in the Louvre Museum, from a mosaic floor at Antioch (4th century C.E.) (Pl. 14 ), and other speciments.) [15]

14. Antioch. Mosaic of Roman soldiers fighting Amazons. On the ground: a pelta shield with two double-headed axes. (On the left part of the Floor) From: D. Levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements, 1947, House of the Amazons, Pl. CXXIII.

An outstanding example figures on the base of a bust of Emperor Commodus (180-193 C.E.)

15. Apotheosing bust of Commodus (180-192 C.E.) as Hercules. Poised above a Pelta decorated by a Medusa head, set between two cornucopiae arising from a globe. To the left – a kneeling Fortuna (?). Palazzo del Conservatori, Rome. From: S. Strong, Roman Art, Penguin Books, 1976, PL. 150


The emperor is portrayed as Hercules, rising above the Pelta, the lion's skin on his head and the club resting on his shoulder, the Pelta itself decorated with a Medusa head framed by two cornucopiae. A goddess (Fortuna?) kneels beside the ornamental base. This apotheosizing portrayal demonstrates that in Roman art the Symbol had already been invested with distinct esoteric significance.

It was not the Samaritan people as a whole who made the Pelta their Symbol but the Samaritan Neo-Christian congregations. Samaritans converted to the new creed in great numbers, presumably in reaction to their inferior socio-political status [16]. The Roman Empire would not recognize them as a nation with its own national rights but only as a religious sect, a rejection which deprived the Samaritans of all civic rights, even that of giving testimony in court [17].To escape this demeaning position many of them enrolled in the Roman army as auxiliary forces and no doubt in that context had first hand experience of the Pelta, then still in use by the auxiliaries. Whether this was the source of their regard for the Pelta or perhaps it was their acquaintance with Roman religious symbolism, at all events they adopted it as their counterpart to the Judeo-Christians' Star of David, investing it with the same significance - both protective sign and symbol of a new faith.

The Ein Yael combination of Judeo-Christian, Jewish, and Samaritan Neo-Christian symbols is never found in the purely Jewish mosaic floors of Byzantine-period Synagogues. It is evidently a combination that only the new Judeo-Christian faith made possible, a faith that having renounced the ancient Jewish-Samaritan enmity, embraced the newly-converted Samaritans on the basis of social and religious equality.

So it comes that also at Capernaum, the Pelta symbol is present on the Frieze. It is attached there six times, to the external angles of a Shield of David facing inwards. This juxtaposition with the Davidic symbol cannot be coincidental. It must betoken a Samaritan presence, for which Jesus' acquaintance with and good opinion of them may be additional evidence [18] . The Samaritans seem to have settled at Capernaum after their conversion, for on the other Davidic Symbols at Capernaum their symbol does not yet appear.

6. The Ein Yael mithological Mosaic Floors of the Roman Villa


The whole Ein Yael complex has been dated by its excavators to the second century C.E., subsequent to the Bar Kokhba war. The villa, too, has distinguished Mosaic Floors in its triclinium (dining room) and in two side rooms. (Pl. 16).

16. Ein Yael, Mosaic Floor in the triclinium of the villa with mythological scenes of the goddess Thetis, ruler of the sea, and two side panels with a medusa head each. From: BAR Nov-Dec. 1996, 16:6, p. 37, 38.

All the floors are composed of mythological scenes. The one in the triclinium has undersea scenes with swimming fishes interspersed with scenes of Nereids riding on Centaurs’ tails. Adjacent to the triclinium floor, to the south of it, is another rectangular floor, this one divided into three panels. The central panel again features swimming fish but is dominated by a head of Thetis, the sea-goddess. (Pl. 16). In each of the side panels is a square angled at 90 degrees (outlined by a two-strand Guilloche) framing a Medusa head. In the corners of these two panels, what do we find, but the same supplementary ornamentation as accompanies the Star of David, namely, two tripartite Shoshanim and two Peltae (Pl. 16). The elements common to both floors lead us to the conclusion that (a) both were designed by the same workshop and (b) that the owner of the villa was a convert to Christianity [19] (yet still much immersed in the Greek mythological tradition of his country). As numerous remains of pottery roof-tiles inscribed with the sign of the Tenth Legion were also found on the site, it seems highly probable that the owner of the villa and farm was one of the legion’s commanders [20] .

If so, we at Ein Yael are facing the astounding fact that the Magen David sign was introduced into the country by a foreigner, a Roman commander of the Tenth Legion and not, as it should be, by an autonomous, interior Jewish authority.

Yes, but our Italian military leader, founder of Ein Yael and builder of its mosaic floor with the symbol of the Magen David is (so to say) in good company: the Gospels in Matth.8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10 and Acts 10:1-48 are relating about two centurions of the Roman military forces of the country of high religious standard. The one, at Capernaum is declared in Luke 7:5 the builder of the Jewish Synagogue there (and this fact alone, a foreigner building a Synagogue, would have been enough for our sages not to mention this most beautiful Synagogue of the Galilee in their dealings), as mentioned by Loffredo (and others) in his book on the last excavations of the Synagogue [21] .

Christ had healed the servant of the centurion of Capernaum after his request, but the centurion did not see himself worthy to receive Christ under his roof (Matth 8:5-13). Christ received his devout faith with the highest esteem (Luke 7:9).

The other officer is Cornelius of Caesarea (Acts 10:1- 46), known to the Jewish public, then, by his ardent faith and his liberally giving alms to the poor constantly.

Cornelius had a vision, an angel was visiting him and telling him that God knows him and his good deeds and suggests him to call for Simon Peter, the apostle, who is in Jaffa at the tanner Simon, who’s house is at the sea. When they arrived at Cornelius house in Caesarea Peter found there a multitude of people. And while he was preaching about Christ’s lore the Holy Spirit descended and poured out on the circumcised (the Jews) as well on the gentiles. This was the first time that gentiles were seized by the new faith and converted, and this is the beginning of the extension of Christ’s Lore beyond the closed circle of the Jewish Christian congregations.

We are asking ourselves, how is it possible, that Roman soldiers, here in the country, are filled with such an ardent faith? And our answer is that they brought it already with them and had experienced the new faith already in Italy. This is confirmed now by Mosaic Floors in Pompeii and other Italian cities with the Star of David as their symbolic sign. Yet, these mosaic floors, at least in Pompeii, are belonging already to the 1st century C.E. as Pompeii was destroyed by the outbreak of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E.

Yet, what is not written in the story of the Gospels about these Roman officers is the question, wherefrom their ardent faith is coming, from which religion, or from which religious congregation. This strange omission of the Gospels can be explained, to my opinion, only in the following way: the Gospels were written in the first and second centuries C.E., i.e. in the time when the new faith had to be kept secret for fear of persecution by Jews and Roman authorities. In order not to endanger the officers in their ardent faith the writers of the Gospels saw it for fit not to remind the origin of their belief.

The Capernaum Synagogue

We saw already (p. ) that after the Gospels, in Luke 7:1-10, the Capernaum Synagogue was built by a Roman centurion, mentioned in the Bible, who was stationed there. The Gospel relates in Luke 7:3-5:
(3) "When he (the centurion) heard of Jesus he sent to him elders of the Jews,
asking him to come and heal his slave. (4) And when they came to Jesus, they
besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, (5)
For he loves our nation, and he built us our Synagogue".

This astounding fact, that a Roman commander built the Synagogue of Capernaum would never have been allowed by a traditional orthodox Jewish community, and we are of the opinion, that it could have been done only by a congregation of more liberally minded Jews - the Judeo-Christian one. And in fact we find more evidence for it: Midrash Kohelet Rabba I relates that Hanina, nephew of the famous Tanna R.Yehoshua was seduced by the Minim (the Judeo-Christians) of Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) to ride an ass on the Shabbath - pp. 3-4-7 of the manuscript, - Although his uncle was able to deliver him from the spell, he had to leave the country and spent the remainder of his life in exile in Babylon. Traditional, orthodox Jews could never have required such an abuse, which shows, therefore, that a Judeo- Christian congregation must have existed at Kfar Nahum as early as the first century C.E.

Capernaum was the center of Christ's religious work and it is evident that his followers from an early stage formed an organized religious congregation there. The recent excavations of a private House Synagogue at St. Peter's house site, a “domus ecclesia” of the second and third centuries C.E. and of the octagonal Church of the fifth century above the domus ecclesia confirm this.

If, after the Gospel in Luke 7:1-10 the Capernaum Synagogue in contrast was built by a Roman centurion who was asking Christ by the Jewish elders to save his servant, it follows that the Synagogue was erected still in the life-time of Christ, may be around 20 C .E.

Yet, the acception of David’s Star by the Judeo-Christians cannot have been in the lifetime of Christ. It has to be postponed till after his death and after his resurrection- around 28-29 C.E. David’s Star has to be understood as an esoteric sign, composed by two unilateral triangles, interlaced one to the other. The higher one symbolizing God in his Completeness and Holiness and the lower one Christ as son and partner of God after resurrection.

As we know already (from p. ) the Pelta sign is the typical neo-Christian Samaritan sign instead of the Davidic one (which they could not accept). It follows for us that Samaritans have been present in Capernaum from a certain time. Christ's several meetings with them, and his high estimation of them [22], may be an additional proof of their presence in Capernaum. In contrast to the former Jewish animosity against the Samaritans, they were accepted now with open arms by the Judeo-Christians, filling up their lines.

David’s star, then, has been accepted in Capernaum already in the first century C.E. after Christ resurrection 28-29 C.E. But how the Symbol was transferred to Italy and Pompeii is not known. May be that the same commander, who built the Synagogue, was helpful in its transplantation. Peter and Paul may have been helpful in its distribution. But, it is obvious that the Jewish community as such could not accept David’s Shield as a Symbol of their own after its neo-Christian creation.

Excavations of Capernaum


The latest excavations of the Capernaum Synagogue by Corbo and Loffredo from the Franciscan order have thoroughly revised its chronology. Whereas Orfali, its first excavator and restorer (1905-21) believed that the structure he was working on dated to the first century C.E. and was the very Synagogue that Christ visited, the last recent soundings and trenches have brought to light no less than three construction stages. The last stage, the limestone building now occupying the site, has to be dated to the late fourth century C.E. - some thirty thousand coins and numerous pottery-finds leave no room for doubt. Of the first stage, the Synagogue visited by Christ, we have, below the fourth century prayer hall, a basalt floor and finds from the first century C. E., and at the second structure, clearly datable to the third century C. E., we have a low wall of basalt blocks, on which the third and currently visited Synagogue stands.

Corbo and Loffredo's conclusions have now been confirmed by Hanswulf Bloedhorn's close study of the column capitals from the site [23] . By examining the relationship between the Kalathos (the load-bearing core of the capital supporting the entablature), he has identified three types – “K”, third century, “N”, fourth century, and a late “N”, of the fifth century. They are stylistically related, but display clear differences.

The decoration of the earliest type “K” shows the widespread influence of the Asia-Minor architectural school. In the second and third centuries C.E. an extensive trade in architectural elements -. Pillars, pillar-bases, capitals, friezes etc. - developed in Asia Minor's large marble quarries and spread its influence over the surrounding lands, including the Holy Land. At Capernaum this stylistic influence is very clear in the Frieze and particularly in its Cyma decoration, though they may have been executed by local craftsmen. The forms deployed can be confidently dated to the first century that is to the second Synagogue. Bloedhorn is of the opinion that this building was brought down by the powerful earthquake of 363 C.E. and its decorative Friezes reused in the third stage of construction, i.e. in the now existing building.

It is quite astonishing that the Capernaum Synagogue the most prominent of all Galilean Synagogues, receives no mention in any Jewish source. Perhaps the reason is its very association with the Judeo-Christians. In the first century there is no question but that 'orthodox' Jews and Judeo-Christians both used the Synagogue.

The latter were the sons and daughters of their Jewish parents and both maintained common tradition of observance. But this common tradition (and mutual tolerance) seems to have continued through the second and even the third Synagogue for, to our surprise we find the most important of Jewish symbols, the Menorah with lulav and etrog only on a capital in the east courtyard, which was added to the Synagogue only in the fifth century C.E. (Pl 24). It would appear that only at this late date did the two creeds make their final separation, when the Judeo-Christians transferred their prayer services to the octagonal church, newly erected over the remains of St. Peter's house. This final sundering: making the ‘Orthodox’ Jews now the Synagogue’s sole proprietors gave them a free hand not only to put up their own symbols (on the capital mentioned, for instance) but also to remove from the Friezes and elsewhere pagan figurative elements - gryphons, eagles - which the Neo-Christians more lenient interpretation of the Second Commandment had allowed to remain.

Until now we have been unable to explain whose hand had erased these Symbols but, in contrast to this relative liberal composure of the Capernaum community the resistance of the traditional Jewish population against a new creed in their midst was very sharp. It led to extremities like the stoning to death of Stephen [Acts 7:56-58] , the first martyr, or the conspiracy of 40 men to kill Paulus [Acts 7:56-58] , while he was in prison, or even the crucifixion of Christ itself [Ibid 23:12-23] (this is only a small number of cases). Paulus, by himself, is relating in his letter to the Galatians [The letter of Paul to the Galatians 1:13-23] with which cruelty he himself was dealing with the ‘heretics’ (the neo-Christians) as long as he was a Jew (under the name of Saul).

The schism between the old and the new creed divided the population and even the families, generating high communal tension, which was not resolved until the defeat of the Bar-Kokhba uprising (132-135 C.E.) when Jews were forcibly resettled by the Roman victors. While the elder Jewish population were forced north into the Galilee or out of the country altogether, it seems that the younger population, the Judeo-Christian one, remained in their settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Negev where most of the neo-Christian sites were discovered. They now founded their own religious congregations, built their own Synagogues, and, in the course of time also a new religious symbolism developed.

The Frieze of Capernaum


All the 6 pieces of the Frieze of Capernaum, which remained there, (Pls. I-VI) are exhibited together in one row, so, that it is easy to compare between them. The first piece (on the right side, Pl. 1 a,b,c) is composed by 3 medallion units and shows a clear difference in style opposite the other pieces. It is composed in a much bigger shape and greater plastic boldness. The two floral motives and the geometric one between them are protruding on the top of small supports which are binding them to the ornamental background.

So, the right piece of the Frieze is still nearer to the Hellenistic form-appearance and belongs to the first Synagogue, built, as we saw, still in the time of Christ by the Roman commander of Capernaum (according to Luke 7:10)

The second stylistic part of the Frieze, beside the first one, is the main Part, consisting of some 19 medallion units, which are all of uniform design, in flat relief style forming an integrated whole. All the 19 units are composed by the same design, i.e. 4 Accanthus leaves encircling a symbolic Sign in their center. The Accanthus leaves are changing direction from one to the other.

We can differentiate two stages of preservation, an earlier one and a later one. At the first stage of 5 medallion units the whole entablature, including the Cyma decoration was broken away, while at the second stage it is kept almost in its entirety, as only the units 4-6 happened the same distruction.

All the medallions are bound together horizontaly by a kind of chain of half-rounds. Yet, this chain reoccurs above and below each Symbol, binding it to four sides (Pls. 1-6).


The Frieze remains of Capernaum in their chronology

(Photos by Gabi Goldman, son of Dr. Goldmann)




(left to right): 1. Sunflower (?)
2. (in the middle): Solomon's Seal (?)
3. (to the right): Six-petalled Lily with petals turned inside.
Hellenistic style


(From left to right)
1. Crossed Lily Signs
2. Magen David, much destroyed
3. Six-partite Lily
4. Five-partite Rosette
5. Rosette five-partite flat relief Roman style. After Christ's death c. 30 C.E.
Cyma decoration destroyed

(From left to right)
1. Two horizontal Accanthus leaves
2. Magen David with Peltae in outer corners
3. Six-petaled rosette
4. 7-petaled Rosette
Circumference around Symbols



(left to right)
1. 3-Loop Sign
2. Wine leaf Sign
3. Magen David with disks. After c. 30 C.E..
Cyma decoration destroyed


(left to right)
1. 3-Loop Sign
2. 2 Rimonim (Pomegranates)
3. 7-petalled Rosette
4. 6-petalled Lily
Circumference around Symbols
After c. 30 C.E.

(left to right)
1. Destroyed
2. Bundle of grapes
3. Solomon's Seal with disks
Circumference around Symbols
After c. 30 C.E.

(Right to left): 1. Single illustration of the Ark of the Covenant on wheels
2. Three half Accanthus leaves behind
This belongs to another group of ornaments

Part I which is composed by 3 units of the Capernaum Frieze, is much covered by soot, covering especially the Cyma decoration crowning the Frieze. It is evident, that the first Synagogue had to suffer a heavy conflagration. In spite of that the design of this first Frieze is still quite recognizable. It is composed of two layers: a) the background-layer with Medallion-units of regular ornamentation of the time, reminding the ossuar decoration Jerusalem’s, and b) the second layer of 3 bolding Signs, of 2 huge flowers and a geometric abstract one in the center on the top of short supports across the background-layer. Both layers are covered by the beautiful Cyma decoration, consisting of a Greek entablature of teeths and eggs crowned by the Cyma decoration consisting of big Acanthus plants and four-petaled Lily flower plants with two lower petals turning outside and two higher ones turning inside, both plants alternatingly arranged.

The 4 Magen David Signs of Part II appear here the first time in Neo-Christian history. They were created by the Judeo-Christians of Capernaum after Christ's death and ressurection in c. 30 (as we saw already). But we can be sure that the whole original Capernaum Frieze had much more of them. As a new creation of the Judeo-Christians the Magen David Sign had to be propagated intensively by its multiple representations, in order to be accepted and assimilated.

Recurring now to the first group of remains of the Capernaum Frieze, Part I, we find the second medallion (in the middle between the two floorial ones) much destroyed in its lower part, but seemingly being a variation of the 5 pointed Solomon's Seal, which was much in use instead of the Magen David. but, what is of high interest to us is the addition of the Pelta Sign in the outer corners of it.

We know already, that the Pelta Sign was accepted by the Samaritans as their main religious Symbol, instead of the Davidic Star of the Judeo Christians.

But, to our great surprise, we find the same addition of the Pelta Signs now to Solomon's Seal of the first group and also to the Magen David itself, in the second and third pieces of Remains of the Capernaum Frieze. As the Magen David of the second Frieze Remain was much destroyed (as we saw already) the addition of the Pelta Sign is much disturbed, but there can be no doubt about it.

The combination of David's Star with the Pelta Signs is most clear in the third Remain of the Frieze and here the appearance of the symbol is much accentuated by the addition of a circumference arround the central symbol. This addition of a circle arround the Symbol is generally applied to the third Remain of the Frieze and to the 5th Remain too, while in the first and second Remains it does not yet appear.

Yet we know already that the Davidic Star was not accepted (and could not have been accepted) by the Samaritans, but now, here in Capernaum we find both together.
As explanation of this riddle, we claim that there was an early influx of Samaritans into Capernaum, and that they were accepted by the Judeo-Christian Community as friends and allies, shown by the addition of their national Sign - the Pelta - to the religious Signs of the Judeo-Christians - David's Star. (in units I II III). By that the old enmity between Jews and Samaritans was overcome and a new friendship was founded. So, by this addition of the Samaritan Sign from the first phase of the Judeo-Christian community of Capernaum it becomes clear that both communities had been united from the beginning of the Judeo-Christian community there.

These additions of the Samaritan Pelta Signs, one after the other, to the Davidic Sign, is a clear proof of their presence there and their authority together with the original Judeo-Christian population.

And so it comes that the Star was now combined with another symbolic Sign, and this sign is the Disk, which appears in both cases (IV and VI) in the reduced shape of the "Knob", filling the outer angles of the Star and of its center.

The Disk is an ancient Jewish symbol, which appears already in the 9th-10th centuries B.C. on capitals of engaged pillars like these ones of the entrance hall of the First Temple according to I Kings 6-19 .

As one of the most frequent Jewish symbols the Disk appears much on the Jerusalem Ossuar ornamentation.

The Disk appears in the monuments in very different diameters, from big ones in architecture, at the Sha'ar-Ha'Rachamin of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for instance, to small ones on Ossuars and Crosses.

To our opinion the closed circle of the Disk is a Symbol of God's unity and, at the same time, of the unity of the world, and so God's nearness or presence - the so called "Shekhinah" - is represented by it.

In our cases - at Capernaum - the Disk is one of the symbolic Signs of the Judeo Christians, realizing their sticking to the ancient Jewish religious tradition.

In the same spirit we have to understand two additional symbols in Remains IV and VI, the so called "3 Loop Sign". The sign, again, is a frequent Samaritan one, being accepted too by the Judeo Christina Community of Capernaum.

This Sign is composed by 3 interlocking Loops, each in the shape of a near 8.
It is, according to my supposition, the symbol of the 3 partite blessing of the Jews by the Cohanim (the priests), asked by God (in Num. 6: 23-26)
This suppositon has been confirmed by an article of Prof. A.G. Katsch from the New York University concerning Jewish Manuscripts in the U.S.S.R. [25]
A Massoretic design in micrographic writing, forming at the same time the design of the "3 Loop Sign" has in its center a piece of paper with text of the Tri-partite blessing of the Cohanim. The blessings are accompanied still today, in the synagogue service of Shabbath, by the bowing movements of the Cohen to three sides, by covering himself and his outstreched hands by the prayer showl (the Talith). The ceremony is performed twice in the Shabbath service of the synagogue.

24. Menorah, Lulav and Ethrog in the courtyard of Capernaum, 5th century C.E.

David’s Shield in Italy and elsewhere

It is obvious that the interior decoration of the overwhelming number of houses in Pompeii has been done in the trace of the traditional Greco-Roman mythological style in its four Pompeian formations. But there is one house which shows the new Judeo-Christian abstract-geometric style of its Mosaic Floors in profusion. This house is the Casa di Trittolemo which has the symbolic signs of David’s Star, while other houses have some earlier signs of Jewish origin (see: below), but not yet the Star of David.
1. David’s Shield in the Casa di Trittolomo, Pompeii

25. The entrance Mosaic of David’s Shield in the Casa di Trittolemo: from M.E. Blake,’ The pavements of the Roman buildings of the Republic and the Early Empire’, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. VIII, 1930, pl. 39,3, VII, VII, 5


It is the earliest appearance of the Davidic Star in the Casa di Trittolemo as shown in (Pl. 25).

It has the purest design of a single much-enlarged star without, or almost without additional ornamentation. Its design is wholly composed of three parallel lines, while the slight additional ornamentation is formed only by a six-petalled Shoshan in the hexagonal center of the Star, surrounded by a frame of an infinite Zig-Zag line.

The Star itself is inscribed in a circumference, which is framed, in addition, by a square frame, all in the tripartite lineament. The six outer points of the Star are connected by the same tripartite line.

A second entrance Mosaic Floor of the Casa di Trittolomo shows the Davidic Star not in single appearance like our first Floor (see above), than in multiple arrangement, Pl. 26.

26. Entrance Mosaic Floor of the Casa di Trittolemo in multiple arrangement of the Davidic Star. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. Pl. 39, 2.VIII, V, 16 and 38.


Three vertical rows of David Stars are inscribed in a circumference of a double fillet, which is encased in a large square, which is composed by an infinite row of arrow-like triangles pointing outside. The four corners between circumference and square are filled with two versions of the Lily ornament, one a 2-petalled one, the other a 6-petalled one.

All the Stars of the Floor are turned around by an angle of 45 degrees. They are conforming to the round shape of the circumference by their changing numbers: 2-3-2. They are touching each other always by two outer points, creating by that an infinite contact of the whole ensemble.

A third entrance Floor of the Casa di Trittolemo, however, is not composed by David Stars than by the "Combined six-petalled and tri-petalled Lily signs".

This entrance Floor, then, belongs to the group of Floors of the houses, which are composed by a combination of a six-partite Shoshan with tri-petalled ones. We are dealing with them later (see p. 32). Here we are bringing this Floor already, because it is the only case, where it appears side by side with the Davidic Sign. All the other Lily-sign Floors have no Davidic sign beside them, what places them, chronically, before the appearance of the Davidic Star. This entrance Floor at the Casa di Trittolemo is the earliest one there, while the two other entrance Floors, which have the Davidic Sign, must be later, but are still belonging to the 1st century C.E. This Floor is accompanied by a small rectangular carpet Floor, which is composed by 4.5 vertical four-partite Lily signs – a kind of threshold leading inside.

2. The interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolomo, loose arrangement


27. interior Magen David Mosaic Floors in the Casa de Trittolomo in loose multiple arrangement. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl. 33, 4, Pompeii VI, VIII, 20


Interior Mosaic Floor. Casa di Trittolemo, tough arrangement

28. Second interior Magen David Floor in the Casa di Trittolemo in tough multiple arrangement. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl 38, 3. Pompeii VI, XVI, 7

The interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolemo are differentiated by two peculiar concepts:

a) Floors with loose but even distribution of single, emblematic units of David Stars, each one strongly framed by a running spiral ornament, contained in an outer and two inner black lines. (Pl. 27). These units are contacted in the middle of their six outer sides by a small unit of the six-partite Shoshan in black colour on a white background. Also the hexagonal center of David’s Star is filled by a six-petalled Shoshan, this time in white on the black background of the Star itself.

The addition of the small six-partite Lilies to the units of the Davidic Star has the task of guaranteeing the even cohesion of the whole Floor.

b). The second concept of the interior Mosaic Floors of the Casa di Trittolemo is the tight rapport of the relative small Davidic Signs in their hexagonal frames, leaving none empty space between them (Pl. 28).

All the Davidic Signs in this Floor are arranged in oblique parallel rows, covering the ground floor in closed and tough context. The Stars are designed in black color on white background, while the six-partite Shoshanim in their hexagonal center are in white color on the black background, of the Stars themselves. The color arrangement in both cases is the same.

3. Thresholds of the interior Floors of the Casa di Trittolomo


To these interior Mosaic-Floors has to be added a number of Thresholds of the rooms showing horizontal rows of David’s Star (or some other additional signs of the new faith, like the Pelta (Pls. 29-31). They are highly characteristic for the socio-religious situation of the new congregation, whose members had to meet secretly in private homes, as they were in constant danger of persecution by traditional Jews and the Roman government itself. And so it comes, that the Davidic Star became, beside its religious significance, a guiding sign for the members of the Congregation, as no written information could be given outside as well as inside the houses.


29. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo with row of David Shields. From: M.E. Blake, ibid. pl 33, I. Pompeii VIII, V, 16 and 38


30. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo with row of Double Peltae, juxtaposed, From: M.E. Blake, ibid. Pl. 33, IX. VIII, 6

Other Threshold signs are the Peltae in double arrangement, back against back (Pl ), or an infinite arrangemen of scales (Pl. ).


31. Threshold in Casa di Trittolomo four rows of scales, each half black, half white. From: M.E. Blake, ibid, pl. 33, 4. VI, III, 20


The early appearance of the Star of David in Italy is difficult to explain. May be that Peter, who is believed to have been working in Rome for some 20 years and is thought to be the founder of the Christian Church altogether, or even Paul, who was active in Rome for two years had a hand in its creation. Yet, as we have no proof for it, we have to accept the historical fact as such.


The "Combined six-partite and tri-partite Lily Floors" in Pompeii and Alexandria
These Floors with a "combination of six-partite and tri-partite Lily Signs", but not yet with the Davidic Star, are to be found in several houses in Pompeii. They form the "pre-condition" for the Davidic Star, which was formed after them.
32. Casa di Trittolomo. Combined six-partite Lily with trefoil Lilies sprouting from its centre. Inward-turned peltae are placed at the point of each petal of the central Shoshan.
From M.E. Blake, ibid. pl. 23, 1.
2. Entrance floor of the Casa di Trittolemo, Pompeii, with the "Combined six-partite and tri-partite Lily Signs"
This Floor, we dealt with already, is accompanied by a small square carpet Floor (as we saw already) which is composed by 4.5 vertical four-partite Lily signs – a kind of threshold leading inside.

The whole composition is inscribed into a circumference, which is wholly formed by an infinite row of arrow-like triangles, turning outside.

The inner corners of the square frame are filled by two versions of the tri-partite Lily sign.

33. Combined six-partite and tri-partite Lily Floors of the Casa di Capitelli Figurati, Pompeii. From: M.E. Blake pl. 22,1

3. Mosaic Floor of the Casa di Capitelli Figurati, Pompeii, The "Combined six-partite and tri-partite Lily Signs"
This Floor is wholly similar to that of the Casa di Trittolemo with the "Combined six-partite and tri-partite Lily", only that the surrounding circumference was changed into horizontal triangles touching each other in an infinite row.
As this Floor has undergone much repair outer details are missing.
Its color appearance is the same as that of the Casa di Trittolemo: i.e. the central Lily composition appears as black on a white background, while the Pelta signs in contrast, are in white on a black background.


4. Mosaic Floor of the House of Cryphoradon, Pompeii
This Floor, as much as I see belongs to the richest and most beautiful Floors of Pompeii. Its inner design is much the same as in the above-mentioned Floors, but the elaborate design of their circumference and square frame is replaced now by a simple broad line, which is made to strengthen the aesthetic appearance of the inner design.

But to this simplified, yet more powerful interior design were added now outside (beyond the square frame of the interior design)
34. Combined six-partite and three-partite Lily Mosaic Floors in the House of Cryphoradon (I, 6, 2,) Pompeii, sudatorium from J. R. Clarke, Looking at love making, University of California Press, Barkley, Los Angeles, London, 1998, Fig. 41

in free style, on the upper side two juxtaposed Dolphins and just opposite, on the lower side, two Negroes in free movement like swimming, with a broken amphora between them.

On the third side (the left one) a half round Niche is added, the Floor of which filled with an elaborately stylized tri-partite design of a Shoshan.

This Niche may have been a Prayer Niche. Its Lily Floor symbolizing the Torah (the Eduth, as we saw), while the broken Amphora may be an allegorical indication of the Greco-Roman mythological belief, which has been "broken" by the new belief.
The two naked Negroes ought to be an allegory of the new natural forces, enriching now the monotheistic belief of the Judeo- Christian congregations.

The two Dolphins, opposite, are ancient Greek symbols, accepted now by Neo-Christianity as Symbols of Christ as protector and savior of the human soul.

The whole of the Casa di Cryphoradon Floor in Pompeii has a kind of documentary value for a changing world, with Christ as its savior and Messiah, borne by the religious movement of the Judeo- Christians.

5. The Mosaic Floor in the Museum of Alexandria


35. Combined 12-petalled Lily core with 12 trefoil Lilies between them elongating with 12 four pointed shields. Between the latter 12 much stylized Lily ornaments. (From: M.E. Blake pl. 22,2)


The design of the Mosaic Floor in the Museum of Alexandria has been much changed in contrast to the above mentioned Floors. Instead of the six-partite central core we have a 12 partite one. Instead of the 6 three-partite Lily flowers we have 12 elongated ones, sprouting from the inner angles of the 12 partite core.
These 12 three partite Lily flowers are “answered” now by 12 elongated triangular Shields, which have little in common with the former Pelta signs and which are placed opposite the tri- partite Lily signs instead of the former lanceolate points of the 12-partite core.
Instead of the former six enclosing Pelta signs just opposite the points of the central Lily-core are placed now 12 much stylized Lily signs with two voluting-petals, turned inside.

This elaborate design is enclosed, now, in a black and white circumference sitting itself in a simple white square frame. The four corners of the latter are filled with four Amphoras of Greek shape. The whole composition is accompanied by a version of the Meander Style ornament, above and below. All the inner design in the round circumference is given in black on a white background, while the amphoras in the spendrils of the square frame are in white design on a black ground.

6. The Jewish religious tradition in the Judeo-Christian movement


The combined six-partite and three-partite Lily group of Pompeii (and the 12-partite of Alexandria) became very important for the following group with the Davidic Sign. Both Lily signs of the first group were absorbed by the second one, and there is, practically speaking, almost no Davidic Sign, which has not the six-partite – Lily sign in its hexagonal center and the tri-partite one, in its outer angles.
This formal dependence of the second group from the first one can be explained only on the base of the social composition of both groups – which is Jewish. Both groups were strongly adhering to their ancient religious tradition – the Torah from Sinai.

So it becomes highly probable, that the first group composed by the combined six-partite and three-partite Lily Signs, but not yet with the Magen David, was accepted by the second group, the Magen David group. It was created only after Christ's resurrection of 28-29 C.E. for reason of the esoteric significance of the Davidic Sign.

Italian Mosaic Floors with David’s Star outside of Pompeii
Also outside of Pompeii, in a good number of Italian cities, such Mosaic-Floors with the Davidic sign exist. The Museum of Aquileia is especially devoted to them. Yet, in the context of our work we cannot deal with them extensively.


To the Aquileia Monastero Museum belongs a Mosaic Floor with David’s Shield which is most similar to the Ein Yael Floor in its design and looks like a “forerunner” of the latter (Pl. ).


36. Mosaic Floor with David’s Shield at Aquileia - most similar to the Ein Yael Mosaic Floor, but without the additional Signs of the Pelta and the Lily there, a kind of forruner to the Ein Yael Floor


It is composed by a single dominating Davidic Star traced by a two-strand Guilloche. It is framed by a two-strand circumference, only that in Aquileia the Double Crew-step circles enclosing the outer Guilloche circle of Ein Yael are missing.

In the same way the additional ornamentation of juxtaposed tree-partite Lily signs and Pelta signs in the triangular outer spaces of Ein Yael (between the outer points of David’s Star) is missing. Instead, the six triangular spaces in Aquileia are filled with the rhomboid shape of the Lozenge. The hexagonal center of the Aquileia Floor is filled by a simple “knob” of white color and has not yet the six petalled Lily sign as at Ein Yael.

The Aquileia floor is accompanied by two stripes of a two-strand Guilloche ornament left and right and, below, by an infinite row of the Greek ivy ornament. The single ivy ornaments are bound together by half circles.

It is obvious, that the Aquileia floor is an early stage in the development of the Magen David floors. While the Ein Yael floor belongs to the 2nd century C.E. the Aquileia floor seems to belong to the 1st.

An additional Floor of the Aquileia Museum is distinguished by the multiple design of the Magen David filling the ground in infinite progression. The Stars appear in black color on a white background and their hexagonal centers are filled with the six petalled Lily flower design. These flowers are designed in a quite naturalistic approach with the petals in movement and not yet in flat geometric abstract design as later. So, this floor seems to be still nearer to the Hellenistic art approach and seems to be one of the earliest floors of the Judeo-Christian congregation.

Two multiple Mosaic Floors at the Villa Romana del Casale/Piazza Armerina/Sicily


37. Mosaic Floor of the Villa Romana del Casale (Sicily) 2nd century C.E.
From: A. Carandin, A. Rici, M. De Vos, Filosofiana, La Villa di Piazza Armerina, Palermo, 1982

The Villa Romana del Casale is looked upon as the “richest, largest and most complex collection of late Roman mosaics in the world” ([31]. The overwhelming part of the Mosaic Floors, discovered by excavations (by Paolo Orsi in 1929, Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39 and by Gino Vinicio Gentile in 1950-60, and some localized excavations by Andrea Carandini in the 1970s) are in the figurative style of the mythological heritage of Greek antiquity, belonging to the 6th to the 8th centuries C.E. But, there was discovered also an earlier stage belonging to the 2nd and the 4th century, which contained Mosaic Floors in the abstract-geometric style. To two Floors in the well conceived multiple style (we know already from Aquileia and the Casa Trittolemo of Pompeii) our interest is concentrated: while Floor no. I is composed in a light open design with the ornaments in white color on the background of black color , Floor no. II is wholly covered by a tight and closed two-strand Guilloche design of the ornamentation, which is in infinite movement, not leaving any open space in the design of the Floor. Yet, the dominating ornament in both cases is David’s Star, even in different shapes.

38. Mosaic Floor of the Villa Romana del Casale (Sicily) 4th century C.E.
From: A. Carandin, A. Rici, M. De Vos, Filosofiana, La Villa di Piazza Armerina, Palermo, 1982

Floor no. I is composed in its entirety by seven vertical rows of David’s Star with subsidiary smaller ornaments between them. One row has always David’s Star in straight position with the small ornament of “Solomons’ knot” (an ancient Jewish ornament) between them. But the second row beside the first one has David’ Star turned around by 45 degrees, and the stars connected by subsidiary ornaments of more recent invention like the rose, the square, two round ones and others.

All the stars are in white colour on the common background of black colour together with their hexagonal frames.

The alternate arrangement of the Stars after the system a b a b allows for the infinite contact of the Stars by their outer frames with each other, converting by that the whole Floor in a dense network.

Floor no. II is like floor no. I of multiple shape, but this time not in loose than in tough composition. The whole Floor is covered by a dense network of Lozenges traced by two-strand Guilloches, which form, at the same time, the Hexagram of the Davidic Stars, i.e. one design is overlapping the other, so that both designs are identical. This highly inventive design is wholly covering the Floor, not leaving any empty space.

The centers of the large Davidic Stars are occupied by broad circular frames (formed by a version of the Meander motive), containing what seems to be the portrait of the owner of the Villa or the portrait of a black servant . Other circular frames are filled by birds, by two fishes, by plants or some geometric ornament.

If, by the inclusion of portraits, animal- and plant -life in the dense and infinite geometric network of Floor no. II, ''Nature'' and human kind is represented, in floor no I, by its loose and open composition, its rhythmic and alternating design, Gods’ sovereign rule of the Universe is symbolized.

In connection with the dating of both Floors it seems reasonable to assume, that Floor no. II belongs to the 4th century C.E., the Constantinian era, for reason of its portraiture and Nature-life, while the absolute abstraction of Floor no I makes the 2nd century the most convenient time.

All the subsidiary ornaments of Floor I are in straight contact with the Davidic Stars creating a close network of the whole Floor.

As each of the hexagonal centers of David’s Stars is filled with the six-partite Shoshan (Lily), which is the sign of the “Eduth” (Torah, as we saw), the entire Floor forms an overwhelming multiple Symbol of God’s everlasting sovereign Rule and his Covenant from Har-Sinai. It is obvious that the early mosaics of the Casale Villa are the creations of Judeo-Christian congregations; Magen David is the dominating ornament in them.