Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Jerusalem Temple and μεσότοιχον

Warning signs informed gentiles to proceed no further. Josephus comments,

"Proceeding across this [the open court] towards the second court of the temple, one found it surrounded by a stone balustrade, three cubits high and of exquisite workmanship; in this at regular intervals stood slabs giving warning, some in Greek, others in Latin characters, of the law of purification, to wit that no foreigner was permitted to enter the holy place, for so the second enclosure of the temple was called."
Jewish War 5, v, 2 (cf. Jewish War 6, ii, 4; Jewish Antiq. 15. xi, 5; Philo Leg. 212)
Two inscriptions bearing this warning have been found, the fullest of which is OGI II 598 (not yet online at PHI: photo and translation). The more fragmentary inscription is restored on the basis of the more complete text.
A full discussion may be found in Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A multi-lingual corpus of the inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad I, 1 (edd. H.M. Cotton, et al.), no. 2 (pp. 42-45).

We may assume that it was not thought necessary to have Hebrew or Aramaic warning signs. Today's equivalent sign is in Hebrew, then English, then French (but not in Arabic).

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