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Jewish Inscriptions and Their Use

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Chapter Summary

Jewish inscriptions, defined as texts written or commissioned by Jews, comprise a tiny subset of the many hundreds of thousands of inscriptions surviving from Graeco-Roman antiquity in Greek, Latin and other languages. Inscriptions can confirm, often dramatically, information known from literary sources. This is the case when tombs of known historical figures are found. The Jewish dedications in Greek adopted formulae from the Hellenistic epigraphic culture. This common Greek formula, whether applied to Jewish benefactors or Gentile rulers, was adopted by the Jews when they inscribed dedications in Greek; it has no equivalent in Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions. The rabbis of the Mishna and Talmud knew of the practice of setting up inscriptions. A baraita teaches that the righteous do not need epitaphs since their good deeds are their memorial, implicitly acknowledging that most people do require or desire epitaphs.

Keywords: Aramaic inscriptions; Graeco-Roman antiquity; Hebrew inscriptions; Hellenistic epigraphic culture; Jewish inscriptions; Mishna; Talmud



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