Printer Friendly

Jerusalem as the 'omphalos' of the world: on the history of geographical concept.

Jerusalem has evoked many images but none is perhaps more vivid and abiding than that of the Holy City as the center and navel of the earth. A series of mediaeval Christian maps, of which the Hereford mappa mundi is perhaps the best known ([ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED], p. 148), has given this idea graphic form by depicting the world as a circular landmass surrounded by Ocean, with Jerusalem at its middle, the circle of its walls echoing the line of the earth's rim and hinting at the city's perfection and spiritual supremacy. Often reproduced, the symbolism of these charming artifacts has passed into popular consciousness. But where and when did this concept originate, and what message or messages has it been used to convey?

The first clear reference to Jerusalem as the navel of the earth occurs in the Book of Jubilees, a retelling of the Book of Genesis composed in Hebrew in Palestine in Second Temple times. The importance of Jerusalem, its favored location, even its centrality within its region, are certainly mentioned in earlier Jewish texts, but it is only in the second century B.C.E. in Jubilees that we find for the first time a clear cartographic image of the world as a whole, with Jerusalem placed at its center and called "the navel" of the earth. The relevant passage comes from Jubilees' treatment of the division of the world among the Sons of Noah after the Flood: "And he (Noah) knew that the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies and the Lord's dwelling place, and Mount Sinai the center of the desert, and Mount Zion the center of the navel of the earth: these three were created as holy places facing each other."(1)

There are problems with this text, and unfortunately neither the Greek nor the Hebrew survives to help us solve them. The phrase "the center of the navel of the earth" seems a curious tautology and we might suspect that "navel" has been added secondarily, perhaps in the Greek or the Ethiopic. Why not simply "center of the earth," matching "center of the desert"? Zion's designation as the "navel" does, I would suggest, have a point and was probably in the original text. It serves to rank Sinai and Zion. Both are "holy," both are "centers," but whereas Sinai is only the center of the desert, Zion is the center of the world and its omphalos. The resonant epithet omphalos establishes Zion's higher status.(2)

The geographical centrality of Jerusalem is presented by the author of Jubilees in a very concrete way. His treatment of the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10 projects a remarkably vivid imago mundi, one so coherent and cartographic that it probably once existed as a drawn map ([ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED], p. 150). The world is visualized as a more or less circular land mass surrounded by the waters of ocean, its disc bisected east-west by a median running through the Garden of Eden and the Straits of Gibraltar, and north-south by a median running through Mount Zion and Mount Sinai. The medians intersect at Zion, which stands, consequently, at the center of the earth.(3)

What exactly does the author of Jubilees mean by asserting that Zion is the "navel" of the earth? We must be careful not to read too much into his use of the word. The concept of the center of the earth plays an important role in many religious world views and is associated with an impressive, and remarkably constant, set of mythological ideas. But it would be wrong to assume that every time the phrase "the navel of the earth" occurs, it invokes automatically this whole nexus of ideas. There may be distant echoes of mythology in Jubilees (note, for example, that the "navel" is a mountain), but fundamentally Jubilees is not expressing mythology. Indeed its sober geography is remarkable for its absence of mythology and stands in striking contrast to the fantastic geography of its contemporary, the First Book of Enoch. The Jubilees' reference to Zion as "the navel of the earth" must be set in the context of the message of the Jubilees world map as a whole, and in that setting it can be seen first and foremost as a political statement. It is part of the anti-Greek political rhetoric of the Jubilees mappa mundi.

I would suggest that when the author of Jubilees refers to Zion as the navel of the earth, he does not have earlier Jewish or Semitic ideas primarily in mind, but rather contemporary Greek claims that Delphi is the omphalos of the world. There were a number of omphaloi in Greece, but Delphi was the omphalos par excellence. Its status as such was enshrined in national folklore and literature, and the omphalos stone at Delphi was a major tourist attraction featured on coins. Delphi was a pan-Hellenic shrine, and doubtless its claim that it was the navel of the earth was intended to support its national status. Its role within Greek religion can be compared to the role of the Jerusalem sanctuary within Judaism. There is every possibility, then, that the author of Jubilees could have known this Greek tradition.

Early Ionian geographers took up this popular Greek mythology and gave it cartographic form. Though the details of the early Ionian maps are obscure, it is probable that they represented the oikoumene as a circular disc, that Delphi was the mid-point, and that the landmass of the world was divided into three continents - Europe, Asia, and Libya (= Africa). This image of the world apparently persisted, largely resistant to advances in geographical knowledge, as the world map of educated Greeks well into the current era. The author of Jubilees took this standard Ionian map and recast it onto a biblical frame. He correlated the three sons of Noah with the three Ionian continents - Japhet = Europe, Shem = Asia and Ham = Libya - using the rivers Nile and Don (as did certain Ionian cartographers) to demarcate their respective territories. And he relocated the omphalos of the world from Delphi to Jerusalem.(4)

A consideration of the general program of the Jubilees map confirms the impression that its assertion of the centrality of Jerusalem is essentially polemical and political. We must recall the historical setting of the book. Jubilees dates to the mid-second century B.C.E. Its appearance coincided with the Hasmonean revolution, which caused a profound intensification of religious life in Palestinian Judaism. The Hasmoneans redefined the concept of Jewish territoriality, the relationship of Israel to the Diaspora, and possibly even the concept of what it meant to be a Jew. They re-drew the political map of the Middle East in two ways. First, they established the independence of the Jewish territory from Greek hegemony. Second, they expanded Jewish hegemony over neighboring non-Jewish territory and created a greater Israel. Jubilees attempts to give de jure justification for both these de facto developments. Note, first, its treatment of the Greeks on its world map. Javan (Greece) is a son of Japhet, and so his patrimony, according to the Jubilees schema, belongs to Europe, which ends at the Bosphorus. The Greeks, therefore, have no right of residence in Asia, and in usurping land there they are breaking the solemn agreement entered into by the sons of Noah after the Flood. Positing Jerusalem as the omphalos of the world is of a piece with this: it is a political gesture of great symbolic significance.(5)

Jubilees also seems to have tried to underpin the legitimacy of the territorial expansion of the Hasmonean state. In this context its treatment of Canaan is noteworthy. As a son of Ham, Canaan had to be assigned on the Jubilees schema a patrimony in Africa (the area round Carthage was cleverly chosen for him).(6) However, in migrating from Ararat after the Flood Canaan saw the so-called "Land of Canaan," liked it and seized it, thus violating the covenant between the sons of Noah. The "Land of Canaan" was, in fact, allotted to Arpachshad, the ancestor of Abraham. We have here a polemical reversal of the "Canaanite" "Joshua the brigand" traditions, which claimed that it was the Jews who had usurped the Land.(7)

The author of Jubilees used the Medes as a foil to the Canaanites. The Medes, as sons of Japhet, were assigned territory in Europe - the British Isles, in fact - but having migrated to their patrimony they did not like it (the weather may have been a problem), and so they returned to the Middle East and settled in the allotment of Shem. There was, however, a difference. The Medes occupied their new territory amicably, by negotiation and agreement. This story about the Medes is otherwise unknown. The author of Jubilees probably made it up as a telling contrast to the violence of the Canaanites. Maps, even modern scientifically surveyed maps, are ideological constructs. What features are selected for representation, how they are named, the choice of meridians, the projections used, and the resultant distortions of size and relationship are not value free, but often involve political statements. The Jubilees map is no exception. It was, arguably, propaganda for the Hasmoneans and embodied their political aspirations in much the same way as Marcus Agrippa's "map" erected in the Forum at Rome embodied Augustus's vision of the Roman world order.(8)

I would like now to consider the question of whether Jerusalem or any other locality is referred to in the Bible as "the navel" of the earth. The expression tabbur ha-'aretz, applied to Mount Gerizim in Judges 9:37 and to Jerusalem in Ezekiel 38:12, has certainly been given this sense, ever since the Septuagint rendered tabbur as omphalos. But it is very doubtful whether this translation is historically correct. The contexts of both references are vague, and it is hard to see why such strong, metaphorical language would have been used. It is more likely, as Shemaryahu Talmon has suggested, that tabbur has a neutral, geographical sense, perhaps something like "plateau," or "rounded hill? Moreover, mythological motifs normally associated with the navel of the earth - for example, that some physical feature (a rock or a mountain) marks the spot from which the earth grew - are also not prominent in the Bible. These ideas are found in Babylonia and Egypt, but they are not obvious in ancient Hebrew literature.

I know of only two sources that may plausibly be seen as anticipating Jubilees. The first is 1 Enoch 26:1, where, in his cosmographical account of his world tour, Enoch says: "I was transported to the middle of the earth, and I saw a blessed place, in which were trees and saplings surviving and burgeoning from a felled tree." The "blessed place" here, as in 27:1, is the land of Israel, and the place at the center of the earth is Jerusalem, an unmistakable topography of which follows, though in keeping with the fictional setting of the narrative the name Jerusalem itself is not used. This passage in 1 Enoch belongs to the Book of the Watchers, which was probably redacted in the second half of the third century B.C.E. - that is, earlier than Jubilees. Given that the author of Jubilees unquestionably knew the Enochic literature, we may well conclude that he knew this passage of 1 Enoch. We are certainly getting close to Jubilees' position, but we are still not quite there. It is one thing to say that Jerusalem is the middle of the world and another to say that it is the navel of the earth, and to realize this assertion in clear cartographic form. The latter implies the former, but not vice versa.

The other possibly antecedent source is the Septuagint, which, as we have already noted, rendered tabbur in Judges and in Ezekiel by the Greek omphalos. In the latter text there is a link with Jerusalem. However, we cannot be sure whether the Greek translations of these two books pre-date or post-date Jubilees. The rendering of tabbur as omphalos is striking and full of potential. It is probable that the Septuagint here, as often elsewhere, is reflecting Palestinian Jewish exegetical tradition. The word tabbur, it should be recalled, occurs only twice in the Hebrew Bible and its sense is very uncertain. This uncertainty may have been exploited already in the late Second Temple period, and Ezekiel 38:12 used as a convenient Biblical "peg" on which to hang the doctrine of Jerusalem as the navel of the earth. The Septuagint reflects this Palestinian tradition. In other words the equation tabbur = omphalos in Ezekiel 38:12 is not a distinctive Alexandrian invention, but represents Palestinian exegesis - the same Palestinian exegesis as is implied by the Book of Jubilees.

To sum up: I would suggest that the doctrine of Jerusalem as the navel of the earth can be traced back no earlier than the Hasmonean revolution of the second century B.C.E. It is first clearly attested in the Book of Jubilees, whose author used it for polemical purposes to support aspects of the political propaganda of the Hasmonean State.

Once launched the idea had a long and vigorous life. I shall conclude by offering some notes on its later career in both Christianity and Judaism. First, the Christian tradition. Though explicit statements occur from time to time in Christian writers asserting the geographical centrality of Jerusalem and calling it the omphalos of the earth, it is Christian cartography that expresses this idea most powerfully. This brings us back to the Hereford mappa mundi. Even at a glance the similarity of the Hereford map to the reconstructed Jubilees map is striking. Is this accidental? I would argue not: a convincing line of transmission can, in fact, be constructed linking the Hereford map direct to Jubilees.

We know that the author or creator of the Hereford map was one Richard of Holdingham and that it was drawn, probably at Lincoln, in the late thirteenth century, though it was taken almost immediately to Hereford, where it has remained to the present day.(10) It belongs to a collection of maps that show a strong family likeness. These include both the large, detailed images like the Hereford mappa mundi, and the little T-O and T-Y maps, which are probably stylized pictograms or logos created by scribes who were daunted by the challenge of copying the complex, full-scale map. P. D. A. Harvey argues that this whole group of mappae mundi belongs to "a single, much ramified tradition which must go back to the Roman period," at least to the fifth century.(11) He suggests that the original was a Roman map "measured" and "reasonably accurate," "showing coastal outlines, mountains, rivers, towns and boundaries of provinces," which has become more and more garbled with successive copying. He raises the question of the possible relationship between this original Roman map and the Marcus Agrippa map, set up in Rome on the orders of Augustus and based on a survey of the empire initiated, according to tradition, by Julius Caesar. He notes that Dilke is in favor of such a link, whereas Brodersen is not, because he believes that the Agrippan map was not in fact an image but a written text.(12)

Parts of Harvey's tradition-history are plausible, but parts are not. That the ancestor of the Hereford family of maps goes back at least to the fifth century is a conclusion demanded by the basic stemmatics of the manuscripts. But that the ancestor-map was some sort of official Roman world map, based on information derived from the efficient Roman methods of surveying, seems to me to be totally off-target. In fact I would suggest that Harvey and other historians of cartography are guilty of naively misreading the Hereford map. The Hereford map, and the others like it, were never meant to be "real" geography. Their significance was symbolic and theological right from the start. The Hereford map was so seriously out of joint with the geographical knowledge of its day that it cannot have been intended to be taken literally. Educated people, as Harvey correctly observes, already accepted by the thirteenth century that the world was not a flat disc but a globe, and many would have subscribed to the theory that in the southern hemisphere lay a continent matching our own, the terra incognita or australis, cut off from northern lands by the burning and impassable tropics.(13) This terra australis has actually been added to the Beatus mappa mundi, thus destroying its symmetry. There is surprisingly little contemporary information in the Hereford map. Its image was already antiquated when it was produced. It is a survival from an earlier age, cherished more for theological than for strictly geographical reasons. It was not meant to function like a modern school atlas to inform people about the "real" world, but as a stylized visual aid to assist pious meditation and reflection.

The Hereford map belongs primarily to a tradition of Christian symbolic and mythical geography for which the real world was of little moment. Jerusalem was central to this geography, but this "Jerusalem" was not strongly identified with the physical city in the land of Palestine. In certain Christian sources the physical Jerusalem does indeed stand at the center of the physical world.(14) A widespread Byzantine tradition puts the omphalos in Jerusalem, though significantly, in contrast to Jewish tradition, it locates it precisely in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and not on the Temple Mount. Christian and Jewish geography thus drew quite different maps of the same small geographical space. However, for most Christian writers Jerusalem was a spiritual entity which the Christian could experience anywhere. Other great cities, Rome, Constantinople, Aachen, could become "Jerusalem." "Jerusalem" could even be created in one's local church by the erection of stations of the cross and of "calvaries." Ambivalence towards the Land of Israel goes back to earliest Christianity. The spiritualization of "Jerusalem" is found already in the New Testament: Paul in Galatians 4:25-26 regards the metropolis of the Church as being, not the "present Jerusalem" which is "in slavery with her children," but the "Jerusalem above" which is free. Against this background to find fault with the cartography of the Hereford map is rather misplaced, and involves a misjudgment of its purpose and the nature of its geography.

The ancestor of the Hereford map was probably similar in outline to the Hereford map itself. The roots of this image lie not in Roman "scientific" cartography, but in a symbolic Christian world-map originating in the east. This early Christian map was in turn more or less identical to the Jubilees map and may well have been descended from it. It should be borne in mind that Jubilees circulated in a Greek version in the Greek east and is quoted by a number of Byzantine scholars.(15) I would suggest, then, that a plausible case can be made for the descent of the Hereford map from the Jubilees map. Jubilees represents the fons et origo of an imago mundi which prevailed in Christian Europe almost down to the time of Columbus.

Finally some remarks on later Jewish tradition. Jewish-Greek literature yields a few interesting references to the centrality of Jerusalem. Philo in his Legatio ad Gaium ([section]294), claims that Jerusalem is "situated in the center of the world." Josephus in the Bellum (3:51-52) defines Judea as stretching from the River Jordan to Jaffa and writes, "the city of Jerusalem lies at its very center, and for this reason it has sometimes, not inaptly, been called the 'navel' of the country." A similar tradition is echoed earlier in the Letter of Aristeas (83), where it says that Jerusalem is "situated in the center of the land of Judah on a high and exalted mountain (cf. Isaiah 2:2)."

But the most significant developments of the idea are to be found in Rabbinic texts. The locus classicus is in the Tanhuma to Leviticus (Qedoshim 10, ed. Buber IV, p.78):

As the navel is in the middle of the person, so is Eretz Israel the navel of the world, as it is written, "That dwell in the navel of the earth" (Ezekiel 38:12). Eretz Israel is located in the center of the world, Jerusalem in the center of Eretz Israel, the Temple in the center of Jerusalem, the heikhal in the center of the Temple, the ark in the center of the heikhal and in front of the heikhal is the 'even shetiyyah from which the world was founded.

What is striking about the Rabbinic traditions is how they testify to the re-mythologization of the concept of the navel of the earth. I argued that in the Book of Jubilees there is no sign of mythology: the navel of the earth is a geopolitical concept used to locate Jerusalem on the terrestrial plane and to assert its political importance. In the Rabbinic sources, however, the original mythological associations of the idea come flooding back. The mythology is clear in the passage from the Buber Tanhuma quoted above. Jerusalem has cosmogonic significance. It is the first created place from which the rest of the world grew outward concentrically. The "navel" is linked with the 'even shetiyyah, a stone or rock supposedly located within the Temple that marked the exact spot from which the world developed like a fetus from the umbilical cord.(16) Related to this may be the tradition that Adam was created from earth taken from the Temple Mount. The original thought was probably that it was appropriate that humanity should arise from the same spot from which the physical world grew:Jerusalem was not only the tabbur of the world, but the tabbur of humanity as well. In Rabbinic tradition, however, the aggadah is given a rather different twist: it was appropriate that Adam should be formed from the place where later atonement should be made for his sins.(17)

In Rabbinic literature the concept of the navel of the earth belongs to a constellation of mythological motifs that define Jerusalem as an axis mundi. In Jubilees Jerusalem is the focal point only of the horizontal, terrestrial plane. In Rabbinic texts, however, it has vertical as well as horizontal centrality: it is the focal point of different, superimposed planes. The Temple in Jerusalem and Jerusalem itself stand over against the heavenly Temple and the heavenly Jerusalem: Jerusalem the terrestrial mid-point corresponds to Jerusalem the celestial mid-point.(18) Jerusalem also corresponds, in a downwards direction, to Gehenna, the center of the underworld, an entrance to which is located near the Holy City. And the 'even shetiyyah, on which the Ineffable Name is inscribed, serves as a capstone to seal the waters of the abyss and prevent them welling up and overwhelming the world.(19) Jerusalem is the point where heaven, earth, and the underworld meet - a veritable axis mundi.

Here too it seems possible to introduce a diachronic perspective. In Tannaitic sources, as in the Bible, there are general statements about the centrality of Jerusalem. The map of the concentric circles of holiness surrounding the Temple in Mishnah Kelim 1:6-9 is a pertinent example. But this idea undoubtedly gains precision and force in the Amoraic period, when it is linked to renewed speculation about the navel of the earth. And although they are occasionally quoted in Babylonian sources, these traditions all appear to be Palestinian in origin. Mishnah Yoma's relation to later texts illustrates this development. There (5:2) it is stated that the 'even shetiyyah has been in the Temple "from the days of the first prophets." Even allowing that the time reference of "from the days of the first prophets" is vague and probably means simply "from time immemorial,"(20) the language is odd if the 'even shetiyyah is being thought of as the navel of the earth, since, by definition, the 'even shetiyyah is the oldest thing on earth and has always been there. However, in the corresponding passage of the Tosefta (Yore ha-Kippurim 3:6) the cosmogonic function of the 'even shetiyyah is clearly introduced and this sets the tone for the comments in the Yerushalmi and the Bavli and for later midrashic texts in general. These later ideas were attached to the 'even shetiyyah by the common midrashic device of etymology. The mysterious word shetiyyah is derived either from the root [Greek Text Omitted] "to found" (hence "stone of foundation," i.e., foundation stone of the world), or from the root [Greek Text Omitted] "to weave" (hence "stone of weaving," involving comparison of the act of creation with the weaving of cloth). Thus the 'even shetiyyah provided a convenient peg on which Palestinian Amoraic authorities were able to hang certain speculations about the cosmic and theological centrality of Jerusalem.

Why might these ideas have been stressed in Eretz Israel in Amoraic times? Again we may suspect a political purpose. Rome also regarded itself as the center of the world, the hub of a network of roads leading outwards to the edges of its empire. This was symbolized by the miliarium aureum in the Forum, the "golden milestone," which, "in letters of gilt, indicated the mileage from Rome along the trunk roads to key points in the empire."(21) The Amoraic Sages seem increasingly to have regarded Rome and Jerusalem as rivals, particularly after the Empire became officially Christian and went over to "heresy." Jacob Neusner has suggested that this rivalry is a major motif of Genesis Rabba.(22) The Rabbinic story, which circulated in Amoraic times, that Rome was founded when an angel stuck a reed into the sea and a mud-bank grew round it on which the city was built,(23) reads like a parody of the story of the creation of the word from the 'even shetiyyah in Jerusalem. The new emphasis on Jerusalem as the navel of the earth may be part of this anti-Roman rhetoric. Alternatively it may have been intended for an internal, Jewish audience. Isaiah Gafni has argued that the new stress on the importance and centrality of the Land of Israel which he finds in Palestinian Amoraic sources reflects an emerging political struggle between the Rabbinic schools of Eretz Israel and of Babylonia.(24) The religious authorities in Palestine, alarmed by the growing reputation of the Babylonian academies, began to highlight ideas that asserted or implied the primacy of Eretz Israel. Perhaps the tibbur ha-'olam and the 'even shetiyyah, traditions were employed as part of this propaganda. If either of these suggestions is correct - and they are not mutually exclusive - then once again, for all its mythological color, the assertion that Jerusalem is the navel of the earth is intended, as in Jubilees, primarily to serve political ends.


1. Trans. R. H. Charles, revised Ch. Rabin in H. D. F. Sparks (ed.), The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p. 38.

2. It is also possible that the omphalos here is the city of Jerusalem, which could not, in keeping with the fictional standpoint of the narrative, be named, and that Zion is the center of Jerusalem. The author of Jubilees may also have intended a contrast between "the desert" = the uninhabited world and "the earth" = the inhabited earth, the oikoumene. The implication that the place of the giving of the Law was in the center of unoccupied territory to which no people had laid claim could have aggadic overtones. Neither of these readings of the text would materially affect my argument.

3. This I take to be the meaning of the statement, "these three were created as holy places facing each other."

4. See my essay "Notes on the 'Imago Mundi' of the Book of Jubilees," Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982): 197-213, and my article on "Early Jewish Geography" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary II, pp. 980-82.

5. It would also have served as a useful reminder to the Jewish Diaspora of the centrality of Jerusalem. Propaganda is usually aimed as much at "insiders" as "outsiders."

6. The choice is clever because it exploits the fact that Carthage was a Punic (i.e., Canaanite) settlement. This lends an aura of historical credibility to the claim. The implication may be that at least some Canaanites did finally reach their patrimony, perhaps having been sent on their way by Joshua and the Israelites.

7. Procopius, De bello vandalico X: 13-22.

8. The suggestion that Jubilees intends to support the Hasmoneans may be greeted with some skepticism. Jubilees is normally regarded as anti-Hasmonean. It was certainly popular with the Dead Sea Sect, who were bitter opponents of the Hasmoneans. Moreover, Jubilees advocated a solar calendar and not the luni-solar calendar which prevailed in the Hasmonean-controlled Jerusalem Temple. However, it is not implausible to suggest that Jubilees and the Dead Sea Sect may have supported the concept of a greater Israel, while denying the Hasmonean claim to the high priesthood and the legitimacy of the Temple cult. Significantly the doctrine of a greater Israel is found not only in Jubilees but in the Genesis Apocryphon as well (lQGenAp. XXI).

9. See his excellent article on "har" in G.J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 437-438.

10. See P. D. A. Harvey, Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map (London: British Library, 1996). The map, which is on a single piece of parchment, is 5 feet 2 inches high and 4 feet 4 inches wide (1.58 x 1.33 meters).

11. Harvey, Mappa Mundi, p. 22.

12. Harvey, Mappa Mundi, pp. 24-26. Curiously Julius Caesar's survey of the empire is alluded to in the bottom left corner of the Hereford map, but this, in my view, cannot be used to link the Hereford map to the Agrippan map. It is simply a learned piece of doctrina on the part of Richard of Holdingham or some other medieval scholar.

13. See J. K. Wright, The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades (New York: Dover, 1965), pp. 53-57.

14. Wright, Geographical Lore, pp. 259-261.

15. R. H. Charles, The Book of Jubilees (London: A. & C. Black, 1902), pp. xxvi-xxvii, gives a partial list of quotations.

16. See the parallels in Tosefta Yom ha-Kippurim 3:6 (ed. Zuckermandel p. 186); Yerushalmi Yoma 5:3; Bavli Yoma 54b. Further, Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, vol. V (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), pp. 14-16 (the fundamental discussion of these traditions), and vol. V, p. 292; Zev Vilnay, Legends of Jerusalem (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1987), pp. 5-36.

17. Genesis Rabba 14:8; Yerushalmi Nazir 7:2; Pirqei deRabbi Eli ezer 12.

18. See Ginzberg, Legends, vol. V, p. 292, and Vilnay, Legends of Jerusalem, pp. 128-132, for references.

19. On the entrance to Gehenna, the center of the underworld, see Ginzberg, Legends, vol. V, p. 14, and Vilnay, Legends of Jerusalem, pp. 269-270. On the 'even shetiyyah as the capstone, see Ginzberg, Legends, vol. V, pp. 15-16, and Vilnay, Legends of Jerusalem, pp. 78-80. Echoes of this latter tradition are found in Muslim sources: see Vilnay, Legends of Jerusalem, p. 19.

20. "The first prophets" are identified in Bavli Sotah 48b as Samuel and David, but this is probably a later attempt to give the vague expression some precision. See further Ginzberg, Legends, vol. VI, p. 69.

21. Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (London: Book Club Associates, 1979), p. 173.

22 Jacob Neusner, Genesis and Judaism (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985).

23. Sifrei Deuteronomy 52; Yerushlami Avodah Zarah 1:2; Bavli Shabbat 56b. Ginzberg, Legends, vol. IV, p. 128, and vol. VI, p. 280. The story has a moral purpose: Rome was founded to punish Israel for her sins.

24. He argued this in the Third Jacobs Lectures in Rabbinic Thought, delivered at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in the Spring of 1994. I am unaware that Professor Gafni has formally published these important lectures, which were entitled, "'To give you the Land of Canaan, to be your God' (Leviticus 25:38): Rabbinic Reflections on Land, Centre and Diaspora."

PHILIP S. ALEXANDER is Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature and Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, England. He was formerly President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Jewish Congress
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Alexander, Philip S.
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Mar 22, 1997
Previous Article:Hasmonian Jesuralem: a Jewish city in a hellenistic orbit.
Next Article:Jerusalem in Jewish liturgy.

Related Articles
The sacred city.
Milton, Spenser and the Epic Tradition.
A meaning made of trees.
PLANT OF THE WEEK: STARRY EYES; Lucky find is a real star plant.
The body and geography.
Poet toying with the idea of writing series of novels.
Lose yourself in this Libyrinth of literature.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters