Funerary Rites and Rituals

Rites and Rituals around Birth and Death. Funerary Meals (Tableware - Vessels - Food and Drink (Bread, Fish, Wine) - Sedentary and Reclining Comfort - Toasts to the Deceased) - Offerings and Sacramental Ceremonies (Libations - Sacrifice - Blood -Ointments, Oils, and Spices - Burning of Incense) - Sanguinary Contests and Games (Combat - Hunting - Mourning Remembrance of the Deceased). Excerpt from: Estelle Shohet Brettman, Vaults of Memory: The Roman Jewish Catacombs and their Context in the Ancient Mediterranean World, rev. ed. Amy K. Hirschfeld, Florence Wolsky, & Jessica Dello Russo. Boston: International Catacomb Society, 1991-2017 (rev. 2024).

Funerary customs give us insights into the religious beliefs of a society, including their development and change. But it must be borne in mind that the haphazard accidents of archaeological finds and the lack of sufficient literary documentation often present difficulties in attaining complete and immutable conclusions. Our perceptions which are drawn from inferences based on previous research, ancient literature and epigraphy, and other artifacts, must be colored by our subjective experience. As always in this type of endeavor, we can only hope to open doors to further research and study, supported and enriched by future archaeological finds and literary discoveries.

Funerary Meals

Often the most conservative manifestation of a culture, funerary practices in the Roman world are seen to have borne many similarities to even older traditions. Among the important rituals in honor of the dead in the pagan world were oblations and meals (refrigeria) eaten at the grave at the time of burial, on the anniversary of the death, and on holidays. The Latin word refrigerium is comparable in meaning to avauucis, the Greek word for refreshment used in Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. This custom had antecedents in pre-Roman, Greek, and Near Eastern cultures.

Fig. 1. DAPICS n. 2012

Fig. 1. On the lid of a Villanovan clay cinerary urn, the deceased is seated at a table set with loaves of bread awaiting wine about to be poured from a vessel. Applied swastikas decorate the urn. Seventh century B.C.E. urn from Montescudaio (Volterra).

Fig. 2. DAPICS n. 0749

Fig. 2. Accompanied by music and dance, a lively Etruscan funerary meal is enjoyed by men and women together. In the pediment above are two lions flanking vegetation. Apparently there was no need to struggle for liberation among Etruscan women, who not only retained their family name but also shared social activities with men. The blond locks of the vivacious female revelers remind us Etruscan that Italic women-were known to color their hair. Painting on the rear wall of the Tomb of the Leopards (Tomba dei Leopardi) in Tarquinia. Etruscan, circa 480-470 B.C.E.

Ritual meals served to perpetuate the memory of the loved one who was believed to participate; moreover, they were thought to sustain and renew the spirit after death, which for Christians marked the birth of the soul into life everlasting. An ancient precedent for this is recorded in one of the Egyptian Pyramid Texts where the king's death is referred to as the day when he was "summoned to life."[1] Similarly, the representations in the catacombs of the refrigerium or the comforting agape (in a funerary context, a love feast shared with the deceased) might have pictured heavenly banquets for the blessed in the hereafter, just as earlier cultures depicted such idyllic repasts in the next world. The Greek word for love, agape, became an allusion to a communal repast. Jesus anticipated such a meal in his "Father's kingdom," when he vowed to his disciples at the Last Supper:[2] "For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be newly fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16); also “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29; see also Mark 14:25).

Perhaps such an event was also implied when Jesus promised the "great crowds" that "many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11, also Luke 13:29). A Christian epitaph from the catacomb of San Giovanni in Syracuse, Sicily refers to a refrigerium with the patriarchs, "Remember, O God thy servant Chrysis, and grant her a shining land (to dwell in), a place of refreshment in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."[3] Another such Christian inscription of the Late Imperial period requests that the soul of the deceased "repose in the breast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[4] To pray that a loved one find peace with these forebears is a familiar request in contemporary Jewish funerary prayers.

Celebrations were held over martyrs' relics in sacred precincts, generally above the slab closure of a table-top tomb or tomba a mensa. Peter and Paul were commemorated with refrigeria observed in the triclia in the catacomb of S. Sebastiano. Prudentius described this veneration and its spiritually nurturing effect: "That same altar slab (mensa) gives the Sacrament, and is the faithful guardian of its martyr's bones… while it feeds the dwellers of the Tiber with holy food"... the altar is at hand for those who pray."

Food and Drink (Bread, Fish, Wine)

Following the religious peace for Christians in Constantine's era and cessation of persecution, the mood of relaxation at refrigeria was heightened further by the imbibing of wine. The excess conviviality incurred the disapproval of ecclesiastical authorities.[5] Perhaps encountering a similar problem, the Talmudic rabbis reduced their augmented fourteen cups of wine to be drunk with the mourners to the original ten.[6]

Fig. 3. DAPICS n. 1207

Fig. 3. Vaults catalogue, p. 20, fig. 74. Under a painted vault simulating a rose bower, revelers hold forth around a table laden with food. An emptied bottle lies on the floor, and Sabina mixes and serves wine in a lively depiction of the agape. Lunette painting in the arcosolium of Sabina in the “Cubiculum dei due ingressi,” Catacomb of SS. Pietro e Marcellino, Rome.

Sedentary and Reclining Comfort

Fig. 4. DAPICS n. 0536

Fig. 4. Vaults catalogue, p. 19, fig. 72. In the Christian catacomb of Domitilla, a well in the chamber at the left of the entrance to the “Hypogeum of the Flavii '' furnished water for the refrigeria. A vessel of the amphora-type, but without handles, leans against the rear wall to the left of the well. Benches in a vestibule-triclinium to the right accommodated participants in the ritual.

Fig. 5. DAPICS n. 0076.

Fig. 5. Vaults catalogue, p. 19, fig. 71. The well-room in the Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini, at the right of the entrance was originally girdled by a bench, perhaps for some funerary ritual such as purification and repasts.[7] Benches were often located near a source of water such as a spring or well; in their absence vessels were furnished for the carrying of water. Similar arrangements were also provided in Palestinian tombs, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Vestiges of this custom remain in the Mediterranean.[8]

Fig. 6. Inty, seated on an elegant lion-footed chair before a fish swimming in water, holds a lotus, an Egyptian symbol of the renewal of life because of its daily cycle of closing and reopening. In Egyptian iconography the fish, depicted here, which also bore the name "inty”, frequently had connotations of immortality. "False door" from the Old Kingdom (2680-2258 B.C.E.) in a limestone tomb in Giza, Egypt.[9] The deceased was the priestess of the Egyptian deity Hathor, who, like other ancient fertility goddesses such as Inanna, Ishtar and her Canaanite counterpart Astarte-Asherah, was an antecedent of Aphrodite (Roman Venus). The image (eidolon) of the deceased is seated on a graceful kline or chair atop her funerary monument, bedecked with fillets. In age-old female fashion, she holds a mirror, a traditional funerary accouterment, while arranging her hair. She receives a lekythos or oil-jug, a customary Greek funerary offering. Attic white-ground lekythos, fifth century B.C.E.[10]

The bones of Hittite kings were placed on chairs, and those of their female counterparts on stools, before which a table was set with hot loaves[11] Representations of shields had apotropaic functions in the Mediterranean.

Fig. 7. Throne-like chairs with footstools below and shields above were carved out of the local stone in an Etruscan tomb. Funerary couches are visible in the chamber beyond. Tomba delle Sedie e degli Scudi, Late sixth century B.C.E., Cerveteri (ancient Caere). 

Fig. 8. DAPICS n. 2950.

Fig. 8. Above a throne-like chair a table-like shelf is hewn from the tufa. Cubiculum in the region of the “cattedre” in the Coemerium Maius, Rome.

Fig. 9. DAPICs n. 0863.

Fig. 9. Roman banqueting benches or klinai outside of a mausoleum in Isola Sacra, Fiumicino.

Fig. 10. Carved on a late Hittite grave stele, and in stiff frontal stance, an affectionate couple face the unknown with symbols of hope for eternal life, he clutching a cluster of grapes and she gripping a mirror.[12] Perforations in the head indicate that the man may have been crowned with a wreath, projecting his heroic image for eternity. Like the grapes, the wreath, doves, and the small dog are symbolic attributes derived from customs which go back at least as early as the Late Bronze Age.

Fig. 11. DAPICS n. 1428 (also 0820)

Fig. 11. Vaults catalogue, p. 19, fig. 73. A Boy with His Best Friend. Accompanied by two doves, symbols of the soul and immortality, a child reclines at a heavenly banquet while stroking his pet dog. In his left hand the boy grasps a cluster of grapes - in Dionysiac ritual, a symbol of communion with the god and of resurrection. Favorite animals such as horses and dogs had accompanied their masters to the great beyond for millennia. The dog had long associations with the underworld and connotations of death and healing among ancient peoples. Sarcophagus lid from the Catacomb of Monteverde, Rome.

Fig. 12. DAPICS n. 2490.

Fig. 12. A drawing by Chacon's artist in the late 1500s provides interesting information about what may be a similar sculpture. An oversized cluster of grapes is clasped in a child's right hand and a rabbit instead of a dog nestled near his left. The attitude of the boy is slightly different, and there are no doves. There seems to be no other such image from the catacombs resembling so closely the lid from Monteverde, above. At the very least, the strong resemblance of the two lids suggests that if they are not one and the same (the artist having been somewhat free in his interpretation), they were modeled after the same prototype, with Chacon initially located the sculpture in what he thought was the Priscilla catacomb (i.e. Catacomb of via Anapo, Rome). Cod. Vat. Lat. 5409 17 r. The name Priscilla appears to have been crossed out on the drawing.

Evidence for the long history of funerary repasts such as tableware was discovered in tombs in Palestine of the late fourth millennium B.C.E;[13] remains of furniture such as a table, and food such as pomegranates, grapes, and sheep date back to the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000-1600 BCE).[14] The tradition of meals shared by mourners was continued in Jewish burials, as is shown by the presence of vessels, usually fragmented, such as gold glass and other glassware, as well as the less elegant terra-cotta ware in the Jewish catacombs of Rome.[15] Reference to this custom is made in Ezekiel 24:17. The offering of solace to the participants in reference to a funeral in Jer. 16:7, 8, and possibly in Tobit 4:17 where the actual wording appears to describe food left for the deceased. On the other hand, this practice was frowned upon in Deuteronomy 26:14 and Sirach 30:18.

Fig. 13. DAPICS n. 2901.

Fig. 13. Vaults catalogue, p. 21, fig. 79. Terra-cotta dish recovered from the 1973-1974 excavations of the Catacombs of Villa Torlonia, Rome.

Fig. 14. Wine, fish, and bread: Two figures with attendants serving, participate in a presumably festal repast which includes fish, bread and a beverage, probably wine. A libation vase is also carved on the Mesopotamian cylinder seal from the first half of the third millennium B.C.E.[16]

As in more ancient periods, wine, fish and bread were offered ritually by pagans, Jews, and Christians alike, and were shared in such festal meals as the agape (in Christian rites often associated with the celebration of the Eucharist), the cena pura (the holy meal before the Jewish Sabbath), the Passover Feast, and the Eucharist.

Fig. 15. DAPICS n. 1207.

Fig. 15. Irene, bearing a chalice, is bid to mix the wine by banqueters behind the traditional bolster, partially encircling a tripodal table set with a plate upon which a fish reposes. An animated female companion, perhaps the departed, sits on a throne-like chair nearby. Two majestic peacocks survey this framed vignette, draped with garlands of roses. Lunette painting, arcosolium of the agape con i pavoni, Cubiculum dei due ingressi, catacomb of SS. Pietro e Marcellino, Rome.

Fig. 16. A fish carved on an offering table amidst other symbols. Impression from a Phoenician cylinder seal. Sarepta, Lebanon.[17] Fish were regarded as sacred food or as amuletic, and were often represented on ancient Mesopotamian seals.

Fig. 17. A carved table-like tombstone (or tomba a mensa) from Timgad (in ancient Numidia) depicting fish, a utensil, and a ladle with a hole in the bowl (probably for pouring libations or water); they lie amid rosettes and circular objects, which could represent bread.[18] All three are nimbed and lean on the customary bolster, partaking of fish and loaves while attendants bring wine. Late fifth century (from a fourth century Trojan prototype).

Documented as early as the twenty-seventh century B.C.E, nourishment for the afterlife was considered of such importance that passersby were enjoined by an inscription on the tomb of an average Egyptian citizen to leave "a mortuary offering." In fact, one of the most noted of early Egyptian explorers, "the ritual priest," Harkhuf of Elephantine (twenty-seventh to twenty-sixth century B.C.E.), promised to intercede in the "Nether World" for living benefactors who would "say, 'A thousand loaves, a thousand jars of beer for the owner of this tomb! "[19]

Fig. 18. DAPICS n. 0496.

Fig. 18. Vaults catalogue, p. 20, fig. 75. Depicted in this wall painting are a fish and a basket brimming with loaves of bread complete with vessels filled with wine. Cubiculum Y, Crypt of Lucina, catacomb of S. Callisto, Rome. “Ichthus” is the Greek word for fish and an acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God. Christos is the Greek word for the "anointed one" which translates as "Messiah" in the Hebrew-Aramaic. And so this fish could have messianic connotations in the iconography of the Christian catacombs as may be the case with the limp fish painted in the vault of cubiculum II in the Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini, Rome.

Fig. 19. Lozenges set into the border of the mosaic floor of the early sixth century Beth Alpha synagogue in Israel depict fish, grapes, and a container, presumably of bread, among other evidence of nature's fecundity.

Fig. 20. DAPICS n. 1225 (also 2392-2393)

Fig. 20. Although badly damaged, the painted lunette of an arcosolium in the sepulcher of Vincentius (furnished with explanatory titles) depicts the Sabazian priest, perhaps the spouse of Vibia, who figures in all of the other scenes in this setting. He wears a Phrygian pointed cap and cloak like two of his companions. Rosette studded swags are draped above the "seven holy priests," seated behind the conventional bolster at a table. Three of the officiants grasp drinking vessels and the fourth holds a cross-marked loaf of bread. They are all about to share the food of a ritual banquet. This could be a depiction of an earthly repast in which the deceased first apple also participates, or a Sabazian version of the "Academy on High". The menu consists of a fish, loaves of bread, a cake (?), poultry, perhaps a duck or goose which "like the dove came to represent immortality for both Jews and pagans, and possibly for Christians”,[20] as well as a hare, which had associations with Dionysus, fertility and immortality and for the Greeks was a love token. The celebration could augur the felicity of the world to come for the departed.[21]

Above the four frescoes decorating the arch and the lunette in the Tomb of Vincentius, the epigraphy with lacunae is in the vernacular Latin of the catacombs. Goodenough records the English translation as: "This is the resting place of Vincentius which you see. Many have gone before me; I await all. Eat, drink, play, and come to me. As long as you live, do good deeds: these you will take with you. This is Vincentius, the high priest of the god Sabazius, who performed with pious mind the sacred rites of the gods.”[22] Christians were interred in this crypt along with one or two priests of Mithras, as well as one or two worshippers of Sabazius.[23] Combining attributes of Zeus and Dionysus, Sabazius was a Thraco-Phrygian nature deity, who, like Mithras, promised immortality as did/divinities of other mystery religions.

The entrance to the Tomb of Vincentius is on the Via Appia Antica opposite the Christian catacomb of Callisto and in the vicinity of the catacomb of Pretestato which contained a number of regions in which pagans, Christians and their martyrs were entombed. According to Stevenson,[24] the section accommodating the followers of the mystery cults appears to have been excavated in the late fourth century.[25] The catacomb of Pretestato is near the Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini; the location raises provocative speculation that the tomb of Vincentius is a manifestation of Sabazian and Jewish syncretism.[26]

From ancient times, communal banquets usually including the sharing of bread, established a bond among the participants and with divinity. These banquets marked major cult ceremonies, as well as the making of covenants, religious, political and legal,[27] and celebrations of jubilant occasions (Gen. 31:44, 54). Sometimes the repasts were preceded by purifying ablutions and accompanied by sacrifices. Paul explains: "At Capernaum, Jesus said, "For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (Cor. 10:17).

Fig. 21. DAPICS n. 0775.

Fig. 21. Two fish flank a basket of bread on the late fourth century mosaic floor of the church of Heptapegon (et-Taghba), traditionally the site of the miracle near the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum where "Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever" (John 6:51).[28] "And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he [Jesus] looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all....And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men" (Mark 6:41-44).[29]

Fig. 22. DAPICS n. 0983.

Fig. 22. In a fresco now damaged, banqueters feast amidst the vestiges of twelve baskets brimming with loaves of bread, which suggest the miracle of the multiplication of loaves. The fish reposing on the intact plate on the right suggests the celebration of the Eucharist. Wall painting, Cripte dei sacramenti, catacomb of S. Callisto, Rome. This image recalls such Old Testament passages dealing with offering (or sacrifice) to the deity as Lev. 24:5-6, "...and bake twelve loaves thereof. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord." Also numbering twelve were the tribes of Israel and the apostolic college. The Babylonians likewise set out twelve loaves or their multiples before Divinity,[30] and the Hittites surrounded the remains of the cremated body with the same number.[31] Possibly this number was based on the zodiac to which much of the imagery in ancient funerary sites and in ancient synagogues was related.

Fig. 23. A representation of the Temple table for showbread or bread of the Presence on the reverse of a bronze prutot minted by the high priest and king of the Jews Mattathias Antigonus (ca. 37 B.C.E.) Private collection. Twelve loaves were normally placed on the table (Mishna, Sukk. 5:7-8). Ya'akov Meshorer states that the most important table which was placed near the Menorah, made of gold, is represented on this coin.[32] Evidently this sacred object of the table ranked with the Menorah (stamped on the obverse) in its ability to spark the feelings of patriotism and religious loyalty in the effort to support Antigonus against Herod. The showbread table, perhaps dating from the time of Judas Maccabeus, was brought to Rome with the spoils of the Temple and is famously depicted on the Arch of Titus.

The Lord directed Moses in the building of the sanctuary, the divine dwelling: "And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before me always” (Ex. 25:30). In Numbers (4:7) there is reference to the "continual bread upon the table of showbread:" also see II Chr. 2:4. While in Solomon's Temple there appears to have been one table of gold according to I Kings (7:48), Chronicles record a number of such tables of gold and silver (I Chr. 28:16; II Chr. 4:8 describes ten such tables). According to the Mishnah (Segal 6:4), there were three tables for the sacred bread, one of marble and two of gold." It was also customary for late Sumerian kings to offer bread to their divinities when they sacrificed oxen and sheep at the temple.[33]

Fig. 24. DAPICS n. 0431.

Fig. 24. With a staff reminiscent of the wondrous rod of Moses (Exodus 14:16; Exodus 17:1-6), a youthful Jesus prepares to feed the "multitude" with baskets filled with bread. Draped over a tunic, his pallium (cloak), a Greek vestment worn frequently by Old and New Testament figures depicted in the catacombs, is marked with the crux gammata. The double inner frames of the painting are interrupted by the head of Jesus which is encircled by a faded light blue nimbus. Wall painting in an arcosolium in Cubiculum O of the catacomb of via Dino Compagni in Rome.

Jesus said to the people after the miracle: "For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33) recalling the Lord's promise to Moses during the Exodus: "Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you" (Exodus 16:4). In the early period of the First Temple, the Israelite prophet Elisha performed a miracle similar to the multiplication of loaves albeit of proportions (II Kings 4:42-45). As documented above, at the Last Supper, when the rite of the Eucharist was initiated, "Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it and gave it to them [the disciples], and said, Take, eat; this is my body" (Mark 14:22).

Fig. 25. DAPICS n. 1126

Fig. 25. On his tombstone, Gerontius the shepherd is depicted resting under a tree with the anticipation that he will "live in God".  "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). Catacomb of Domitilla, Rome.

The idea of an individual eating divine parts and thus attaining communion (in Christianity, receiving the Logos or Word), and even merging with the deity goes back to Old Kingdom Egypt in which period this custom imparted knowledge and eternal life to potentates such as pharaohs.[34] Later, persons of lesser rank were privileged in that they, like Egyptian kings, could "eat his loaf (share the loaf or food of Osiris, the 'Lord of Life')' and ascend by day" (in a hymn of the twelfth century B.C.E., because of the identification of Osiris with the soil, the earth and its products, "that whereon men live is divine....they live on thy breath, they eat of the flesh of thy body."[35]) "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). In the mysticism of Sirach (15: 1-3) the faithful adherents to the Law will be fed the "bread of understanding" or wisdom and the Torah, both manna from God or the heavens.

Fig. 26. Knifelike loaves of bread, the "bread of eternity,' on a laden offering table are accompanied by wine" and many other delicacies in a masterfully painted ritualistic funerary scene. The smoke of burning incense wafted toward the nostrils of Prince Djehuty-nekht, ensconced on an elegant chair with leonine legs, worthy of his status. Dynasty XII, Middle Kingdom (circa 2040 to 1786 B.C.E.). Interior of outer cedar wood coffin from Bersheh, Egypt.

The concept of eating bread in the afterlife is expressed almost two millennia later in "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" (Luke 14:15). In the coffin texts, the divine Horus promises the deceased: "I cause that thou eat bread...more than thou didst on earth.[36] In ancient Egypt the most important holiday, shared by both the living and the dead, marked particularly by the offering of loaves of bread" to the deceased, was celebrated around the time of the New Year. The festivities would commence with the sacrifice of a bull to the patron-god five days before the onset of the New Year. During the observances on New Year's Day, which included the all-important oblations of loaves of bread, in a celebration which was the "earliest Feast of All-Souls" so to speak, there was an "illumination" and a "glorification of the blessed,” effecting his transformation into a "glorious one".[37]

In the Sumerian netherworld there were "bread-eating" heroes.[38] Records from the Sumerian reign of Urukagina at Lagash (from about the mid-third millennium B.C.E.) tell of as many as four hundred and twenty loaves of bread brought to the deceased.[39] Jewish custom prescribes that bread be placed on the body when normal funerary rites are suspended due to the death occurring on the Sabbath.[40]

In Egyptian thought burning incense mingles with the fragrance of the deceased and that of the gods; the deceased "lives with" the gods and the gods "live with" the deceased.[41] According to the Pyramid texts, by the burning of incense (particularly among the funerary rites), the pharaoh was deified at his burial, ascended to the heavens upon the smoke, and was even purified by this multi-purpose ritual.[42]

Incense was apparently associated with resurrection in Akkadian myth as illustrated by the exhortation to the dead to "rise and smell the incense" at the time that Ishtar's lover Tammuz, the vegetation-god, would be revived after Ishtar's own return to the land of the living."[43]

Fig. 27. DAPICS n. 3176.

Fig. 27. A shovel, most likely for incense, and therefore a major instrument in ancient Jewish temple cult," is incised on an epitaph dedicated to Tychikos by his father Eutychis. From the Catacomb of Monteverde in Rome.

Incense was burned for Egyptian gods before and after ritual feasts,[44] and an oblation of bread was made after this ceremony.[45] The Assyrian gods ``inhale incense" and receive "pure bread offerings" upon festive occasions such as the rising of the sun-god;[46] Sumerian deities were also offered incense ritually along with food and libations.[47]

The Lord gave the biblical specifications for the horned incense altar upon which Aaron will burn "sweet incense" every morning and evening, "a perpetual incense before the Lord" (Exodus 30:1-9). During the atonement ritual, Aaron is to burn incense before the Lord so that “the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat" that is upon the testimony that he die not" (Leviticus 16:12-13).[48]

According to Moses' dying statement, the Levites would assume priestly duties such as the offering of incense to the Lord (Deut. 33:10). In describing the rituals to be celebrated in the "house" he will build to the "name of the Lord, my God", Solomon includes the burning before him of "sweet incense" and the "continual showbread" as well as "burnt offerings morning and evening" and on important festal occasions (II Chron. 2:4). The psalmist equates incense with prayer and his upraised arms with sacrifice in his petition to the Lord (Ps. 1411-2). The association of prayer with incense is also described in Revelations in which "golden bowls full of incense...are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8) and also when "the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel's hand" (Rev. 8:4). In Luke, the ritual of offering incense in the Temple is the occasion for prayer and also a notable revelation from God: "According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without incense" (Luke 1:9-10). It was at the time of his offering of incense that the Lord communicated to Zacharias, the officiating priest, through his angel Gabriel that his barren wife, Elizabeth would conceive a son to be named John (Luke 1:11-13).[49]

Bread and wine were staples of the funerary diet for many Mediterranean countries because of their promise of immortality. An Attic tombstone depicts a man setting off on his last journey, well-fortified with a kantharos for wine in one hand and stalks of wheat in the other.[50]

Fig. 28. A mummy wrap of the late Roman Imperial Period features a summary depiction of the crowned, wide-eyed" deceased bearing a glass for wine in his right hand and vegetation (perhaps representing grain) in his left. In the register below, jackal and crocodile-headed gods flank his funerary bark. As above, in this syncretic Greco-Romano-Egyptian representation, the Greek fertility deities Dionysus and Demeter may be symbolized to guarantee the immortality of the deceased.

Fig. 29. On a stele from Marash, two women in Hittite dress with feet resting typically on footstools sit before a table bearing loaves and a cup. The woman on the left lifts a cup with her left hand, and holds an apparent pomegranate in her right; her partner holds a mirror in her right hand and perhaps a pomegranate (or spindle) in her left. A fish is added to the Hittite menu on a ninth-eighth century stele from Zinjirli in which a woman, holding vegetation in her left hand, and her masculine partner also quaff from cups.[51] In the funerary rites of Hittite royalty, the soul is given "three times to drink;" the collectors of the bones are offered drink three times, as well, and food in a funerary banquet.

Fig. 30. Banqueters are depicted raising vessels in the early third millennium B.C.E. Mesopotamian cylinder seals such as the two pairs of male and female partners carved on the seal found in the tomb of Queen Pu-abi of Ur.[52]

Toasts to the Deceased

When requesting favors of the gods, bread and wine were common Hittite offerings as in the appeal for "life, good health and long years" libations of wine were offered frequently, especially for the gods.[53] In a fertility ritual (in which El fathers two children and which Goodenough proposes may be associated with a celebration of the New Year)[54] seemingly connected with the pruning of the old vine crop and the hope for seven years of abundance, the gods and perhaps others are invited to "eat of the bread and drink of the liquor of the vine."[55]

Fig. 31. Carved on a huge stele dating from about the first millennium B.C.E. from Ivriz (Cilicia), the monumental Hittite fertility god offers a worshiping king" sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes.[56]

Fig. 32. DAPICS n. 2806.

Fig. 32. A chalice perhaps accompanied by a loaf of bread is inlaid in the black and white mosaic floor of the central aisle next to the main entrance of the synagogue at Ostia Antica.

As for biblical symbolism of bread and wine, in Proverbs 9:5, Wisdom invites, "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled." Melchizedek, the Canaanite king, "priest of the most high God," a prototype for the eternal priests, David (Ps. 110:4) and Jesus (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1-3, 15, 17, 21), offered bread and wine and his blessing to Abraham (Gen.14:18-19). Philo Judaeus equated Melchizedek with Logos  or the Word.[57] Of the Aaronic priesthood, Leviticus 21:8 instructs "Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee. In his vision of his assumption of priestly office, Levi, in the Testament of Levi (from The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, an apocryphal document related to the Essenes of Late second to first century B.C.E.) is "fed with bread and holy wine, and clad with a holy and glorious robe”.[58] In Ugaritic myth, as a gesture of love to the fertility goddess Asherah, the god El offered her bread and "from the golden gob(lets) blood of vines.[59]

Fig. 33. DAPICS n. 0838.

Fig. 33. Two fish flank the base of a chalice and one floats within. A fourth century purportedly Christian floor mosaic in the so-called Domus dei Pesci in Ostia Antica. In a comparable image, five fish are crudely depicted within the body of an amphora on the base of a lamp from Gerash. Represented on the top of the lamp are peacocks and fish near solar crosses with circles.[60] The cross-like swastika or crux gammata and the rosette figured in art of the Geometric period in Greece (circa ninth-eighth centuries B.C.E.). Goodenough opines that this lamp is talismanic, and that there is a possibility that it is Jewish. He uses the resemblance of the vessel to that of the relief from Akrai as an argument. But this hardly seems like substantial evidence. Among their many attributes, fish often symbolized souls or were related to them in ancient belief.

Offerings and Sacramental Ceremonies: Libations - Sacrifice - Blood -Ointments, Oils, and Spices - Burning of Incense)

In ancient times, wine and beer were given to the souls of Hittite royalty to drink and the elixir of the grape was poured on the graves of Canaanite "divine" ancestors.[61] The epitome of Canaanite princely filial respect was the son "who in the sanctuary which enshrines his forefather" and "the stele of his ancestral god...may pour out his liquid-offering to the ground, wine to the dust after him.”[62] Wine was poured on Roman graves in libations to the Manes, the spirits of the dead venerated as deities of the infernal regions, who were relocated in the opposite direction from "the gods above" to whom the Greeks made libations (spondai).[63] On occasion, expeditiously, Greek bones were placed in an elegant krater, a vessel used for wine. In the Classical period, Greeks buried their dead in simple coffins shaped like wine tubs; the Greek word for these tubs, avoi (or lenoi) was often applied to coffins. Later the Romans transformed these coffins into sumptuous marble sarcophagi, also in the shape of wine vats.

In Homeric literature, wine was poured on the remains of heroes and royalty: during the Greek Geometric Period the custom of pouring wine on burials could have been observed perhaps using monumental vases.[64] Only a small number of pouring vessels and cups have been found in Archaic burials while in the Classical period there is "frequent mention in Greek literature of drink offerings (choai) made at the grave and cups and pouring vessels found outside graves may be mute testimony to this last libation;” such practices were common when Rome was sovereign.[65] Antipater, the first century B.C.E. poet from Sidon, authored a funerary exhortation to be addressed to passersby for the poet Anacreon: "pour some drops" [on the latter's ashes so that his bones] "may rejoice, refreshed with wine."[66] The prescription of Prov. 31:6, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that be of heavy hearts" suggests that the magic properties of the pressed grape give spirit to the dying and solace to the bereaved in a "cup of consolation" (Jer. 16:7).

Fig. 34. DAPICS n. 2944.

Fig. 34. In the register above the inscription, the doors and curtain of a Torah shrine, rising above a five-step podium in Roman temple-fashion, open to disclose six rows of scrolls. In addition to a possible celestial body, serrated blobs perhaps representing clouds, float above the dissimilar menorahs which flank the ark. The pair of lamp stands, the one on the right resembling a tree, are, in turn, flanked by the traditional ritual objects from left to right: the shofar, amphora, ethrog, and lulav. This and similar representations of the Torah shrine with Jewish ritual objects on stone, fresco, and glass in Jewish funerary art, connect salvation for the departed with the restoration of the homeland. Below the incised epigraphy rests a fish on a plate, set on the customary round tripodal table partially surrounded by a strapped bolster (stibadion) against which banqueters normally reclined. This is all that is recognizable in the mended gold glass bottom of a cup from Rome.  Such scenes generally refer to a communal sacramental meal, either the cena pura (the holy repast before the Jewish Sabbath) or, more likely here, the funerary banquet albeit without the usual companionable participants as shown in pagan and Christian hypogea. The fish here suggests the messianic banquet, the symbol for life in the world to come. For pagans and Christians as well the fish had eschatological meanings and thus intimated immortality. The salute by "Felix Venerius" in ungrammatical Latin reads "Good health to master Vitalis, with his wife and their children."[67] The inscription evokes the common toast "l'hayyim.”

This composition has ancient pictorial precursors in an Egyptian tomb painting of the fifteenth millennium B.C.E. (Dynasty XVIII) in which "ankh signs (symbols of life) mark four vessels of wine."[68] The Lord "will give Israel to drink four cups in the messianic future," and in the celebration of Passover, the same number of glasses of wine are actually imbibed, perhaps several with messianic hopes.[69] Also in a New Kingdom depiction, (but about four centuries later in Dynasty XXI), King Siamen is represented offering two jars of wine to the great creator god Ptah in a scene accompanied by the description "Making an offering of wine to his father, in order that he may give life."[70] Toasts or libations for the deceased had prototypes in ancient Egyptian, Cretan, and Mycenaean as well as other Mediterranean funerary rites already cited.[71] Representations of pharaohs offering libations to the gods for returned favors date back at least as early as the Old Kingdom. In ancient Lerna (the Argolid) it was reported that a much-prized horse was "apparently offered a funeral toast by thirty-seven admirers when he died"[72]

Fig. 35. DAPICS n. 1478.

Fig. 35. A four-year old named Criste, portrayed as a mature orant, experiences the joys of Paradise surrounded by such symbols as a basket (here conceivably a metaphor for heavenly abundance), two doves of varying sizes, perched on olive branches, and the enduring vine leaf. Observing the customary refrigerium, her father, identified as Cristor, lifts a beaker to her peace and well-being. A dog, the family pet or perhaps still another allusive representation, looks on. Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome.

Fig. 36. DAPICS n. 1530.

Fig. 36. In the lower register of the gold glass base of a drinking cup, a fish reposes on the prescribed table enclosed by a girdled bolster under swags. Above, the Torah ark is in the form of an aedicula, its pediment crowned with acroteria (decorative finials) and supported by two apparently Corinthian columns. The shrine recalls the structure of the Torah niche in the ancient synagogue at Ostia. The doors are flung back to reveal an unusual view of a curtain partially veiling the scrolls on the four shelves. The ark is flanked by two different types of blazing menorahs (the one on the left, arboreal in form), and such remaining discernible cult objects as a scroll on the left and a shofar on the right. Foliate designs and round forms spatter the field. The remains of the enclosing inscription: CI BIBAS CUM EULOGIA CONP...translates as: "Drink with blessing [in preparation?] perhaps inspired by: "I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord '' (Ps. 116:13).[73] Possibly David in lifting up "the cup of salvation" and calling "upon the name of the Lord'' accorded messianic implications to wine, the contents of the cup of blessing of the messianic banquet.[74] Frey's version reads: "Drink with Eulogia, your mate.[75] From Rome.

This early 4th century CE vestige of a "cup of blessing" might have been treasured by its former owner for use during ceremonial occasions before marking his grave and delivering the message which would speed him on the way to eternal bliss. The invocation (as rendered in Age of Spirituality) suggests the tradition of the blessing or berakah, pronounced over wine and bread at Jewish meals; "Thus saith the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster.... Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it" (Is. 65:8). One of the most significant Jewish rites is the drinking of the cup of wine which is blessed as is bread at festive meals, of course, including that of the Sabbath. The practice of consecrating the union of marriage with a cup of blessing was described in the Ugaritic texts when El, the supreme god of the pantheon, blessed the marriage of King Keret with a cup and a flagon.[76] The custom of sharing a cup of blessing is still observed today in Jewish wedding ceremonies. "The cup of blessing," which was adopted in the Christian sacraments of the Eucharist, represented a sacred communion. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16).

Fig. 37. DAPICS n. 2903.

Fig. 37. An ossuary decorated with a chalice between two rosettes. The regenerative liquid which Rabbi Akiba counsels sprinkling "upon the bones"[77] and its progenitor the grape or grapevine, had long appeared in ancient funerary and ritual contexts. As mentioned above, wine was essential to "the cup of salvation" suggesting the messianic era. According to the Talmud, wine was blown into the nostrils of the deceased, along with other practices, to assist him in closing his eyes (probably conceived as a temporary recharging), and a mixture of wine and eggs is applied to the head after the traditional purification with water.

Jacob poured a "drink offering" on the pillar set up to mark the sacred place where he had spoken to God (Gen. 35:14). Wine, also used in libation for atonement by the Canaanites, was offered ritually to the god Εl[78] and by the Sumerian king in temple rites along with food and prayers.[79] The displeasure of the Lord of Israel with the persistence of such pagan customs as the offering of drink as well as of cereal is referred to in Isaiah 57:6.

Fig. 38. An officiate, possibly a priestess, pours sacred fluid, probably wine, into a krater, perhaps for a parting toast to or libation for the departed.[80] The vessel is framed by double axes set on poles painted to simulate foliage and perhaps sacred trees or branches upon which dove-like birds, often associated with divinity, perch. Rosettes between striated bands border this scene which also includes a woman bearing rhyton-like vessels, perhaps about to be filled, and a man playing a lyre-like instrument. Also enclosed is the representation of the mummy-like form of the deceased rising before his tomb. He appears to await the offerings of a procession of men bearing spotted cattle and a boat. Like his Egyptian counterpart in Plate, he is pictured behind vegetation. Painted section of a long side of a limestone sarcophagus. Circa 1400 B.C.E. From Ayia Triadha, Crete.

The double axes could represent the Cretan fertility goddess. Sacred trees and column-like bundles of vegetation with birds were frequently related to ritual scenes, and were often associated with sacramental fluids in the Mediterranean; in Egypt they were translated into the massive stone papyriform and lotiform columns of temples. The "almug" (sandalwood) tree became pillars in Solomon's "house of the Lord" (1 Kings 10:12).

Red pigment, an even less costly substitute for blood than wine, was sprinkled on bones in Palestinian burials of the Natufian or Late Mesolithic Period (earlier than 7500 B.C.E.). It was applied to the interior of Greek stone burial cists, sarcophagi, and wooden coffins from the period of the eighth century B.C.E.[81] In depictions of mourning of this time, the cheeks of women were smeared with red paint to indicate the blood from lacerating themselves because of their grief[82] as well as on the interior and exterior of an ossuary from a Jewish rock-cut tomb dating to the end of the period of the Second Temple.[83] The taenia or filets placed on Greek funerary monuments were also colored red. The extensive use of red paint (minium) in the epigraphy of the catacombs and in the ornamentation of the only, cubiculum bearing Jewish symbols in the Vigna Randanini catacomb as well as in the Beth She'arim catacombs could suggest the persistence of this concept. In Egyptian legend, red ochre mixed with beer to simulate "blood" became the "sleep-maker" for the goddess who would slay the world, thereby delivering mankind from destruction.[84]

Regenerating and saving substances included sacrificial blood, blood spilled in combat over a grave, or its look-alike surrogate, red wine. In ancient literature and the Bible, this metaphor is carried out in such passages as: "From the golden gob [lets], the blood of vines is poured," described in the Ugaritic tablets;[85] "and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape" (Deut. 32:14). In Isaiah (63:1-6), God's opponents were "trodden" upon like a winepress and the red blood spots on the avenger were like stains from the wine press. Indeed, the Hittite word for animal sacrifice in which blood flowed from cutting the throat, was also the word for offering a "drink-offering or libation which was poured out on the ground."[86] As we have seen, in the sacrament of the Eucharist the consecration of bread and wine symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus. Like ancient Near Eastern vegetation, and shepherd gods, he was offered for salvation albeit, in a spiritual sense. This rite recalls the ancient annual Semitic rite of "first fruits".

The vitalizing, atoning properties of blood are cited in such passages as: "the blood is life" (Deut.12:23) or "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11).[87] The belief in ancient Near Eastern thought that blood was "the seat of life" is reinforced by a Babylonian legend describing the creation of man from clay which the goddess of birth Mami (or Ninhursag), instructed by Enki (or Ea), mixed with the blood of a slain god, thus imparting a spark of the divine to mortals.[88] In one version of the Babylonian creation myth, in which the blood of two or several slain deities was used to create mankind, man's service to the gods would include watering the four regions of the earth.[89]

Because the spilling of blood was considered the binding force in covenants between man and the divine (Ex. 24:6-8; Zech. 9:11; Heb. 9:11-22; 13:20), wine and blood are mingled in Jewish circumcision rites as they were in ancient periods; it was a practice to seal a covenant with this mixture in "classical" and Roman times.[90] Herodotus described such ceremonies among the Scythians.[91] In the New Testament the blood of Jesus made him the mediator of a new covenant as well as the redeemer of his followers (Mark 14:24; I Cor. 11:25; Rom. 3:24-25; Eph. 1-7; Heb. 9:12, 15 and inferentially in Rev. 5:6-9).

Sanguinary Contests and Games

Fig. 39. In this fragmentary fresco from a tomb, a referee judges Lucanian (Italic) boxers engaged in a bout. while on the right a woman carries libation vessels. From Albanella (near Paestum). Second half of fourth century B.C.E.

This painting continues a long tradition of such funerary scenes--the representation of contests of physical prowess and battles, at times with the attendant shedding of blood, as well as libations--which took place in honor of the deceased, and persisted in Near Eastern, Aegean, Etruscan, Italic pre-Roman and Roman sepulchral artistic programs. Graphically depicted is the shedding of blood by two armed gladiators in this third century B.C.E. tomb painting from Paestum.

Boxing and wrestling scenes were represented as early as the "transition from the fourth to the third millennium" B.C.E. on a Mesopotamian votive plaque from a temple site in Khafaje (Iraq today). The scene may have depicted events connected with cult celebrations such as banquets.[92] Such a scene was depicted ritually in the Etruscan Tomba degli Auguri of the second half of the sixth century B.C.E.

The tomb of Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld among other callings, had been "watered" with the blood of his slain enemies and the mythical scenes of struggle, suffering, and resurrection were re-enacted annually in a passion play. Recital or dramatization of the conflict between the dragon Illuyankas and the Weather-god marked the Hittite spring festival devoted to the earth-goddess, Lilwani, for the revival of the earth after winter's dormancy.[93] The ritual was celebrated in "the mausoleum," and also symbolized "the triumph of life over death or good over evil" as did most of these contests.[94] During the Canaanite New Year festival which took place at the onset of the regenerating rainy season in September, a similar battle was enacted between Baal, god of life-giving rain and storms, and Mot, god of death and drought. Abbreviated allusions to these traditions of combat performed in funerary rituals decorated sarcophagi from the Roman catacombs. Such instruments of conflict as shields have been represented in Near Eastern funerary contexts in the Mediterranean as early as Egyptian Middle Kingdom coffins, and appeared later in Etruscan and Roman burial contexts.

Fig. 40. Battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, one carrying their particular shield, the crescent-shaped pelta. This traditionally Greek scene is depicted on the long side of an early fourth century B.C.E. alabaster Etruscan sarcophagus. Peltae and rosettes are carved on a sarcophagus which "may be Jewish"[95] from a first century tomb in Palestinian Gerasa, and the shields of the Amazons appear on panels at the base of the niche of the Ark of the Law in the Dura-Europos synagogue.[96] A relief in the form of a pelta is depicted on a Roman funerary altar in the Museo Nazionale Romano, and decorative furnishings in Roman houses were often in the shape of peltae perhaps affording amuletic protection.[97]

Fig. 41. DAPICS n. 0710.

Fig. 41. Crossed shields and arrows, common motifs on Roman coffins, call to mind the shield and crossed arrows appearing on Egyptian predynastic artifacts of the late fourth millennium B.C.E. These emblems were cult-signs of Neith, Egyptian goddess of war and weaver of the world; thus in Greek thought, the goddess of Sais, city of the Delta, was associated with Athena (Roman Minerva). Neith was one of the four goddesses who protected coffins and Canopic jars preserving organs of the deceased. End of a child's sarcophagus from the catacombs of the Villa Torlonia.

Fig. 42. DAPICS n. 0214.

Fig. 42. The same motifs are carved on the end of another Jewish sarcophagus bearing the epitaph in Greek: "Here lies Silikes, Gerousiarch, and Sophronia, his wife, and Maria and Nicandros, their children." Now located in the Oratory of the Forty Martyrs near the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum. The biblical shield is a protecting Lord (Gen. 15:1; II Sam. 22:3; Ps. 3:3), a metaphor for the Lord's salvation (Pss. 7:10; 18:35);[98] and a shield of faith will "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph. 6:16). The righteous king is also a shield (Pss. 47:9; 89:18).

When pictured in sepulchers, the spectacle of combat and struggle involving animal or human protagonists or both as in the hunt, arena, games (perhaps the taurokathapsia or Cretan bull sports), or battle (as above), generally with the attendant shedding of blood, appear to be associated with reinvigoration of the deceased.[99] The conflicts could also allude to the eternal contest with and victory over death, and, conceivably by further extension, to the battle and triumph of good against evil. When depicted in funerary contexts and in ceremonial and sacred precincts these themes could have served an apotropaic function.

The chase was often depicted in hunting scenes, usually portraying the pursuit of a lion, on Near Eastern ceremonial objects from the late fourth millennium B.C.E. This motif, along with scenes of combat, is carved on the Egyptian predynastic "Hunter's Palette, " and on a slightly later stele from Warka (ancient Uruk in modern Iraq).[100] In Mycenaean, Syrian, Hittite, Assyrian, Greek, and Persian ambiances, it was generally a royal pastime or diversion of the privileged as well as a popular mythological subject. The popular ancient pastime (perhaps having symbolic significance for the departed) was depicted on such exquisitely conceived miniature works of art found in the burial contexts of the Aegean people as a sixteenth century B.C.E. gold ring from the Shaft Graves of Mycenae,[101] and the amethyst intaglio from a tholos tomb in Pylos.[102]

Fig. 43. DAPICS n. 2907.

Fig. 43. A fragment of a hunting scene, a subject favored through the ages in ancient Mediterranean funerary art, recalls the fabled Greek Meleager tracking down the Caledonian boar. Conceivably, once again, this scene from a sarcophagus was intended to refer allegorically to the ultimate conquest. From the catacombs of Villa Torlonia. While there is always the possibility that the fragments from the catacombs of Villa Torlonia might have been intrusive material Goodenough presents arguments in favor of these fragments being originally Jewish.[103] The fact that the end of the sarcophagus of Caelia Omnina bears markedly Greco-Roman symbolism and yet is definitely Jewish makes his thesis feasible as do the sarcophagi with depictions of or allusions to contests from the Beth She'arim catacombs.

Fig. 44. Meleager's legendary pursuit painted in an early fourth century B.C.E. Apulian volute krater. Ivy leaves alternating with rosettes bedeck the neck of the sixth century Athenian lebes. Prototypes may include the boar (and lion hunt) incised on a Proto-Elamite cylinder seal from Susa;[104] also seen on a Mycenaean chalcedony intaglio gem from a tomb in Vaphio (Laconia);[105] and depicted on a Hittite relief from Alaja Huyuk.[106]

Fig. 45. In ancient Israel of the period of the Mishna, a parallel for additional Jewish usage of the motif of the chase appears in the stone "column" sarcophagus from catacomb 20 of the Beth She'arim catacombs. Standing on a pedestal between the second and third columns from the left, a hunter with a spear is accompanied, apparently, by his faithful dog, an age-old hunting companion - to name one of several attributes. The other columns alternate with shorter fluted pilasters except for the last two which enclose an "enigmatic object": Avigad proposes that this configuration could represent a "chalice" containing "two conical pastilles of aromatic fat"16 or "unusually tall loaves of Egyptian bread".[107]

Fig. 46. Lions hold horned animals (gazelles or antelopes) at bay in a mountainous sunlit landscape. On the right an archer takes aim at his prey while on the left, another hunter watches the lively scene which includes various horned animals such as goats, deer, and a fox and a bear. Impression from an Akkadian diorite cylinder seal circa 2200 B.C.E.[108] Carved on a cylinder seal about three hundred years earlier from the Royal Cemetery at Ur is a scene in which hunter-heroes participate while lions attack beasts in the presence of a bull-man.[109]

Representations of lions attacking horned animals such as bulls and caprids in the presence of an anthropomorphic figure have a long history in the Mediterranean. The theme is figured on such small objects as an ancient Akkadian lapis lazuli cylinder seal (impression) dating from circa 2340-2180 B.C.E. on which is depicted a lion attacking a contorted bull as heroes struggle with the same and a bull-man in a rhythmic dance of survival. The scene evokes the famed Gilgamesh Epic[110] and is depicted on cylinder seals dating back to the transition from the fourth to the third millennium B.C.E.[111]

Fig. 47. DAPICS n. 2952.

Fig. 47. A harnessed lion mauls its prey, as a trainer encourages him in this circus or venatio scene. End of a tub-like marble sarcophagus which is supported by blocks carved with snarling lion's heads. Carved on the front of this coffin, a strigilated pattern frames the sinuous dolphin possibly wound around a trident - a popular image in the catacombs. From the Catacombs of Villa Torlonia in Rome. Older still is the animal contest associated with a human figure heraldically flanked by lions as on the Gebel el-'Arak ivory handled flint knife where lions attack bulls below.[112]

Fig. 48. More contemporary to our period, the long side of a stone sarcophagus from Catacomb 20 in the Beth She'arim catacombs features a lively, crudely-carved lion attacking a horned animal on the right side of a compass-drawn rosette, apparently conceived as the center of the decoration. Since Avigad opines that the sunken relief of the chase was an afterthought, perhaps desired by the client, such motifs appear to have been accepted themes in Jewish funerary art of this time.[113] This scene recalls Isaiah 5:29: "their [the attacking Assyrians] roaring shall be like a lion,... yea, they shall roar and take hold of the prey [Judah].”

Thus this motif is depicted on objects ranging in size from such a minute tour de force as a Mycenaean gem carved with a contorted lioness1 daintily munching on the left foreleg of a bull to the monumental Persepolis reliefs depicting a lion ferociously attacking a bull. Limestone relief from Palace H. Achaemenian, fifth century B.C.E.[114] The combat between lions and bulls was frequently pictured in later Greek art. A common theme in ancient Oriental art was that of the king as a lion, or mutation thereof, treading on his foes as on the drawing of the restoration of the arm panel of a chair of Tuthmosis IV.[115] Harnessed lions with paws on ram's heads are painted on the dado of the Dura-Europos Synagogue.[116]

Not only lions, but their fabulous hybrids, griffins and sphinxes were combative animals. On a twelfth to tenth century B.C.E. Assyrian cylinder seal a hero protects a bovine from an attacking horned lion-griffin and traditional custodians of treasures or revered objects.[117] A seventh century B.C.E. bronze griffin head was once attached to a large bronze cauldron, the precious contents of which griffins were reputed to protect as they did the legendary Scythian gold. It probably originated in ancient Armenia. See also the Rhodian earring with griffins' heads of electrum finely embellished with granulation.[118]

Fantastic Creatures

Fig. 49. The base of an Anatolian hematite stamp-cylinder seal is inscribed with such images (perhaps Hittite hieroglyphs) as the profile heads of a bull, a man, possibly a helmet, an eagle, and a caprid, as well as the mask of a lion, all encircled by a double row of running scrolls. Eighteenth century (?) B.C.E.[119] The image includes a mask and the profile heads of creatures, from which selected bodily components were assembled to create such fabulous beasts and composite guardian-animals as seraphim (perhaps griffin-like beings--Is. 6:1-2) and cherubim (human-headed sphinxes), alluded to in Gen.3:24; Ex.25:18-22; Ex. 26:31 which were paralleled in the apocalyptic beasts in Revelations (4:6, 7, and were later reflected in the evangelists.[120] Both cherubim and seraphim appear to have been related to the creatures in Ezekiel 1:4-11; 10:1-9, 14-21.

Fig. 50. DAPICS n. 1845.

Fig. 50. The four evangelists float in the apse mosaic of the early fifth century Church of Santa Pudenziana located on the site of the old titulus of S. Pudens. Below, Jesus is enthroned among the apostles and two women who proffer crowns to Peter and Paul, and represent the two churches, ecclesia ex circumcisione and ecclesia ex gentibus. The edifices in the background behind the portico could represent Christian holy sites in Palestine.

Fig. 51. DAPICS n. 2493.

Fig. 51. Chacon's artist's ecumenical sixteenth century version of the menorah resting on a base composed of an eagle's talons, a lion's paw, a bovine hoof, and a shod human foot. Vat. lat. 5409, f.7r

Fig. 52. A leonine beast, perhaps a throwback to Imdugud, but with a lion's head and body equipped with traditional griffin accessories, wings and horns, is about to tread on a ram's head. A symbolic upright torch, perhaps a substitute for the Tree of Life which, on occasion, accompanies lions or other fearsome beasts flames at the far left on the end of a marble sarcophagus from Ostia Antica.

Lion-griffins are not rare in Mediterranean art, particularly in the Near East. They were often associated with eastern Mediterranean fertility goddesses. A related creature had a lion's head and the wings and tail of a bird. The image of this fantastic animal is carved on Sumerian cylinder seals of the third quarter of the fourth millennium B.C.E.[121] On an Akkadian shell cylinder seal dating to the 2360-2180 B.C.E., it bears a nude fertility goddess who holds three "bundles of rain" in each hand while drawing the chariot of a weather-god with a horned crown. On the far left, a votary pours a libation on a shrine-like altar.[122]

Fig. 53. DAPICS n. 2953.

Fig. 53. The majestic striding griffin, a composite creature - here more conventional, with lion's body and eagle's head and wings (combining the best of both species) - is in the process of trampling on a ram's head.[123] End of the sarcophagus of "Caelia Omnina, wife of Julianus, an archon of the Siburesians," a congregation which generally interred its members in the catacombs of Villa Torlonia; this coffin was found on the grounds of the Villa.[124]

Fig. 54. Saul and Jonathan are described as being "swifter than eagles" and "stronger than lions" in II Sam. 1:23; the swiftness of the flight of the eagle is imputed to Judah's enemy, Babylon (Deut.28:49). Then again, possibly this motif represents a metaphor for the triumph of good over evil; perhaps in this context, this hybridized lion in the act of subduing a caprid connotes a victory over death or as some scholars claim, death claiming a victim. Apparently about to transport him, a rapacious griffin pounces on an unresisting or dying youth--an assault reminiscent of Enkidu's dream and recalling the biblical transplanting capabilities of that close relative of the griffin, the eagle (Ezek.17:7-10).[125] Greek chalcedony scaraboid gem. Circa sixth century B.C.E.

A drawing by Garrucci documents the carving of a griffin on the no-longer extant end of the fine sarcophagus with representations of a menorah among palm trees from the catacomb of Vigna Randanini. It is possible that the lintel above the right south doorway of the synagogue at Capernaum (circa beginning of third century CE) was originally decorated with galloping griffins - according to drawings, alternating, on the left, with the still visible palm trees, centaurs, lions, or panthers.[126] On the right, eagles may have been interspersed with the palm trees - all with the customary clusters of pendant dates; perhaps, an eagle bearing a wreath in its talons was originally in the center above the small crown in the center.[127]

Fig. 55. DAPICS n. 0632.

Fig. 55. An imposing griffin is seated on the end of a sarcophagus from the Torlonia catacombs. The strigilated long side features a Dionysiac scene. Griffins were associated with Dionysus, with solar deities, and with Apollo. Because on occasion, they were, like Victories, depicted with Apollo's tripod, a prize awarded to the victor in Greek dramatic contests and hence dedicated to Dionysus, they could suggest eschatological triumph.[128] In an earlier connection with triumph, a regal, recumbent griffin decorates a ceremonial weapon from Thebes (Egypt) commemorating the victory of King Ah-mose over the Hyksos.[129] In the Minoan-Mycenaean cult, this creature was often associated with royalty and divinity.

Animating Animals

Lions, bulls and their abbreviated representations, as well as other horned animals, figure prominently in early Jewish sacred and funerary contexts in the Diaspora, in ancient Israel, and in earlier Mediterranean cemeterial and royal or consecrated ambiances such as third millennium B.C.E. burial sites in the Near East.

Fig. 56. Lions poise on their haunches with only three legs visibly extended forward. The toothy, disproportionately-conceived beasts reach out towards a bucranium on both long sides of a stone sarcophagus. Lions with paws on bucrania flank an amphora on the lintel above a doorway on a Palestinian synagogue at Umm el-Amed.[130] This image could be a variation on the theme of the griffin treading on a ram's head and analogous motifs, and probably bears the same significance. On the front of the gabled lid and on one end of the coffin, regal eagles, ancient symbols of ascension, soar above stylized garlands (perhaps laurel). Carved above similar garlands are bovine skulls, two on the back of the lid and one on the other end of the sarcophagus; the bucranium alone decorates each end of the lid. From Catacomb 20 at Beth She'arim.[131]

Representations of bucrania (like eagles) with or without garlands are common in the funerary iconography of the Roman Empire. Parts of bulls as well as the animal in its entirety were also favored by earlier antecedents of the Romans such as the Etruscans. Carved in relief over the doorway of the Etruscan Tomba dei Rilievi, garlanded bucrania flank a patera or libation dish. Shields and trumpets decorate the jambs. As early as Egypt of the Sixth Dynasty (the last period of the Old Kingdom), the heads of bulls were depicted guarding the doors of King Pepi II's funerary buildings.[132] Pairs of bucrania and lion's masks with rings[133] guard the doors of a "presumably" Jewish tomb at Neby Turfini, Palestine, and bucrania are carved on each side of a "round object" over the doorway of a tomb chamber at Gezer possibly of the "Seleucid period."[134] Reinforcing the Jewish acceptance of the use of this motif by its appearance in a sacred setting are the bucrania which flank a wreath on the lintel of a Galilean synagogue at Safsaf.[135]

A favored Roman imperial emblem, the eagle was connected with deity, especially solar divinity. The use of the eagle as a device on Herodian coins could have served to strengthen Herod's ties with Rome as well as to recall the eagle on the restored Temple, and Herod's role in its reconstruction.[136] In the Hittite pantheon this bird is associated with female deities and the sun-god. By virtue of its association with divinity, it was understandable how this bird came to embellish ancient Palestinian synagogues.[137] Goodenough describes eagles (related to the "sun gods of Syria"), two inscriptions showing eagles bearing a wreath or a garland, next to inscriptions in Greek which translate as "The Most High God" in the Crimea.[138] This terminology is used in the Bible.

Fig. 57. DAPICS n. 2601.

Fig. 57. On a frieze from the synagogue at Capernaum, two addorsed eagles grasp a garland between their beaks (their heads twisted to face each other); a harnessed hippocamp looks back at them. The lintel above the main doorway of this synagogue boasts the vestiges of a heraldic eagle; the frieze above this bears the remains of six winged erotes supporting five extant garlands studded with rosettes above the centers. Palm trees, laden again with the customary pair of date-clusters ornament the consoles which support the cyma above. Again, only the representations of living creatures have been meticulously destroyed.[139]

Like the lion and the bull, the eagle was associated with the divinity of ancient kings. Companions again, eagles fly above lions and couchant bulls depicted on a Proto-Elamite  cylinder seal from Susa,[140] and an eagle, also in heraldic style, hovers above a pair of butting bulls carved on a Mesopotamian cylinder seal dated from the first half of the third millennium B.C.E.[141] In Roman funerary rituals, the eagle became traditionally linked with apotheosis, and its identification with light, immortality, and salvation was accepted by Jews and Christians. A graffito of an eagle was incised on the right of a connecting archway between two chambers in catacomb 12 at Beth She'arim,[142] and another is carved next to lions hunting on the frieze of a "mausoleum" above Catacomb 11 in the same cemetery.[143] Bulls also are believed to have been represented on this frieze.

On this sarcophagus as on others from the Palestinian Jewish catacomb (20) which interred the remains of the redactor of the Mishna (Rabbi Judah Ha-Nassi) as well as those of other notable rabbinical figures and their followers,[144] the presence of such a myriad of traditionally significant symbols -namely, the garlands of leaves, eagles, and bucrania as well as the depiction of the lion assaulting the head of the bull, indicates again the accepted usage in ancient Israel of the prevalent motifs linked with the defeat of death or evil, and with immortality.

Fig. 58. Featured in a minor role in the upper band of a frieze carved on the front of the "shell" sarcophagus is a bucranium flanked by two lions. Other popular motifs such as birds (perhaps doves) pecking at grapes on the right of a fish are carved on the left of this scene. Curiously, two aediculae frame a lion and what appears to be a long-legged almost human-appearing eagle--perhaps an attitude indicating ascent. A similar bird is carved within a square frame on the left side of the "gable" sarcophagus from the same catacomb. Between these two sanctified images, close to the inner columns are one stylized wreath encircling a rosette and another incipient wreath. The remains of a red dipinto enclosed by these representations attributed the ownership of the stone sarcophagus to "(Rabbi) Gamaliel ben Eliezer." Schematized vines, enclosing clusters of grapes or sprigs of vegetation, border the body of the sarcophagus in dissimilar patterns. Vestiges of red paint are still visible on the ornamentation. From the Catacombs of Beth She’arim."[145]

Empire-builder, pharaoh Tuthmosis III, who saw himself as endowed with the "majesty of a lion," also thought of himself as the "Mighty Bull, rising like the sun in Thebes",[146] or as majestic, "as a lusty bull, enduring of heart, sharp of horn, whom one cannot overcome."[147] Hammurabi, the famed Babylonian king, compared himself to a fiery bull.

Fig. 59. A butting bull. Last half of the fifth century B.C.E. Greek chalcedony scaraboid gem. From most ancient periods horned animals, especially bulls and caprids, at times represented by head or horns alone, were considered a vigorous procreative force. The famed ram in Genesis (22:13, 17) was an accessory in "multiplying" Abraham's "seed as the stars of heaven".

Fig. 60. DAPICS n. 0272.

Fig. 60. Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh "The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" (Genesis 48:16). Lunette painting in the right arcosolium. Cubiculum B in the Catacomb of via Dino Compagni, Rome.

Fig. 61. Above the two rear doorways of the first chamber and interspersed by two amorous couples are pictured two bulls; the one on the right, bearing a human head, is appears to be about to charge the unseemly-behaving couple in front of him, while the blue-eyed bull on the left avoids embarrassment by averting his head from the performance enacted before him. Traditional pomegranates on each side of a banded border divide this frieze (displaying images connoting fertility) from the mythological scene of the ambush of Troilus by Achilles featured on the wall below between the two doorways. Noteworthy in this vignette of the Trojan War are the addorsed lions atop the fountain, particularly the one on the right spouting water into a vessel (see pp.) supported by a pedestal. Also significant for the iconography of the catacombs is the stylized pole-like palm tree, and the abundance of vegetation. Tender shoots, including a similar diminutive palm tree, sprout from the top of the fountain; in the register below, red filets (or taenia) are strung between three of the six visible? trees (four are bare, and two bear leaves); a wreath decorated the denuded tree on the far right. The scene conceivably connotes the death and renewal of nature with much of the other familiar symbolism already advanced or to be described here. Moreover, the implication of the dastardly act to follow conforms to the concept of the shedding of blood at burials. The circa mid-sixth-century B.C.E. Etruscan Tomba dei Tori in the Necropolis of Monterozzi near Tarquinia, Lazio, Italy.

From the fourth millennium B.C.E. in the Mediterranean, these animals, particularly bulls, often alluded to, and even became assimilated with divinities. Bulls were associated with moon-gods, sun-gods, storm-gods, water and river-gods, and fertility-gods (see Pls.), representing or controlling the potent forces in nature, particularly fecundity and sources of water. On a Syro-Hittite hematite cylinder seal the carved mask of a bull is situated near figures concerned with fertility rites to ensure abundant water. Streams flow from a vase on a stand into vessels held by two seated figures in the upper right corner. Among other motifs, a partially clad fertility goddess, with water streaming down her left side, appears to offer a pitcher to a "weather-god” standing on mountain peaks. She appears to be associated with a dove-like bird. 1600-1350 B.C.E.[148]

Fig. 62. A kernel (or seed) of grain floats above the river-god Gelas, part anthropomorphic and part bull. Reverse of an Attic tetradrachm, 510-480 B.C.E. Minted in Gela, Sicily. Images of bull-men are carved on Mesopotamian seals dating from the late fourth to early third millennium B.C.E., and ears of grain appear above bulls in Mesopotamian glyptic of the same period - not surprising, since this animal was a necessary auxiliary for ploughing.[149] An ancient Sumerian-Akkadian prayer extolls: "Great bull, sublime bull, who treads the pure pasture, who enters the fields, holding abundance, who cultivates the grain, who makes the lands fertile: my pure hands have poured a libation for you.”[150]

Osiris, often linked with the growing of grain, assumed the form of a bull in his assimilation with the divine bull Apis who became his incarnation. Since Osiris, "the "Bull of the Other World," was so closely related to the Nile, the bull alluded to that great life-giving force for Egypt.[151] "Hail, Osiris… O Bull, who renewest youth in the sky each day, creator of... Hap (the Nile) appeareth by the command of thy mouth, making men and women to live on the effluxes which come from thy members, making every field to flourish. At thy coming that which is motionless groweth, and the green plants of every created thing has its marsh put forth blossoms. existence from thee."[152] In a Babylonian water ritual, it is implied that the Euphrates, "the creator of all things" is deified like the Nile.[153]

Fig. The Egyptian vegetation god possessed the capabilities of a psychopomp (conductor of souls) like Zeus-Jupiter who, transformed into a bull, carried off Europa--a medieval Christian allegory for the rapture of the soul. A hardly reluctant Europa rides off with great dignity on the stately bull/Zeus to Crete to establish a Minoan dynasty. Late sixth century B.C.E. Black-figure Greek amphora.

In Egypt the primal fertility god Min, an ithyphallic image, in later periods perpetuated as the merged gods Amon-Ra and related to Osiris (as well as Horus), was called "the bull of his mother Kamephis."[154] Sin, the Mesopotamian moon-god was described as a "Ferocious bull...womb that gives birth to everything...and addressed as "Thou when thy word settles down on the earth, green vegetation is produced."[155]

Fig. 63. Selinus, the horned river-god grasps a ritual laurel branch in his left hand and pours a libation on an altar while a sacrificial cock awaits. On the right a selinon (wild celery) leaf from which the name of the river and Sicilian city of the patron deity were derived floats above another emblem of rivers, the statue of a bull on a pedestal. About 467-455 B.C.E. Reverse of a tetradrachm of Selinos.[156]

The bull was sacred to the Greek and Roman god of the deep waters, Poseidon/Neptune. On Hittite reliefs, the weather-god was often represented as a bull standing on a pedestal, and worshiped by royalty; on other occasions, this god stands on the bull becoming a prototype for Jupiter Dolichenus. Enki, the Sumerian fertility-god and water-god, identical with the Akkaddian Ea, who watched over the universe, and filled the Tigris with life-giving "sparkling water" is compared to a procreative "big wild bull" in the Sumerian mythological narrative poem, Enki and the World Order.[157] El the supreme god of the Canaanite pantheon is referred to as the Bull El, and the bull is the cult animal of his executive, the storm-god and king, Baal-Hadad, in the same religion.[158] Appropriately, the monumental "molten sea" (bowl) in Solomon's Temple  containing the purifying water for the ablutions of the priests stood upon twelve oxen - "really couchant bulls, three of which look "toward" each of the four cardinal points (of the compass), an ancient allusion to world sovereignty. This is reminiscent of the four horns of the Bull of Ra, which grow toward each of the cardinal points.[159]

The Lord of Israel is compared to a bull who has "brought down those who sat on thrones" (the Assyrian kings, Is.10:12-13 RSV). In conferring his blessing upon the head of Joseph for the "fullness" of the earth, Moses appealed for the "majesty" of his "firstling bull," and for "his horns" to be like "the horns of a wild ox" (Deut.33:16, 17 RSV). Israel in the prophecy of Balaam is described as possessing the horns of a wild ox (Num. 23:22; 24:8-9), and the city of Ur is compared to a bull.[160] A standing bull is the device on the obverse of a 540-519 B.C.E. Italic stater from the southern Italian city of Sybaris.

As noted above, Oriental kings considered themselves as possessing the best qualities of the powerful bull. The lowest register on the recto of the late fourth millennium B.C.E., famed ceremonial palette of Narmer (presumably the first ruler of a unified Egypt) is carved with the scene of a monumental bull attacking a city and an enemy.[161] Like divinities, Near Eastern kings and Mediterranean warriors and heroes have been represented with horned headdresses.

Fig. 64. DAPICS n. 0228.

Fig. 64. The epitaph of a scholar of the law of an unknown number of years, months, and twelve days who was "without stain" displays graffiti of a standing bull in profile along with a menorah and possible scroll. The marble fragment was dedicated by his son with the tribute that he always be remembered "among the righteous.” From the Catacomb of Vigna Randanini, Rome. Bulls are also roughly incised on an arcosolium in a burial chamber of catacomb 1 at Beth She'arim.[162]

Fig. 65. A bull in similar stance is incised on stone N. 24* from Monteverde which could be Jewish, although Frey, "without sufficient reason" according to Leon, considered it pagan.[163] Inscription n.171, of which only half remains on site in the Catacomb of Vigna Randanini, when intact was inscribed with what appeared to be a bull. Frey described the animal on this slab as a calf, and also noted a menorah - another instance of a bovine and a menorah used together in the same epitaph.[164]

Fig. 66. In the mystery cult of Mithras, the Persian god of light and truth, the bull of creation is slain in a grotto and his regenerative blood spilled upon the earth to be imbibed by the chthonic serpent and the waiting dog while a scorpion gnaws at the bull's genitals. Wheat sprouts from his tail in a saving ritual which by sacrificing the bull liberates the resuscitating force--and thus birth arises from the death of the cosmic bull. In the upper left hand corner, the bust of the significantly seven-rayed Helios is flanked by a winged horse and a bird, presumably the raven which transmitted to Mithras (attired in Phrygian dress) Sol's message to kill the bull. On each side the metaphorical torchbearers witness the ritual: Cautes, with upraised torch, representing light and day, life, and the renewal of vegetation (spring and summer); and Cautopates, with lowered torch, signaling darkness and night, death, and the cessation of seasonal growth (winter). In the legend, the sun, moon, planets, and four winds are also observers, and the sun-god, Helios-Sol and Mithras make a covenant after sharing in a meal of the sacrificial flesh and blood.

Common partaking of the flesh and blood of a consecrated sacrifice or its symbols, as mentioned above, established a sacred communion and bond imparting divine spirit to the votary in the ancient Mediterranean world. In the orgiastic Dionysiac rites maenads, the deity's followers, achieved union with the dying and resurrected god Dionysus (also associated with the bull) by tearing apart animals, and devouring the saving god's flesh as well as by drinking wine--his blood. The evocative statement "he who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation," came from Persian Mithraic literature.[165]

Followers of Mithras were assured of immortality. His initiates like those of the cult of Cybele or Magna Mater, were baptized in the blood of the slain bull, a taurobolium, and reborn for eternity. The blood of the bull as a sacramental, purifying and cleansing agent was prescribed in Leviticus (8:14, 15) and Ezekiel (43:19, 20). A ram could be substituted in a criobolium; both animals enjoyed long careers in these roles. In a Babylonian creation myth, the gods are purified by immersion in the blood of a slain god.[166]

Other Mithraic cult practices suggesting certain Christian rites, and reflecting Jewish traditions as well as those of earlier Near Eastern religions in addition to baptism (albeit by water in Christian rites) were oblations of bread, a communal meal, and the mark of a saving sign on the forehead. The deceased heroes of the battle at Plataea were invited to participate in the annual commemorative ceremonies which included a feast and blood offering from the remains of a sacrificed bull.[167]

Fig. 67. Painted on the long side of the limestone sarcophagus from Ayia Triadha, blood pours from the trussed bull on a table into the vessel below. The blood which contains the life and makes an atonement for the soul, according to biblical thought (Lev.17:11), presumably returned through an apparently bottomless vessel to a regenerative earth (Ex. 29:11-12; Lev.4:4, 14, 18; Lev. 8:14-15).[168] On the other side, offering bearers carry spotted cattle, probably bulls, in a funerary procession. To return to the original scene in this plate, beneath the sacrificial table upon which the dying bull pours out his lifeblood, two goats, unaware of their fate, await their turn.

Fig. 68. On a Phoenician seal, a horned she-goat nurses four diminutive human figures as she is being slain, thereby symbolizing giving life through her sacrifice. The celestial setting for this sacramental  scene features a winged sun disc, star, and crescent moon.[169] In addition to their customary role as sacrifices from the flock in Jewish ritual, goats were offered for purification, especially of the Temple (Ezek. 43:22, 25) and its furnishings, and as scapegoats for atonement (in Hebrew kippur) by transference of their sins (Lev. 16:5, 8-10, 15-22).[170] The ritual of using the blood of bovines and goats to take away sins is referred to in the New Testament (Heb.10: 4) as being inadequate compared to the offering of the body of Jesus, "once for all." (Also Heb. 9:12-14, 19).  The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is observed close to the time of the celebration of the New Year or Rosh Hashanah (ten days after its onset). A similar rite (in Babylonian parlance kuppuru meaning atonement) was performed for the purification of the sanctuary at the time of the Babylonian New Year's festivals, albeit with a ram.[171] The Hittites observed a "scapegoat" rite against pestilence using a donkey.[172]

Fig. 69. A double flute-player provides music for the ritual. Circa 1400 B.C.E. From Ayia Triadha, Crete. Mishna Shab. 23.4 describes similar music-making in funerary ceremonies in Israel. Flutes were found in burials as early as the third millennium B.C.E. Ur, and double pipes were depicted in tomb paintings in Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt and in later Greek, Etruscan, Italic, and Roman sepulchers as well as in "Hellenized-Semitic" burials in Ancient Israel.[173] Such wind instruments were also played in the ecstatic celebrations of the mystery religions of Cybele, Isis, Sabazius, and Dionysus, and in traditional Roman religious rites).

Fig. 70. An offering bearer accompanied by a sacrificial bull. Painted reproduction of an Egyptian wall painting from the tomb of a Royal Butler "Clean of Hands." Thebes. Dynasty XVIII, circa 1450 B.C.E. Bulls were sacrificed to a funerary god in ancient Egypt.

Fig. 71. In a sacred precinct, indicated by the Ionic column bedecked with a filet, a young woman, bearing a horned, ceremonial basket on her head, leads a procession of celebrants. Holding ritual sprays of vegetation, the youths conduct bovines adorned with woolen streamers. Attic red-figure lekythos by the Gales Painter. 520-510 B.C.E.[174]

Fig. 72. DAPICS n. 3135.

Fig. 72. Ram and bovine protomes face each other on the head of the tombstone dedicated by Aurelius Ioses and Aurelia Auguria to their "well-deserving, year-old son, Agathopos. Remains of ruminants (which could also have been refuse or present due to reasons other than ritual) were found in the recent excavations of the catacombs under the Villa Torlonia[175] as well as in burials dating back at least more than 2000 years earlier in Israel.[176] An ivy leaf separates the gentile names from the cognomina of the parents. Catacomb of Vigna Randanini, Rome.

Sumerian royalty sacrificed oxen and sheep to the "important dead.'[177] A bull, caprids, and fish are offered on the "peace panel" to celebrate a victory. From the so- called "Standard of Ur" Early Dynastic III (c. 2500 B.C.E.). In the register above, banqueters raise drinking vessels.[178] In Hittite burial rites one ox and nine sheep were slaughtered for the souls of Hittite royalty as well as for the "Sun-goddess (of Earth),[179] and the skull of a bull and a sheep (or possibly a goat) have each been found separately in two Late Minoan tombs.[180]

Fig. 73. DAPICS n. 3134.

Fig. 73. At the base of the inscription set up by Aelia Alexandria to her "dearest well-deserving mother," Aelia Septima, a ram's head is flanked by a vessel and an ethrog. Again, imperial names were taken as gentile names, here by a mother and daughter. This inscription was discovered in the catacomb of Vigna Randanini catacomb and was displayed there for a time. Photograph taken shortly after the excavation of the catacomb.

Fig. 74. DAPICS n. 2825.

Fig. 74. Corner fragment of a marble sarcophagus from the catacomb of Vigna Randanini with the head and neck of a ram depicted in profile. Three-dimensional rams' heads or more extensive parts of their bodies were often used in relief to decorate Roman funerary furnishings.

Fig. 75. The front of the third century (third quarter) Christian marble sarcophagus from the Via Salaria displays similar but more monumental figurations at the corners. Teaching scenes, including a deceased husband and wife, and the Good Shepherd complete the relief. The skeleton of a ram along with a lamp among other objects was found in a Hellenistic grave in Thessaly, and an epitaph of the second century B.C.E. from the Cycladic island of Amorgos advocates the sacrifice of a ram to the heroically rendered Aleximachos.[181] Evidently, the association of the ram with divinity and belief in its vitalizing powers lingered long after Medea's famed feat of resuscitating a ram.

Fig. 76. Odysseus calls forth the shade of Elpenor by such sacrifices after making libations of milk, honey, wine, water, and barley, as that consummate psychopomp or conductor of souls (Pls.), Hermes, looks on. "I took the sheep and cut their throats over the pit, and the dark-clouding blood ran in, and the souls of the perished dead gathered at the place."[182] Circa 440 B.C.E. Attic red-figure pelike (a vessel for wine) attributed to the Lykaon Painter.

Fig. 77. Khnum, an antecedent of the Greek god Prometheus, in the act of creation. Badly damaged early first century B.C.E. stone relief in the house of birth or Mammisi, dedicated to Hathor-Isis in the Temple complex at Philae. "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand" (Is. 64:8).[183] The formation of man from clay or dust was a widespread belief in Near Eastern creation legends and Greek myth. In the Egyptian pantheon the generative powers of the ram are embodied in Khnum, the ram-headed god of wisdom and writing, associated with the fertilizing waters of the Nile at Elephantine, the region of the First Cataract. Khnum fashioned human beings on his potter's wheel.

Other Egyptian gods were also connected with the ram, like the bull, a receptacle for the soul of Osiris, who was represented with ram's horns when worshiped at several of cities with precincts consecrated to him. In his underworld journey, the sun-god was often represented by the ram. Also the ram was identified with Amon, the great god of Thebes; the impressive avenue leading from the temple at Luxor, dedicated to Amon, his wife Mut and son Khons, to the temple of the same trinity at Karnak, was flanked by a double row of ram-headed sphinxes. Another city in which the ram was sacred was that of Mendes.

Fig. 78. The deification of Alexander the Great is indicated by the portrayal on his head of the ram's horns of Zeus-Ammon, a pragmatic syncretism of Greek and Egyptian gods. Obverse of an Attic tetradrachm minted at Byzantion, Thrace after 196 B.C.E.

Multitudes of oxen and sheep, the quintessential ritual animals in the Mediterranean, were sacrificed at the dedication of Solomon's Temple (I Kings 8:63), which was scheduled for the time of the autumnal New Year festival. These animals were sacrificed in the hecatombs of Greece and Rome as well as in the Second Temple. Traditional to the Near East (see Num.23:1-2; 29-30), this rite was often associated with a feast. It recalled, in a number of respects, temple festivals observed by late Sumerian kings as well as the celebration of the building of the "house" of Baal and the Canaanite rites of fertility and renewal which would ensure a sufficient rainy season.

Sacramental Ceremonies

Fig. 79. DAPICS n. 1890.

Fig. 79. The vestiges of the painting (rendered in Orientalizing flattened perspective) indicate that it is most likely a ram in the process of being sacrificed on top of the golden altar. The observance of the ritual is taking place within the enclosure of the Israelite sanctuary during the "consecration  of the Tabernacle" which took place on the first day of the first month [of the year]" (Ex. 40:2, 170.[184] On the right, a bull and the other prescribed ram (Ex. 29:1, 10-12, 15-21) await their turns. Standing on the left, is a garlanded "red heifer" (humped like the bull), who will be slaughtered by the attendant with the ax so that her ashes can be placed in the "water of separation" for "purification for sin" (Num. 19:1-13,). The animals and figures, on the right and left are not within the crenelated wall with its three entrances, indicating that they are outside of the sacred precinct--waiting in the wings, so to speak.

The scene graphically illustrates the rites which affirm biblical concepts of the consecrating and expiating powers of the blood of such sacrificial beasts as bulls and rams and their relatives. Aaron is depicted in the attire of the High Priest which illustrates biblical description (Ex. 28:5-39) albeit influenced by Iranian royal garb. He is flanked by Temple musicians holding slightly curved trumpets in their right hands. Further emphasizing the celebration of a ritual is the presence of the two flaming golden thymiateria, here connoting "the golden altar of incense" (Ex.30:1-3); they are dwarfed by the sacred lampstand, its seven golden arms and shaft decorated with spheres and discs (Ex.40:1-6). A center rosette and acroteria in the form of flying Victories bearing wreaths ornament the pediment of the sanctuary which is enclosed by a colonnade of Corinthian columns.[185] At the entrance of the sanctuary, a veil is draped as background for the Ark of the Covenant contrary to the usual position. According to this photograph one rosette decorates "the rounded cover" of the Ark.[186] Painted panel on the west wall of the Synagogue of Dura Europos (244-245).

Fig. 80. DAPICS n. 0051.

Fig. 80. Vaults catalogue, p. 20, fig. 78. Many roles could be assigned to this enigmatic sheep ruminating in a sparse landscape before a stump or column base[187] which suggests a funerary monument. Against this support leans a caduceus, an ancient Near Eastern attribute of messengers for the gods, adopted by the divine shepherd, Hermes (Roman Mercury), also the seasoned psychopomp and sometime liberator of souls. Thus the sheep could symbolize salvation because of its connection with Hermes. Interposed is an ambiguous object which could represent either a purse identified with Mercury, as patron of commerce (the ancient Roman business man's version of this divinity) or a milk pail reflecting his pastoral beginnings and the nurturing qualities of sheep. Painted wall in Cubiculum I, Catacombs of Vigna Randanini, Rome.

Fig. 81. Another interpretation could be that of a sacrificial animal as in the Roman Suovetaurilia. Carved relief of garlanded sheep. Bulls and pigs were also offerings. So-called Plutei (parapets) of Trajan. Roman Forum.

Then again, the sacrifice of the closely related Paschal lamb, an instrument of deliverance for the "children of Israel," is commemorated in the celebration of Passover wherein the blood of the unblemished lamb was used as an apotropaic saving sign, and its roasted flesh was eaten (Ex. 12:3-27). The death of Jesus is compared to this event in Paul's admonitions (1 Cor. 5:7): "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. A precursory Old Testament analogy is drawn between the nonresistant lamb brought to slaughter and the "man of sorrows" who "was cut out of the land of the living: for the transgression of" his "people" (Is. 53:7, 8) and "Jesus, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In a number of passages in Revelations, reference is made to the slain Lamb and his saving qualities: The blood of the Lamb of God will cleanse the robes of the redeemed making "them white in the blood of the Lamb," and thus purify from sin (Rev. 7:14). The lamb was offered as a sacrifice by supplicants to the Canaanite God El.[188]

Worshippers in the mysteries of Attis, the dying and rising vegetation god, often linked with Cybele, and the Phrygian equivalent of the Akkadian Tammuz (Sumerian shepherd-god Dumuzi) and Adonis, were bathed in the blood of a ram. On a stone altar for rites of Cybele, a ram is carved in front of a symbolic pine tree with a suspended patera and pine cones, associated with fertility in ancient cult practice.

Fig. 82. Vaults catalogue, p. 20, fig. 77. Resting on a mosaic base, the gold and silver caprid with inlay of lapis lazuli, might have served as a stand; it was reassembled from fragments found in a royal burial. Metaphor for the qualities of virility and renewal embodied in the Near Eastern vegetation god, Tammuz the animal peers through the gold, rose-bearing branches of a "Tree of Life''. Like his counterparts in fertility legends, Tammuz allegorized the death and rebirth of vegetation in the cycle of the seasons. The renewal of nature was accomplished by the sacred marriage of Tammuz to the goddess of fertility performed by their proxies. An early version of the popular ancient motif of caprids and symbolic vegetation, it prefigures the "ram caught in the thicket" in the Old Testament narrative of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22:13). From the graves of Ur, Mesopotamia. Early Dynastic III, circa 2500 B.C.E.

Fig. 83. DAPICS n. 1171.

Fig. 83. Vaults catalogue, p. 20, fig. 76. Abraham's "First Fruit". Smoke rises from the wood on a horned altar, as Abraham's long knife is stayed by the hand of the Lord which originally emerged from the billowy grayish clouds. The ram, surrogate for Isaac, Abraham's first born whose hands are bound behind him, is about to be offered. An attendant with an ass waits below. Right wall painting in the left niche. Cubiculum C, Catacomb of via Dino Compagni, Rome.

Abraham's unquestioning compliance with the Lord's will ensures (in a divine covenant) the Lord's blessing on "all the nations of the earth" (Gen.22:2-18). In much the same tradition, Jesus is considered a first fruit-- first to offer himself for the redemptions of the first fruits of conversion (I Cor.5:20, 23). A favored Old Testament theme of salvation in early Christian funerary iconography, the "sacrifice of Isaac" (Akedah) was also pictured in such Jewish contexts as the Dura Europos synagogue where it is featured prominently above the niche for the Ark of the Law, and on the mosaic floor of the inner room of the sixth century Beth Alpha synagogue in Israel.

The Shofar/Trumpet/Horn

Appropriately, the horn of the regenerative ram[189] and the highest Jewish holy days such as the ushering in of the New Year (Lev. 23:23-24) which commemorates the substitution of the ram for the sacrifice of Isaac, the Sabbath, and the conclusion of the rites for Yom Kippur. Its most elemental service ritually was to bear the pleas of his people to God.

Fig. 84. DAPICS n. 0811.

Fig. 84. A shofar between two vegetal objects probably intended to represent ethrogim according to Daniel Barag, who dates the medallion to the fourth century because of its typological similarity to Christian pieces of the same period.[190] Barag opines that the roundel was applied as decoration to the exterior of a glass vessel. Charles R. Morey describes the flanking objects as lulabs. Most likely from the Jewish catacombs of Rome.[191]

Fig. 85. DAPICS n. 0694.

Fig. 85. The cult wind instrument is framed by two semicircles, the outer one spiked with dotted triangles, probably an abstraction of a floral design, often the inspiration for decorative motifs. Vault painting in the painted cubiculum of the upper catacomb under Villa Torlonia. As mentioned above, images of the cult instruments of the Temple allude to restoration of the Temple and the nation and, by extension, to renewal for the deceased,

Fig. 86. DAPICS n. 3136.

Fig. 86. In a visual pun on the name of the infant Salpingios buried in the catacomb of Vigna Randanini, his epitaph bears two instruments which resemble shofars. The term shofar, from the Akkadian meaning wild ibex was translated in the Septuagint into the Greek word for trumpet transliterated as salpinx.[192] Like the instruments that signaled the fall of Jericho, trumpets were often made of ram's horns (Josh.6:4-13).

Fig. 87. Encompassing two trumpets, the Hebrew inscription, a message of hope, translates into English as: "Year 2 of the freedom of Israel." Reverse of a silver denarius. Minted in Palestine during the second year of the Bar Kochba War (133/134).[193] Trumpets, usually in pairs, were priestly instruments particularly (see Pl.), and frequently served somewhat similar functions to those of the shofar. Here they could represent aspirations for the return of Temple or sacred ritual, and serve to rally forces for the defense of Jerusalem. They were used to sound alarms for battle (Num. 10:2-10), for warning (Joel 2:2; Ezek. 33:3-6), for cessation of battle (II Samuel 2:26-28), and to call assembly (Joel 2:15). At the coming of the "Son of man, "he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt.24:30-31). This prediction from Matthew is reminiscent of Isaiah's eschatological "great trumpet" that shall be blown to gather all of the dispersed Israelites "worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem" (Is.27:13).

Conceivably of solace to the deceased and loved ones would be concepts such as the belief that trumpets will persuade the Creator to move from the Throne of Judgment to the Throne of Mercy in the seventh month, the period of the New Year and the Day of Atonement (see pp.).[194] The trumpet signaled salvation and restoration in Paul's promise: "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Cor. 15:52); and "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven...with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:16-17). Reference to the horn as symbolizing the salvation of the Lord is made in Psalm 18:2 and Luke 1:69.

As seen above, the horn of itself or its representation was of sacred significance in ancient Jewish rites (for example, Ex. 29:12; Lev.4:7,18; Lev.8:15). Its sacramental importance in cultures of the Mediterranean is attested to by the descriptions and, in many cases, actual finds of horned towers of Near Eastern temples, horned shrines and altars in Crete, and in Canaanite, and Old Testament as well as New Testament (Rev. 9:13) ritual.[195] In Crete the term "horns of consecration" is often applied to the horns on altars and shrines in sacred contexts. As embellishments, they have also been found in funerary contexts either sculpted or painted; Cretan, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman monuments such as urns, coffins or tombstones were often decorated with acroteria in the shape of horns. Thus, by transference, the horn connoted the power and regenerative capabilities of such animals as the bull and ram, and, in the form of the cornucopia, nature's vegetal bounty--all important to the funerary concepts of these cultures.[196]

Because the horn symbolized potency and vigor, metaphorically it alludes to a Davidic ruling succession promised by the Lord: "There [Zion] I will make the horn of David to bud" (Psalm 132:17), and, perhaps, to the restoration of that dynasty after the fall of Jerusalem, "In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth (Ezek.29:21). Roman coin stamped posthumously with a device representing the heads of Tiberius' two grandsons (who died very young) emerging from double horn-like cornucopiae. Other attributes of the horn connected with Nature's fecundity are discussed below.

Fig. 88. A Horn for Anointing. Samuel anoints David in "the midst of his brethren, a ceremony in which the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" (I Sam. 16:13). Anointing is associated with another divine conferral of power: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38 RSV). The figures wear sandals and Greek garb (a chiton or tunic under the himation or outer garment. David is distinguished by his regal dark purple mantle which covers his hands indicating that God is present.[197] Painted panel at the right of the Ark of the Torah on the west wall of the Dura-Europos Synagogue.[198]

The scene connotes the messianic promise of the Davidic line (Is.11; Ps.89:4, 20, 24). As noted, the word Messiah from the Aramaic and Hebrew means anointed. The psalmist sings of the just ruler: "Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness: therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Ps. 45:7). Similarly, Jesus is described: "thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness, above thy fellows" (Heb.1:9). And announced by an early executor of divine will: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord God hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek" (Is. 61:1) which Jesus paraphrased in Luke (4:18) when describing his mission. In Jewish Christian writings "the Lord received ointment on his head, that he might breathe incorruption upon the Church."[199]

The horn was often associated with oil in imparting strength from the divinity to overcome adversaries (Ps.92:10-11; 132:17-18), rendering it appropriate to serve in the anointing of a new monarch "the Lord's anointed," surrogate and divine servant (I Sam.9:16; 10:1) in the Near East.

Not only were kings consecrated (I Kin. 19:16) by anointing,[200] " bearing "holy crowns" (Ex. 29:6,7) and, on occasion, prophets (Is. 61:1), the Ark (Ex. 30:26), the Tabernacle and its furnishings (Ex. 40:9), ritual objects such as the altar and its appurtenances (Ex. 40:10),[201] and even the "stone for a pillar" (of Bethel)[202] --an ancient tradition. The stelai or monuments dedicated to the  Greek heroes of Plataea were washed and anointed like the deceased.[203]

Anointing with oil was often performed by the ancient Jews and early Christians to celebrate festal occasions (Ps. 23:5), as demonstrated by the anointing of Enoch "with the good oil"[204] on his admittance to the seventh heaven,[205] a purification before renewal perhaps influenced by baptismal rites which include anointing.[206] Jerusalem was cleansed for her "covenant" with "the Lord God" by bathing and anointing (Ezek. 16:3, 8-9). The application of ointments and spices is described in the preparations for the burial of Jesus (Luke 23:56) indicating that anointing the deceased as well as washing played a significant role in the mortuary practices of the Jews (Mishna Shab. 23.5) as with the Greeks, Romans, and earlier peoples such as the Hittites. This procedure was a major element in Egyptian funerary ritual; not surprisingly, it was reflected in the embalming of Jacob and Joseph (Gen. 50:2-3, 26).

Fig. 89. Preparing the deceased. Still another representation of the head of a caprid and the bull are included among the motifs painted on this coffin. Detail of painted wooden coffin. First Intermediate Period (2258-2040 B.C.E.).

Perhaps then, it should not be surprising that in the 1973-1974 excavations by the Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra of the upper catacomb under the Villa Torlonia, P. Fasola observed the unusual phenomenon of "entire rows of loculi" smeared with a black oily film covering the tufa, clay closures, the lime and, often, the interior of the loculus itself.[207] After chemical analysis P. Fasola recorded that one of the ingredients was aloe, a major substance used in Jewish burials during the period of the first millennium, as attested to in John (19:39): "And there came also Nicodemus which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight."

Possibly another instance of the contemporary perpetuation of the sacramental rite of anointing in burial contexts, applied to the place of interment itself, is the coating of "the cover stones" of trough graves with "a black substance mixed with soot" as described by Avigad in Catacomb 14 at Beth She'arim.[208] Noteworthy is the fact that in contrast to the humbler loculi-burials in this densely-occupied region of the catacomb of the Villa Torlonia, these equally unpretentious graves were located in spacious chambers in an early third-century catacomb distinguished by exterior architectural refinements and interring a number of noted rabbis and sages--perhaps even the remains of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nassi's family and the great scholar himself.[209]

Ancient Near Eastern Funerary Customs of Mourning and Remembrance of the Deceased.

Fig. 90. Women mourn during ceremonies performed with the mummies of the departed near the tomb door. Column-like formal bouquets, usually including the lotus flower and buds, symbol of rebirth, decorate the scene. Perched on a pole on the right is a bird, apparently the falcon, manifestation of the god Horus. Reproduction of a wall painting at the entrance. The Tomb of the Sculptors, Nebamun and Ipuki, Thebes. New Kingdom. Eighteenth Dynasty, mid to late third of the fourteenth century B.C.E.

Fig. 91. Qumran region (DAPICS n. 2309).

Generally, the deceased was wrapped in a sheet in the folds of which lime might be spread, perhaps to hasten decomposition, which according to some Jewish thought, was necessary for expiation and often perfumed. In the process ointments were used as was the custom in ancient Palestine. Müller notes that the "crust of dark red" coating the ample base of a fragmented glass vessel at the time of discovery in the Catacomb of Monteverde could have been the remains of such an unguent.[210] Perhaps vestiges of other glass vessels, some of which were apparently quite sophisticated in workmanship, and which Müller stated (at the time of his early-twentieth century excavations) were more profuse than in any other "contemporary Christian cemetery" might have contained some such substance, when buried, but were empty upon discovery. Recently there was a find in a Judean desert cave in the Qumran region of a "juglet" containing "a reddish ointment" which had formed a crust where it had leaked out. This was determined to be the precious, much-coveted, perfumed ointment Opobalsamum, possibly the royal anointing oil described in the Talmud from its characteristics as recorded by Pliny.

The thought occurs that perhaps among the ancient Roman Jews there were those who had the means to import this precious substance which so greatly enriched those in charge of its cultivation and production, said only to occur in Ein Gedi and Jericho. The application of oils and spices is described in the preparations for the burial of Jesus (Luke 23:56), and thus a conventional funerary practice among the ancient Jews (Mishna Shab. 23.5) as the use of fragrant oils was with the Greeks and such earlier peoples as the Hittites and the Egyptians.[211]

This procedure was a major element in Egyptian funerary ritual, and elegant vessels were commissioned to hold these precious ritual substances in tombs. The mummy of Tutankhamun was "burned" black by oils and unguents. Not surprisingly, this custom was reflected in the embalming of Jacob and Joseph (Gen. 50:2-3, 26).

[1] The Canaanite storm/vegetation-god Baal gave a feast when he gave life as recorded in Ugaritic tablets. From ancient Ras Shamra in modern Syria. See James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), p.151, vi, line 30. They date mainly from the end of the Fifth Dynasty to the late Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, (that is approximately from the last half of the twenty-fifth century B.C.E. to the last half of the twenty-third or early twenty- second century B.C.E.) but include more ancient material. Also James Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), p. 88. In this instance, the source is Breasted's chronology for the dynasties of Egypt.

[2] The Last Supper is referred to as an agape in Jude 12 and as a common meal in I Corinthians 11:20, 33 (RSV).

[3] James Stevenson, The Catacombs: Life and Death in Early Christianity (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1979), p. 155 and n. 72.

[4] Pasquale Testini, Archeologia Cristiana, 2d ed. (Bari: Edipuglia, 1980), p. 429.

[5] The display of a like exuberance, but on a smaller scale in early celebrations of apostolic times might have been described in I Cor. 11:27-29.

[6] Babylonian Talmud, Kethuboth, 8b.

[7] E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, v. 2 (New York: Pantheon, 1953), p. 16.

[8] Goodenough, Symbols, v. 1, pp. 103-110. Benches, couches, stools or chairs, reserved for the departed, sometimes throne like and of varying degrees of elegance, have appeared in actuality or this in image in the Mediterranean from the third millennium B.C.E.

[9] The dates for the periods of the Egyptian kingdoms here and henceforth are according to William Stevenson Smith, Ancient Egypt (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: 1960), pp. 196-202.

[10] Emily Vermeule, Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 31-32.

[11] O. R. Gurney, The Hittites (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 165.

[12] Goodenough, Symbols, v. 5, fig. 49.

[13] Kathleen M. Kenyon, Excavations at Jericho, v. I (London: British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1960), pp. 4 ff.

[14] Ibid, Pl. XVI and p. 382, and pp. 371, 392, 443, respectively.

[15] L. Y. Rahmani, "Jewish Rock-Cut Tombs in Jerusalem, Atiqot 3 (1961), pp. 118-119; B. Bagatti and J.T. Milik, Gli scavi del "Dominus flevit" (Jerusalem: Tipografia del PP. Francescani, 1958), pp. 134-135; U. M. Fasola, “Le due catacombe ebraiche di Villa Torlonia,” in Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 52, 1-2 (1976), p. 61. (Rome).

[16] Goodenough, Symbols, v. 5, fig. 14, p. 15.

[17] James B. Pritchard, Recovering Sarepta, A Phoenician City: Excavations at Sarafund, 1969-1974 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978).

[18] Goodenough, Symbols, v. 5, pp. 20-21, speculated that the concept of the sacramental fish might have been transmitted from the Near East to Italy, perhaps via Punic-influenced North Africa, given such evidence as the Sabazian tomb, and the banqueting scene from The Vergilius Romanus: Aeneid, (Cod. Vat. Lat. 3867, Pl. VI) picturing Dido and Aeneas, who, like his Aeneas Trojan companion, wears a Phrygian cap.

[19] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 169.

[20] Eliza Swift Morss, The Tomb of Vincentius: A Study in Syncretism (an undergraduate thesis, Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, 1986), p. 66.

[21] Morss, p. 60.

[22] Goodenough, Symbols, v. 2, p. 48, n. 300.

[23] P. Testini, Le catacombe e gli antichi cimiteri cristiani di Roma (Bologna: Cappelli, 1966), p. 152.

[24] Stevenson, The Catacombs, p. 120.

[25] Possibly the earliest region of the catacomb of Pretestato dates from the first half of the second century, the greatest expansion occurring mainly, as appears to be the case generally, from the mid-third to the fourth century. The galleries of the Pretestato catacomb encompassed, in the usual manner, separate nuclei. Testini, Archeologia, p. 214.

[26] Morss, Tomb of Vincentius.

[27] An early biblical example of this is Jacob's covenant repast establishing a land boundary between the Arameans and the Israelites (Gen.31:44-46).

[28] There is also a "bread of life" in Akkadian myth: Pritchard, ANET, p. 102, lines 60-61.

[29] Also John 6:11, 13; Matt. 14:17-21.

[30] Pritchard, ANET, p. 334, 1. 390.

[31] Gurney, The Hittites, p. 165.

[32] Ya'akov Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage Volume I: Persian Period Through Hasmonaeans (Dix Hills, NY: Amphora Books, 1982), p. 96.

[33] Pritchard, ANET, p. 586.

[34] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, pp. 126-129.

[35] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, pp. 121-122; also p. 286.

[36] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 278.

[37] For a vivid description of this festival see Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, pp. 260-266.

[38] Samuel N. Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 132.

[39] Kramer, Sumerians, p. 317.

[40] J. Rabinowicz, Die Todtenkultus bei den Juden (Frankfurt am Main: J. Kauffmann, 1889), p. 13.

[41] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 126.

[42] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, pp. 122-123; Pyramid Text 25, p. 110, Pyramid Text 365; and p. 103 and n. 1.

[43] Pritchard, ANET, pp. 108-109, lines 33-59.

[44] Introductory Guide to The Egyptian Collections in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1964), p. 127.

[45] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 126, and n. 2.

[46] Pritchard, ANET, p. 387.

[47] Kramer, Sumerians, p. 139.

[48] "God's footstool" where he meets the priests of the people (RSV, pp. 99-100, n. 17); "The tables of law" (RSV, p. 99, n. 16); and “No one can look upon the face of the Lord and live” (Exodus 33:20).

[49] Not long after this, God's will that she too would conceive a son--to be named Jesus, was also revealed by the angel to Elizabeth's kinswoman, the virgin Mary. Elizabeth's conception was offered as proof that "with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:26-37).

[50] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, fig. 224.

[51] According to Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), fig. 631.

[52] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pl. 64.

[53] Pritchard, ANET, op. cit., p. 353 ii, lines 40-43, 45 and 51.

[54] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 5, pp. 129-130.

[55] It was documented that Egypt suffered "seven lean years" due to inadequate inundation of the Nile; perhaps other parts of the Near East were similarly afflicted. The sabbatical year in which the land should rest so that the "poor of" the "people" and "the wild beasts of the field shall eat" is referred to in the Covenant Code in Exodus (23:11). Also see Lev. 25:2-7 for the major significance of the number seven in ancient times.

[56] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 5, fig. 148, and p. 137.

[57] According to Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, p. 203 and n. 427.

[58] Quote from Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, pp. 134-135.

[59] Pritchard, ANET, p. 135, iv-v, lines 35-39.

[60] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 376; v. 5, p. 9.

[61] Gurney, The Hittites, p.165.

[62] John Gray, Near Eastern Mythology (London: Hamlyn, 1969), p. 92.

[63] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, p. 150.

[64] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, pp. 57-58 state that although there are beliefs that the holes in the bottoms of these vases were meant for pour-holes for libations, they might have been used to accommodate supports for the vessels.

[65] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, p. 145.

[66] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, p. 12.

[67] Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum, vol. 1, n. 522, and H. J. Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960), p. 224 and n. 2, concur on the meaning but Goodenough prefers other interpretations (Jewish Symbols, v. 2, p. 118).

[68] Nina H. Davies and Alan H. Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Paintings, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), I, Pl. XXXVI.

[69] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, p. 189 and n. 354; Midrash Rabbah, Gen., LXXXVIII, 5.

[70] Quoted in Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 5, p.144 and n. 22, with citation of W. M. Flinders Petrie, The Palace of Apries (Memphis II), (Cairo: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, XV, 1909), plate XXIV, and pp.19 ff.

[71] In his tomb in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, the Pharaoh Sethos I (1313-1301 B.C.E.) is depicted offering two "jugs" of wine to a deity; K. Lange and M. Hirmer, Egypt: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting in Three Thousand Years (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1961), p. 218. 

[72] Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age, p. 299.

[73] Kurt Weitzmann, ed., Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979), p. 382.

[74] Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim, 119b.

[75] Frey, Corpus, p. 318.

[76] Pritchard, ANET, p.146, ii, 16-19.

[77] Along with oil: Babylonian Talmud, Semahot 12:9.

[78] Pritchard, ANET, p.143, ii 71.

[79] Kramer, Sumerians, p.139.

[80] The substance could also be water or sacrificial blood according to Charlotte Long, "The Ayia Triadha sarcophagus: a study of late Minoan and Mycenaean funerary practices and beliefs, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, vol. XLI (1974), pp. 35-36.

[81] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, p. 217.

[82] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, p. 78.

[83] Rahmani, Rock-cut Tombs, p. 103.

[84] Pritchard, ANET, pp. 10-11.

[85] Pritchard, ANET, p. 133, iv-v, line 37.

[86] Gurney, The Hittites, p.151.

[87] On the Day of Atonement, the mercy seat on top of the ark of the testimony (Exodus 25:17-22; Leviticus 16:2, 13-16 among other passages) was sprinkled with blood.

[88] A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 118-119, and 66-67, lines 22-27.

[89] Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, p. 69, lines 25-26, and p. 70, line 39. Cf. the four rivers flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10, especially n.10-14 (RSV).

[90] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 6, pp.145-146.

[91] Histories, IV.

[92] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pl. 46.

[93] Probably also the New Year festival as in Babylonian rites which commemorated the triumph of the principal god Marduk over Tiamat and chaos just before creation.

[94] Gurney, The Hittites, p. 152.

[95] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, vol. 3, fig.226 and vol. 1, p.129.

[96] Carl Kraeling, Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report Volume VIII, Part 1 The Synagogue (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956), p.55.

[97] A. Giuliano, Museo Nazionale Romano, Le Sculture (Rome: De Luca, 1979), tav. 161.

[98] Also Pss. 18:30; 28:7; 33:20.

[99] The cattle or bulls painted in conventional Cretan "flying gallop" attitude on the Ayia Triadha sarcophagus could refer to such funerary games or battles: Long, The Ayia Triadha sarcophagus, pp. 47-48.

[100] Pritchard, Ancient Near East in Pictures, pls.12 and 182.

[101] Vermeule, Aspects of Death, p. 86, fig. 4.

[102] Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age, pl. XLIII.

[103] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 2, pp. 41-42.

[104] Second quarter of the fourth millennium to mid-third millennium B.C.E.: Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, fig, 11. 

[105] Circa 1500 B.C.E.: S. Marinatos, Crete and Mycenae (New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1960), pl. 211.

[106] Gurney, The Hittites, op. cit., pl. 17.

[107] Avigad, Beth She`arim, pp. 154-156.

[108] E. L. Bockman Terrace, Art of the Ancient Near East in Boston (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1962), Fig. 6.

[109] Sir Leonard Woolley, Excavations at Ur (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1965), p. 83.

[110] Terrace, The Art of the Ancient Near East, Fig. 7.

[111] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pl. 42.

[112] Depicted in Egyptian ceremonial art of the late fourth millennium B.C.E: Pritchard, Pictures, fig. 290.

[113] Avigad, Beth She`arim, pp.140-141.

[114] Terrace, Art of the Ancient Near East, fig. 47.

[115] Smith, Ancient Egypt, p. 23.

[116] Kraeling, Excavations at Dura Europos, p. 245, pl. XXXVII, 1.

[117] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 8, fig. 118.

[118] Cornelius C. Vermeule III, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1963), pp. 36-38.

[119] Terrace, Art of the Ancient Near East, n. 12.

[120] Also I Kings 7:29, 36; 8:6-7 (RSV).

[121] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pl. 16.

[122] Making the significant number seven including her body as the center: see also Porada, Near Eastern Seals, no. 220, and Pritchard, Pictures, fig. 689.

[123] On a third-fourth century bronze votive hand, the saving god Sabazius plants a foot on a ram's head, Weitzmann, Age of Spirituality, pl. 163.

[124] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 2, p. 42.

[125] Pritchard, ANET, p. 58.

[126] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 1, p. 185.

[127] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 461, and v. 1, p. 185.

[128] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 8, p.143.

[129] Second quarter of the sixteenth century B.C.E. Pritchard, Pictures, pl. 310.

[130] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 509.

[131] Avigad, Beth She`arim, pp. 141-142.

[132] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 76.

[133] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 45, and v. 7, p. 4.

[134] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 509, v. 7, p. 4, and v. 1, p. 78.

[135] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 548, and v. 1, p. 212.

[136] Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage, vol. II, p. 29, pl.3, rev. 23-23c.

[137] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 8, pp. 121-123.

[138] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, vol. 8, p. 122, figs. 107-111.

[139] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 3, fig. 459; v. 1, p.184.

[140] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, fig. 11.

[141] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pl. 64.

[142] Avigad, Beth She`arim, p. 22.

[143] Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, v.1, N. Avigad and B. Mazar, "Beth She'arim, p. 240.

[144] Avigad and Mazar, Beth She’arim, pp. 53-65; 107-109, 244-250, and 262-265.

[145] Avigad and Mazer, Beth She’arim, pp.143-145.

[146] E. A. Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, vol.1 (London: P. L. Warner, 1911), p. 397.

[147] Inscribed on the black granite stele of Tuthmosis III from the temple at Karnak: Lange and Hirmer, Egypt, p. 438.

[148] Porada, Near Eastern Seals, no. 968, and p. 129.

[149] Strommenger, Art of Mesopotamia, pls. 16, 28.

[150] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 7, p. 10.

[151] Budge, Osiris, vol. I, p. 19.

[152] Recited at every festival of Osiris. From the "Book of Making the Spirit of Osiris" in Budge, Osiris. vol. II, pp. 50, 51.

[153] Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, pp. 74-75.

[154] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 5, pp. 163-164 and bibliographic reference in n. 163; also p. 192, and bibliographic references in notes 339 and 340.

[155] Pritchard, ANET, pp. 385-386.

[156] C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art, p. 95.

[157] Kramer, Sumerians, pp. 171-179.

[158] As described in the Ugaritic tablets: Pritchard, ANET, pp. 129-148.

[159] Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 116.

[160] Kramer, Sumerians, p. 323.

[161] Lange and Hirmer, Egypt, pl. 4)

[162] Benjamin Mazar, Beth She'arim - Report on the Excavations during 1936–40: The Catacombs I–IV (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1957), vol. 1, pp. 52-53, pl. VII, 2.

[163] Frey, Corpus, p. 546.

[164] Frey, Corpus, p. 122.

[165] Joscelyn Godwin, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981), p. 28.

[166] Pritchard, ANET, pp. 99-100.

[167] Plutarch, Aristeides, 21.

[168] Also Deuteronomy 12:16, 24.

[169] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 5, fig. 180.

[170] In Psalm 50, when God comes to judge his people, he renounces the sacrifice of bulls or goats, and prefers offerings of "thanksgiving" and "vows" (Ps. 50:3-4, 9, 13-14).

[171] Pritchard, ANET, p. 333, lines 350-360.

[172] Gurney, The Hittites, p. 162.

[173] Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, vol. 1, p. 71.

[174] C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art, p. 89 and fig. 82.

[175] Fasola, Villa Torlonia, p. 61.

[176] For example, in Kenyon, Jericho, v. 1, p. 443. 

[177] Kramer, Sumerians, p. 131.

[178] Pritchard, Pictures, fig. 303.

[179] Gurney, The Hittites, p. 165.

[180] Long, Ayia Triadha sarcophagus, p. 47.

[181] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, pp. 282, 299.

[182] Richmond Lattimore, The Odyssey of Homer (New York and London: Harper and Row, 1965), XI.35-37.

[183] Also Is. 45:9, Job 33:6, Rom. 9:20-21, among others. In the Temple at Luxor, there is an earlier badly damaged relief of Khnum, enthroned, fashioning Prince Amenhotep III and his ka (a shadowy, double-like aspect of the soul) on his potter's wheel. The seated goddess Hathor offers the sign of life, the ankh in her left hand (Pritchard, Pictures, fig. 569).

[184] Kraeling, Excavations at Dura-Europos, pp. 124-131, pl. LX.

[185] In much the same manner that they decorate the Dura- Europos painting of the pediment of the Temple: Kraeling, Excavations at Dura-Europos, pl. LVII.

[186] Two rosettes recorded in Kraeling, Excavations at Dura-Europos, p. 126.

[187] Pillars or consecrated stones were featured in holy and binding ceremonies, and were dedicated to divinity in early religions, as for example in Genesis (28:17-18, 22; 31:13, 44-46).

[188] Pritchard, ANET, ii, lines 66-67.

[189] Called shofar or trumpet, see explanation below. >was often the ritual instrument used for festivals. For example, proclaiming the new moon, and the Year of Jubilee which commenced on the Day of Atonement after seven sabbatical years or fifty years (Leviticus 25:8-24). This celebration was named after the Hebrew word for ram's horn.

[190] Dan Barag, A Jewish Gold-Glass Medallion from Rome, Israel Exploration Society 20 1-2 (1970), pp. 74-78 (in Hebrew). Similar vegetation, designated as ethrogs by Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome, p. 207, and Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, v. 2, p. 36), decorates three corners of the vault of the painted cubiculum in the catacombs of Villa Torlonia, while a like shofar embellishes the fourth.

[191] Charles R. Morey, The Gold-Glass Collection of the Vatican Library (Vatican City: Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, 1959), no. 173.

[192] According to H. Lietzmann, Die jüdische Katakombe der Villa Torlonia in Rom (Berlin-Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1930), p. 21, while the ram's horn seems to have been preferred for the shofar, the varying shapes portrayed suggest that the horns of other animals were used - presumably those of the animals sacrificed.

[193] Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage, v. 2, pp. 148-150.

[194] Midrash to Leviticus 29:3.

[195] Exodus 27:2; 30:3; Ezek. 43:15, 20, among other passages.

[196] Whether benign (Ps. 89:17, 24) or malevolent (Zech. 1:18-21; Ps. 75:4-5; Dan. 7:7-8; 8:3-9. Dan. 7 is reflected in Rev. 13:1).

[197] Kraeling, Excavations at Dura Europos, p. 167. It is by divine will that Samuel is bestowing the kingship upon him.

[198] Kraeling, Excavations at Dura Europos, pp. 164-168.

[199] Eph. XVII, 1: from Jean Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity (Chicago: Regnery, 1964), p. 43.

[200] Sometimes near important water sources (I Kin.1:33), but also priests (Lev. 16:32; Ps. 133:2).

[201] In Mesopotamian legend, the sage Adapa serves as the ointment priest in addition to his other functions: Pritchard, Pictures, p. 76.

[202]  See Gen. 28:18.

[203] Plutarch, Aristeides, 21.

[204] II Enoch, XXII, 9.

[205] Conversely, Sumerian heroes could not anoint themselves with "good" oil in a descent to the Great Dwelling or netherworld: Kramer, Sumerians, pp. 132-133.

[206] Danielou, Jewish Christianity, p. 326, n. 36.

[207] Fasola, Villa Torlonia, p. 31.

[208] Avigad, Beth She’arim, p. 52.

[209] Avigad, pp. 53-54 and pp. 62-65.

[210] N. Muller, Il cimitero degli antichi Ebrei posto sulla Via Portuense, Dissertazioni della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia. Ser. II. XII, pp. 244-245.

[211] J. M. C. Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971), p. 63, and note on p. 7 for Roman use of balsam.