Religions of Place



"On Religions of Place and Religions of Community: Sects vs. Churches, Temple vs. Synagogues"  

We propose to address the relationship between two pairs of contrasts which has each usually been studied within a separate context. First - the contrast between a religion that centers around a particular place and one that does has no center or many centers, which in terms of Judaism translates into the contrast between a religion centered around the Temple of Jerusalem and one which had as many centers - synagogues - as it had communities, wherever and however many they were. Second - the contrast between "church" and "sect", that is, between establishment religious communities or cultural groups and those that consider themselves to be in a state of opposition to their respective establishments and, indeed, define themselves to some large measure on the basis of that opposition.  

Each pair of contrasts has been studied separately and has its own ramifications, some more obvious than others. Thus, for example, Temple religion differed from synagogue religion with regard not only to the basic distinction between one institution built in a place God was thought to have consecrated and many built in places that communities chose to consecrate, but also with regard to types (sacrifice vs.  

prayer/reading of Bible/sermons) and style (opposite poles of the formal/informal scale) of ritual, as well as such broader issues as the identity of leadership (hereditary priesthood or rabbinate by choice and selection) and the status of the community.  

Similarly, sects contrast with churches not only about whatever issues of doctrine or practice initiated the split (or was taken to do so), but, frequently, across the board having not only their own versions of their religions rituals and beliefs but also their own separate ones, their own political agendas and - accordingly - their own cosmologies and eschatologies that make sense of that by which they differ.  

We propose to study the interrelationship of these two sets of contrasts. To what extent can the comparative perspecti"es of those engaged in the sociological study of the church/sect contrast enrich our understanding of the contrast in ancient Judaism between Temple religion and synagogue religion, and the eventual transition from the former to the latter? And to what extent can the historical work on the latter introduce nuances into the former? In particular, the study of the synagogue in comparison to the Temple may lead, given the fact that synagogues existed both before and after the Temple was destroyed, to a better understanding of the situation of sects when the establishment disappears; why is it that the plurality of sects that characterized the Second Temple period (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) disappears and the one that is left, Christianity, becomes a separate religion?  

It seems to us that our proposed group, that includes scholars whose work has focused on . modem sociology of religion and sectarianism (Aran and Amir) and on ancient Jewish group-definition (Tur-Paz);  

. on ancient sectarianism and especially upon ancient Jewish prayer (Chazon);  

. on issues of religion and state and the transition from Judaea to Judaism (Schwartz) and on accounts of the Temple cult written by Josephus, who underwent that process (Tuval);  

. and on the ways Jews and others (pagans and Christians) defined their communities and their communion with God in the centuries after the destruction of the Temple (Weiss and Vilozny) is well-equipped to begin serious study of the issues outlined above.  


Group Members:

Prof. Gideon Aran  

Prof. Esther Chazon  

Prof. Daniel R. Schwartz  

Prof. Zeev Weiss  

Dr. Nadav Sharon  

Dr. Ori Schwartz  

Dr. Michael Tuval  

Dr. Naama Vilozny  



December 2007 – Conference titled 'A Hall and it's Whole' in collaboration with the "Ascending and Descending" Scholion group.  

January 2009 - International conference concluding their work at Scholion titled:"Was 70 Really a Watershed? On Jews and Judaism Before and After the Destruction of the Second Temple'