Friday, September 09, 2016

A Jewish epitaph from third-century CE Egypt

EPIGRAPHY: BYU professor works with University of Utah library to translate 1700-year-old obituary. Ancient epitaph memorializes Helene, a woman with unique Jewish and Christian titles who loved orphans (Jon McBride, BYU News).
“I’ve looked at hundreds of ancient Jewish epitaphs,” [Professor Lincoln H.] Blumell said, “and there is nothing quite like this. This is a beautiful remembrance and tribute to this woman.”

While Helene is identified as Ἰουδαία (a Jew), she is also referred to as Ἄμα (Ama), a title that is used only for nuns and other certain Christian women in late antique Egypt.

This inscription also helps to identify the Jewish community in Egypt in the period after the deadly Jewish revolt of A.D. 115–117 when the Jewish community was decimated. It is estimated that this was written some time in the A.D. 200s.
Seen on Facebook. The provenance doesn't look very clear to me, so I would like to know more about the authentication of the object. But that doubtless is covered in the formal peer-review publication in the Journal for the Study of Judaism, which is not yet available to me. But this looks to be an important discovery that gives us some intriguing information about religious identity in Egypt after the Jewish revolt.