This article surveys the evidence for and history of Jews and Judaism in Asia Minor with a special focus on the denigration and persecution of Jews by pagans and Christians in Asia Minor. The article argues that Jews thrived in this part of the Roman empire from the Hellenistic period until the Arab conquest and lived both in urban and rural settings in most parts of Asia Minor. Despite their flourishing, Jews had to deal with Anti-Semitic slander, denigration, and attacks from pagans and Christians. The situation worsened with the rise of Christianity to the official religion of the Roman Empire. In the 7th cent., increased anti-Semitism led to a decline of Judaism in Asia Minor. Before this time, despite legal and other persecutions, Jews emphasized and practiced their Judaism and despite a prohibition to the contrary Jews build new synagogues even in the century before the Arab conquest. Anti-Semitism in Asia Minor would thus not have blocked the construction of a synagogue in Limyra in this period.
The Halbturn amulet reads the Shema Israel as a monotheistic statement and uses the text of Deut 6:4 for apotropaic purposes. This article shows that the monotheistic interpretation of the Shema became prominent in Egyptian Judaism due to apologetic needs and became the dominant understanding of Deut 6:4 in Judean Judaism at the latest by the first century C. E. The Qumran Mezuzot mark the beginning of the Shema’s apotropaic employment in late Second Temple times.
This article argues that similar yet distinct hermeneutical approaches can be observed in the Derveni papyrus, the exegetical work of Aristobulus of Alexandria, and the Qumran Pesharim. These similarities go back to a widespread hermeneutical system that was triggered by cultural and religious estrangement from authoritative texts. Such estrangement developed when the authoritative status of scripturalized cultural memories prevented their adjustment to evolving cultures by way of reworking (textual fixity). The transposition of isolated elements from these scripturalized cultural memories into new contexts allows for a continuous re-reading of textually stable authoritative texts. In this way, authoritative texts could develop ever-changing significations mirroring the developments of cultures and societies.
A comparison with Jewish magic as well as Jewish and non-Jewish amulets shows that the exclusive use of Deut 6:4 in the Halbturn amulet for apotropaic purposes points to its Jewish origin. A Jewish oil lamp found in Carnutum, the capital of the Roman province of Pannonia Superior, demonstrates that Jews lived not far away from Halbturn and poses the question of whether the amulet was produced in Carnuntum. While the magician who produced the Halbturn amulet was most probably a Jew, the archaeological evidence of the grave in which the Halbturn amulet was found is inconclusive with regard to the background of the child buried in it. The Carnuntum oil lamp, however, points to the possibility of a Jewish grave.