June 9, 2014
James Strange, Associate Professor of Religion in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences, has returned to Israel this summer to pursue his sustained interest in archeology, accompanied by students from Samford. He’s been writing a series of “letters from Nazareth” in recent weeks. Here’s a snippet from his third (and most recent) letter, describing an emerging theory about the lamp molds that they are discovering in the site currently under examination:
We are working on a hypothesis. A scholar from Bar Ilan University has shown that in Jewish towns of the Galilee, most examples of a well-known type of oil lamp made in the first century come from Jerusalem. He suggested that festival pilgrims brought back these lamps as souvenirs, something like we do when we bring back nativity scenes from Bethlehem or hand painted Shabbat challah cloths from Jerusalem. It seems to me that the ancients thought about these lamps as metaphors for bringing back the light from the Temple. Motti thinks there is a good chance that after 70, refugees from Jerusalem came to Galilee, where they took up lamp making again and slowly began to change the way they made the lamps. We can detect those changes in the fragments from Shikhin. That may indicate that Shikhin was one of the places (the place?) where these lamps were made after 70. Something similar may have happened again after 135 CE, when the Romans expelled Jews from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. We’re working on an article that floats that hypothesis.
The world is better because of the patient, thoughtful, inspired work of James Strange.
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