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The Theodotus Inscription

December 3, 2014

In connection with an earlier posting about the “Hellenists” mentioned in the book of Acts, I mention the “Theodotus Inscription,” a Greek dedicatory inscription (lst century CE) from Jerusalem, which clearly reflects the movement of Greek-speaking Jews from the Diaspora to Jerusalem.  These are likely the sort of people designated the “Hellenists” in Acts 6–7.  For more information on the inscription go to online sites here and/or here.

Of course, this doesn’t settle by any means questions about the historicity of details about “Hellenists” in Acts.  But it does show that there were Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem in the time in view.  Note also the reference to the “synagogue of the freedmen” in Acts 6:9, who are portrayed as tackling Stephen, likely Jews manumitted from slavery in Diaspora locations who had relocated in Jerusalem.

P.S.  For more detailed information on this inscription (and virtually all the other literary references to, and archaeological evidence on, ancient synagogues), this publication:

Anders Runesson, Donald D. Binder and Birger Olsson, The Ancient Synagogue From Its Origins to 200 C.E.: A Source Book. AJEC, 72 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 52-54 on the Theodotus inscription (with further bibliographical references).

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4 Comments
  1. Jordan Ryan permalink

    For anyone looking for literature on the Theodotus inscription, Runesson, Binder, and Olsson’s source book (ASSB) is a great place to start looking for bibliography. If I might make a recommendation, two good in-depth articles on this inscription have been written by John S. Kloppenborg, one of which, titled “The Theodotos Inscription and the Problem of First-Century Synagogue Buildings,” appears in the “Jesus and Archaeology” volume edited by Charlesworth. The other, titled “Dating Theodotos” can be found in JJS 51, no. 2 (2000): 243-280.

  2. G. Firmin permalink

    Oui, Google Books permet de “voir” que l’inscription de Théodote est traitée aux p. 523-526 (avec photographie) du livre de Mme Hachlili.

  3. Mark Erickson permalink

    Wow, there is very little available discussion of this inscription beyond the text and its discovery. (man, those old HTML sites suck!) This blog post comes up on the first page of a google search for “theodotus inscription” and the second page is all small mentions in books. Here’s the best essay length treatment of the subject of pre-70 synagogues in Judea which mentions the inscription. http://books.google.com/books?id=HQyxvmYV-50C&pg=PA27&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

    If anyone can provide a better discussion of the inscription itself, please post it here.

    • Mark: I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet, but I suspect there is a treatment of the Theodotus inscription (and a wealth of other material) in this:
      Hachlili, Rachel. Ancient Synagogues–Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2013.

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