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Stepped Pools, Stone Vessels, and other Identity Markers of “Complex Common Judaism”

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The interpretation of archaeological finds in light of Talmudic evidence has often resulted in simplistic, “one-to-one” correlations that distort our understanding of “Judaism” in Graeco-Roman Palestine. This is especially true of “stepped pools” and stone vessels which, when seen as markers of Jewish ethnicity, need to be understood with the biblical tradition in mind. Biblical notions of purity and holiness further enable us to appreciate the persistence of ritual purity practices after 70 C.E. The subsequent efforts of the rabbis to regulate such practices, especially those pertaining to sexuality and the household, reflect the tenacity of biblical perceptions of purity and holiness especially among commoners, who had their own understanding of their significance. Once it is realized that the boundaries between Jews were not strictly drawn, material finds can be better assessed, and rabbinic Judaism can be properly understood as having evolved out of a biblically derived, “complex common Judaism.”

Affiliations: 1: Department of Modern and Classical Languages, University of Connecticut 337 Mansfield Road, Unit 1057, Storrs, CT 06269, USA, Email:


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