- Were Chazal Hellenized?
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Question: Many batei knessiot
which I have seen or read about, both in Eretz Yisrael and in the
diaspora, from the first century C.E. to the seventh, seem to be
plastered with pictures of avoda zara. I don't just mean pictures of
biblical scenes (which should not be there either - "kol
temuna"), which are very numerous, but pictures of the zodiac,
the helios gods, and zeus among other images (such as in Beit Alpha in
the Jordan Valley and Dura Europas in Bavel and numerous batei
knessiot in the Galil). What is avoda zara doing in places of Jewish
worship? Why are these places plastered with pictures of hellenistic
gods and ideas prevalent in hellenistic cults at that time? Did he
Jews at that time have some sort of pagan syncretic worship? Did the
Rabbis have no control over the masses? Did Hazal too believe that
such pictures belong in the beit knesset? In general, how hellenized
were Hazal? In the excavations of the catacombs in Beit Shearim near
Haifa, where it seems sons of R' Yehudah Hanassi are buried, the walls
are full of Greek inscriptions as well as pictures of animals and
zeus-like heads. How could these pictures find their way to the
resting places of the Rabbis?
- Response: You are assuming that
these images were there at the time of Chazal, and even the works of
Chazal. Do you have proof? Couldn't they have been made years later?
- Chazal were not Hellenized. Chazal did not follow movements, but
followed their minds. This was their sole modus operandi. You must see
their writings in Pirkei Avos, aggadita, and on T'nach to derive your
estimation of Chazal. Not from circumstance.