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Religions 2019, 10(11), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110591
This is what happened in significant places such as Jerusalem, which maintained its sacred status among Christians and Muslims, as well as in less significant places such as the point where the Israelites crossed the Jordan (for other examples see Klein 1933). This is also what occurred in Shiloh. The special significance of the site in the Biblical period as the location of the Tabernacle perpetuated the site’s sacred status in later generations as well, when it no longer housed the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle moved on to another location.It is a well-known phenomenon, that places of pilgrimage maintain their sacred status even after shifts in the owners’ faith. In Jerusalem, pagan holy sites became Jewish holy sites, which subsequently became sites holy to Christianity and Islam. Unlike other places, where as a result of the changing religious hegemony a sacred tradition was replaced by a new tradition, Christianity did not dismiss the previous traditions, rather it preserved them while adding its own interpretation.
2. Shiloh in the Roman Period—‘The Scent of the Incense from between Its Walls’
The Onomasticon was compiled in the eighth decade of the 3rd century AD and belongs in fact to the late Roman period (Eusebius 2005, preface, p. XV).7 The main innovation contained in the information provided by Eusebius appears to pertain to the location of Shiloh relative to the city of Shechem.8 Furthermore, this testimony continues the biblical tradition whereby Shiloh was the place where the ark was stationed, a statement that accompanied the site’s Christian characterization. Eusebius’ testimony also contributed to the future identification of the site at Khirbet Seilun.In tribe of Ephraim. The ark remained here previously until the time of Samuel (1 Sam 4:3). It is twelve miles from Neapolis in Akrabattine. One of the sons of the Judah the Patriarch was also called Shelah (we read).(Onomasticon 156: 28. The translation from Eusebius 2005, p. 147)
3. Shiloh in the Byzantine Period—The Ruined Altar
3.1. The Historical Sources
Hence, Jerome mentioned the ruined altar, but did not mention a church. Where Eusebius reported that Shiloh is the place where the ark was stationed according to the Bible, Jerome added the element of the altar, and his testimony that the altar was ruined is particularly important. Jerome seems to have hinted at Jeremiah’s prophecy, on which we will expand below: ‘But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel’ (Jer. 7 12), i.e., the ruined altar is proof of the bad deeds of the Israelites and indicates the triumph of Christianity over Judaism.What shall I say of Shiloh. Its ruined altar can still be seen, and it is the place where the tribe of Benjamin foreshadowed Romulus and the rape of the Sabine women13.
In other words, Jerome saw Shiloh as a mark of Christianity’s triumph over Judaism. This description also shows that in the time of Jerome churches had already been built in these places.…accompanied by Christ, we shall have made our way back through Shiloh and Bethel, and those other places where churches are set up like standards to commemorate the Lord’s victories.
This is also the place to note that Jerome mentioned the ‘ruined temple’ in his writings no less than 18 times as proof of the victory of Christianity over the Jews (Newman 1997, pp. 226–29), and the case of Shiloh appears to join these. This claim is evident from Jerome’s interpretation of Jeremiah 7:12, where he wrote:… There is no point in discussing that which is obvious, namely, that what was most precious has now become a ruin, and the temple that was famous all over the world has become the garbage dump of the new city… and the temple has become an owl’s nest
The destruction of Jerusalem clearly symbolizes the ‘triumph of God’, i.e., of Christianity, over Judaism, and this is thought to be the reason that the Temple Mount was left in ruins in the Byzantine period (Limor 2014, p. 31). If so, this was true of Shiloh too, and the destruction of the Tabernacle was a prototype of the destruction of the Temple, from which the Israelites could have learned a lesson, but did not do so.He draws from the past in order to teach in the present. To those who say “this is the temple of the lord, the temple of the lord, the temple of the lord” and who delight in the splendor of this costly edifice, he recounts the historia of Shiloh where the tabernacle of god first resided. It is also written about it in the psalm: “he forsook his dwelling at Shiloh”. Just as that place was reduced to ruin and ashes so also the temple will come to ruin, since it is the adobe of similar sins. Therefore, just as Shiloh was an example of the temple, so also the temple should be an example to us, when we come to the time of this testimony: “when the son of man comes will he find faith on the earth”
3.2. The Archeological Finds
The map of the holy places for Christianity is comprised of places associated with the biblical past, now perceived as a Christian past, and places associated with the fundamental Christian story but mentioned in the Old Testament, which had now been baptized without eliminating their historical content. Places mentioned in the New Testament are added. In the period under discussion, pilgrims visited places associated with the biblical past and those associated with the Christian past with the same devotion.
Conflicts of Interest
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A short excavation season also took place in 1964 towards publication of the report.
On Shiloh in the Biblical period, as the location of the Tabernacle and a center for the convergence of the Israelite tribes, see (Ahituv 1976).
Shiloh is also mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud in the context of the permit to utilize High places (‘bamot’) for religious purposes (b. Zeb. 119a). With regard to the quote: ‘If one had a protracted issue of matter from his body, lasting as long as three normal issues, which is equivalent to the time of walking from Gadyawan to Shiloh…’ (b. Sanh. 63b), it appears that the word ‘Shiloh’ should be corrected to ‘Shiloah’, as in the Mishna (m. Zab. 1:5), and see (Friedheim 2003, p. 64, note 5).
According to the Ba’alei Hatosafot, this may refer to R. Akiva’s son (b. Ber. 58a, s.v. ‘except for the bald one’).
This was already proposed by the PEF researchers (Conder and Kitchner 1882, p. 299).
Pliny the Elder indeed mentions Aqrabta as one of the ten toparchies in his Naturalis Historiae (Pliny NH 5, 70), as does Josephus (War III.54–55).
Joan Taylor thought that the treatise was in fact written in the first quarter of the fourth century. See (Eusebius 2003, preface, pp. 3–4).
Leah Di Segni noted that although Eusebius mentioned the distance from Shechem, according to analysis of the inscriptions in church mosaics, the Aqraba district, including Shiloh, should be associated with the Samaria diocese (Sebastia). See (Di Segni 2012a, p. 212).
The magnificent sarcophagus found in nearby Turmus ʿAyya should also be mentioned in this context, see (Klein 2011, pp. 112–13).
On the characteristics of worship in Palestine in the Late Roman period, see (Klein 2011, pp. 281–304).
The aerial distance from Shiloh to Shechem is 18.6 km.
This letter is Jerome’s eulogy for his disciple Paula, in the form of a letter of condolence to her daughter, Eustochium, on her mother’s death, following the Roman literary tradition. Jerome’s letter tells, among other things, of his joint venture with Paula to the Holy Land before they settled in Bethlehem, and in this context of their visit to Shiloh in 386 AD. On the date of the letter see (Limor 1998a, pp. 133–38).
According to the legend on the founding of Rome, the daughters of the Sabines were kidnapped by Romulus, founder of the city, and his warriors. See (Limor 1998a, p. 150, note 11).
It is important to note that Shiloh is the only place, besides Jerusalem, that is called ‘the Temple of the Lord’ (היכל השם), as written in Sam. 1, 1:9.
Mentions of Eli’s grave as located in Shiloh appear in the Middle Ages as well and we intend to discuss the meaning of this elsewhere.
On the meaning of the names of local bishops that appear in mosaics see (Bar 2008, pp. 134–35). Bar explains there that despite the name of the bishop this normally does not indicate that the church administration covered some of the expenditures, rather the community paid for the building. In the case of Shiloh the government may have covered some of the costs, as it is a holy site.
On the meaning of the baptisterium as attesting to the entrance of Christianity see (Bar 2008, p. 152).
Kjaer also suggested linking a mosaic of a pomegranate tree found there to Solomon’s Temple, as well as to the clothes of the High Priest who may have presided at Shiloh. See (Kjaer 1930, p. 59).
In a personal conversation, Yevgeny Aharonovich also accepted this hypothesis and it deserves broader consideration.
At present, the mosaic floors uncovered in the Pilgrims’ Church no longer exist, and only Kjaer’s photographs remain. The British indeed appointed a guard for the mosaics, but in 1934, armed people broke down the door, overcame the guard, locked him in his room, and stole some of the mosaics. On this see (Andersen 1985, p. 75). Moreover, there are reports of various natural ravages, such as a roof blown off by the wind in 1937.
However, see (Magen 2012, pp. 62–64) on the evident continuity between the Byzantine period and the first part of the Muslim period.
Atzmon also compared mentions of biblical sites in the Byzantine period with mentions in the Crusader period, and she concluded with regard to the Crusader period that more sites from the New Testament appear in the course of this period without ‘excluding’ biblical sites, as the crusaders wanted to use these sites as evidence of their ancestral merit, in order to establish their right to the Holy Land versus the Muslims (Atzmon 1997, pp. 104–9). There is indeed also a third category, consisting of the burial sites of martyrs and monks, which at times displaces other categories (Mayerson 1987, pp. 33–40), but this does not seem to be the case here.
Magen showed that this phenomenon is characteristic specifically of the Samaria region, a region little mentioned in the New Testament. For this reason, the Christians were ‘compelled’ to sanctify Jewish biblical sites in order to promote Christian entrance into these areas. One of the current authors intends to further research this subject. On the process of Christianization in the rural parts of the Holy Land see (Bar 2003).
On this mosque one of the authors, Amichay Schwartz, is intended to write in the foreseeable future along with Reut Livyatan-Ben-Arie and Reuven Peretz.
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