Jewish Inscription at Miletus Theater

Our last couple of posts have been on the biblical city of Miletus.  Remember it was here that Paul met with the Ephesian elders as he was finishing up the 3rd missionary journey and en route to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17ff.).

Any city of significance of biblical times had a theater.  Here is the theater of Miletus:

Miletus Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin

One interesting discovery in the theater is an inscription which indicated the seating section for the Jews.  It is in the 5th row from below, and in the second section from the west.  The inscription is four feet long, with letters measuring 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches in height.

Jewish Inscription. Miletus Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The inscription is written in Greek.  Transliterated it reads: “topos eioudeon ton kai theosebion.” Translation: “Place of the Jews, who are also called God-fearing” (Light from the Ancient East, by Adolf Deissmann, p. 451). In the book of Acts, “those who fear God”  are typically Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:26).  On this text in Acts, the NET Bibles notes,

“and those among you who fear God,” but this is practically a technical term for the category called God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a proselyte to Judaism. See further K. G. Kuhn, TDNT 6:732–34.

However the term as found in the inscription at Miletus does not seem to mean Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, but rather uses “God-fearing” to describe the Jews.  Adolf Deissmann writes,

As I read the actual inscription there at Miletus I wondered that it did not run “Place of the Jews and of those who are called God-fearing.” But there can be no doubt that “God-fearing” is here an appellation of the Jews (Ibid.452).

The inscription does not seem to imply segregation, but rather indicates “reserved seating.”  It further gives proof that there was a Jewish community there in Miletus in Roman times.

Topos Eioudewn twn kai Qheosebion

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: