A Jewish Or Gentile Prayer House? The Meaning Of ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΗ -- By: Irina A. Levinskaya

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:1 (NA 1990)
Article: A Jewish Or Gentile Prayer House? The Meaning Of ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΗ
Author: Irina A. Levinskaya

A Jewish Or Gentile Prayer House? The Meaning Of ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΗ

Irina Levinskaya

There is no doubt that the Greek word προσευχή has the meaning ‘Jewish prayer house’. The real question is whether it can also refer to a Gentile sanctuary either as a result of Jewish in or independently. The answer to this question is fundamental for deciding what the links were between the worshippers of the Most High God (θεὸς ὕψιστος) in the Bosporan kingdom and Judaism. If the word προσευχή was used by Gentiles to designate their sanctuaries we must assume that in the Bosporan kingdom adherents of the Most High God could have been worshipping a pagan deity, having borrowed from the Jews some features of their religious language. But if the word προσευχή was attached exclusively to the Jewish synagogues it means that adherents of the Most High God in the Bosporan kingdom must have been closely connected with the synagogue, i.e. they were the God-fearers. This could explain the rapid spread of Christianity in the region from the first known Christian epitaph of AD 304 to the participation of the Bosporan Bishop in the First Ecumenical Council twenty- one years later.

In three documents of manumission from Panticapaeum it is stated that the slaves received their freedom in the synagogue (ἐπὶ τῆς προσευχῆς) under the guardianship of the Jewish community (συνεπιτροπευούσης δὲ καὶ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῶν Ἰουδαίων)1 and another inscription from Panticapaeum informs us that in 306 AD the imperial governor of Theodosia (ὁ ἐπί τῆς θεοδοσίας) Aurelius Valerius Sogus built a προσευχή to the Most High God,2 to whom more private dedications in the Bosporan kingdom than to any other god (in Tanais, for instance all private dedications) were made in the I-III centuries. Is it possible to assert with confidence that προσευχή always has the meaning ‘Jewish prayer house’ or ‘prayer house

of a judaizing sect’ like the Messalians,3 so that Sogus was in some sense an adherent of Judaism? It seems that the available evidence leads us to answer this question positively. The word προσευχή was never used by classical authors even in its first ...

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