Monday, October 29, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11e - Temple Warning Inscription, etc.

Another treasure just down the hall from the Siloam inscription is the "Balustrade" or "Temple Warning" inscription:
According to Josephus and the Mishnah, signs were posted in Greek and Latin along the boundary separating the court of the Gentiles from the Jerusalem Temple sanctuary, warning Gentiles not to enter on pain of death. The complete Greek inscription (pictured above) was discovered in 1871 and is--you guessed it--on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. A second fragmentary Greek inscription, discovered in 1935, is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Here's another photo of the inscription (taken with a flash):
The warning reads as follows: "No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death" (ABD 2.963; a transcription of the Greek text may be found here).

Evidently, the warning was taken seriously:
27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28 shouting, "Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. (Acts 21:27-30; NRSV)
The warning was taken seriously, no doubt, but Shaye Cohen has pointed out how difficult it would be to enforce, since he argues most Jews were indistinguishable from Gentiles in the first century. (See Cohen's excellent book, The Beginnings of Jewishness, for the details.)

I also took a picture of this Greek inscription because I thought I might use it at some point to illustrate the development of Greek writing styles over the centuries (for other Turkey Travelogue inscriptions see here and here):
The inscription commemorates the rebuilding of the land walls around Constantinople in 1433. It's a nice inscription. Too bad the walls didn't last. Just 20 years later, the city fell to the Ottoman turks.
Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

No comments: