Aug 3, 2018

Machaerus, the Mishnah, and the Second Temple

I recently had the opportunity to meet Professor Gyozo Vörös, the director of the Hungarian Academy of Arts excavations at Machaerus. We were not able to talk long but I was very interested in their work at Machaerus. Apparently much work has been done since I visited in 2007. Below is one fairly recent article on a recent find and its implications for understanding the second temple in Jerusalem.
"The monumental miqweh that has recently been unearthed at the Herodian hill fortress of Machaerus is an important addition to the corpus of this type of installation. Several of its features are true to type – its general form with a stairway leading down to the bottom, which extends across its entire width, the plaster coating and even the associated storage tank which is known from other miqwa'ot, although was fairly uncommon for the period. However, the stairway stands out on account of its resemblance to the staircase that led up to the Sanctuary of Herod’s Temple from the Court of the Priests, the detailed form of which is known only from tractate Middot of the Mishnah. Both stairways comprise twelve steps, arranged in groups of three, separated by deeper intermediate landings. Such ‘interrupted’ flights of stairs are characteristic of the late Second Temple Period and in different contexts: miqwa'ot, thoroughfares, Herod’s Temple and tomb complexes, as has been pointed out.
"The new finding at Machaerus demonstrates the remarkable accuracy of detail about the Temple that can be gleaned from the Mishnah. Many scholars have questioned the reliability of tractate Middot as a source of information on this edifice, on the grounds that it is not contemporaneous, only being codified in the 3rd century CE, but here we clearly see an example of its trustworthiness, provided that it is used critically."
David M. Jacobson, “A New Discovery at Machaerus Shines Light on Herod's Temple,” Revue Biblique 124 (2017), 583.

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