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More on Synagogues

November 2008
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The Sweedish scholar Prof. em. Birger Olsson, himself an expert on the development of the synegogues, has a review on the SBL Review of Biblical Literature website on a recent book about reconstructing the First-Century Synagogue:

Stephen K.Catto,
Reconstructing the First-Century Synagogue: A Critical Analysis of Current Research
Library of New Testament Studies, 363
London: T&T Clark, 2007, pp. xxii + 226.
$130.00. Hardcover.

The Review can be found here. Prof Olsson summarizes some of his impressions thus:
“Catto’s investigation is well-structured with many good summaries. The emphasis on the geographical location of every piece of evidence from the first century is excellent and gives a healthy reminder of the fact that every synagogue is to some degree an expression of local conditions (cultural, religious, social, economic, architectural, and so on). I also appreciate that Catto attempts to find out what can be said about the worship of the synagogue at this time. His presentation of synagogue sources from the first-century period is, however, not new. We have already good ones in Binder’s dissertation and also in Claussen’s work. There are no new philological insights in Catto’s work, as far as I can see, or any conclusive analysis of the genre or literary and situational context of different passages that would advance the current state of research. More interest must be directed to the problem of definitions. Like A. Runesson, Catto uses “synagogue” within quotation marks to draw attention to the fact that the word may refer to different things (a gathering or a building), but he does not present or discuss the important distinction in Runesson’s doctoral thesis between different kinds of institutions (public synagogues and association synagogues). Nothing is said about the use of various interpretative models and theories from other disciplines in synagogue research of today. Such models and theories are of decisive importance when we want to reconstruct the very complex phenomenon we call the ancient synagogue.”

Mentioning the synagogues, it might useful also to point out some other studies on the Synagogues, published in recent years:
L. I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years, 2000 (rev.ed. 2005),
D. D. Binder, Into the Temple Courts: The Place of the Synagogues in the Second Temple
Period
(1999),
A. Runesson, The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-historical Study (2001),
C. Claussen, Versammlung, Gemeinde, Synagoge: Das hellenistisch-jüdische Umfeld
B. Olsson & M. Zetterholm eds., The Ancient Synagogue from Its Origins until 200 C.E. (2003).
A. Runesson, D. D. Binder, and B. Olsson, eds., The Ancient Synagogue from its Origins to 200 C.E.: A Source Book (2007).


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