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Aramaic Tombstones from Zoar and Jewish Conceptions of the Afterlife

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image of Journal for the Study of Judaism

This study utilizes thirty epitaphs, found near the Dead Sea shore, to explore afterlife concepts within the Jewish community of Zoar. The interpretation of these late antiquity epitaphs reveals a comprehensive view regarding the afterlife. This view contains an expectation for the resurrection of the dead that will occur when the “announcer of peace,” i.e., the anointed king, arrives. At that time, the Temple will be rebuilt and priests will return to their work. In the meantime, it was hoped that the deceased would have a peaceful rest. The tombstones articulate these expectations also through the use of the word “shalom” which conveys two meanings: (1) it is the symbol of the deliverance, and (2) it is also the symbol of the condition of the dead while waiting for the resurrection.

Affiliations: 1: Duke University, Department of Religion, 118 Gray Building, Box 90964, Durham, NC 27708, USA;, Email:


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