Journey of the Spirit: The Beit Alpha Mosaic   3

What are pagan symbols doing then in a synagogue floor mosaic?


Are they clues to the existence of a Jewish cult seduced by Hellenism? Or are they merely ornamental in nature, a whim of the mosaic artisans?


Mr. Walter Zanger, in an intriguing article found on the “Biblical Archaeology” website offers a different interpretation in an article entitled: “Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols: Zodiac Mosaics in Ancient Synagogues.”


He argues that the Beit Alpha mosaic must be understood in its entirety if one is to understand the symbolism. The three panels of the mosaic represent an allegorical journey of the spirit--  first, via the test of faith embodied in the biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, then upward and into the celestial realm, until the worshipper arrives at the Ark of the Covenant, proof of God’s commitment to those who worship and obey His commandments.


That would seem to be an altogether fitting theme for a mosaic leading to the holy of holies, the central place of worship in a synagogue.

The original poster announcing the 1957 stamp exhibition for which the Beit Alpha mosaic souvenir sheet was issued.


Photo courtesy of Palestine Poster Project