Has Judas Maccabeus’s Shul Been Found?
The Biblical Archaeology Society
Phone: 1.800-221-4644 ext. 208
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 12, 2014)— According to the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, an ancient Jewish village recently excavated within the modern Israeli city of Modi’in is the best candidate for ancient Modi’in, home of the Maccabees.
The most prominent structure at the site is an ancient synagogue that functioned while the Temple still stood about 20 miles away in Jerusalem. When Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid ruler of Judea in the 160s B.C.E., desecrated the Temple and forbade circumcision and Sabbath observance, Jewish priest Mattathias from Modi’in and his five sons led a successful revolt still celebrated in the festival of Hanukkah. The military hero of the revolt was Judas Maccabeus, Mattathias’s third son.
Beneath the latest synagogue at Modi’in, with its two imposing rows of four columns each, stood another synagogue from an earlier time, and beneath that another building—probably a synagogue—from a still earlier time. The latest synagogue—dated to the first century B.C.E.—used some of the same walls as the earlier buildings. A platform from which the Torah was probably read survived in one of the lower buildings.
The earliest of these buildings—dated to the end of the third or beginning of the second century B.C.E.—was probably the synagogue from the time of the Maccabees.
Outside the synagogue was a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, confirming the Jewish identification of the village. Near the mikveh, archaeologists found the remains of a seal engraved with the Aramaic inscription “vinegar,” suggesting that workers from a nearby wine industry purified themselves here.
The site was excavated by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn (now deceased), who report on their finds in “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, the world’s largest circulation Biblical archaeology magazine. The final report on the excavation will be published in the IAA Reports Series.