Tithing money

If coins under the synagogue floors are not foundation deposits, what are they and how did they end up under the building? And why is this phenomenon found only in synagogues and not in churches or pagan sacred sites from the same period and region? I believe the answer lies in a specific Jewish tradition: floor coins were tithing coins that had been saved by the local population and then deposited during the construction of the building to be able to dispose of the sacred coins in a respectful way, to bless the building, ward off the evil eye, and simultaneously make an offering to God.[497]

Tithing first appears in the Torah not as a commandment but as a practice of the patriarchs, which has halakhic value and equals commandments, see, for example circumcision in Gen 17.[498] After Abram’s military victory over the four kings who attacked Sodom, a priest of God brought out bread and wine and gave it to him as a tithe (Gen 14:18-20). Later, after the incident of Korach’s rebellion, when the institution of priesthood was questioned by the rebels, God commanded Aaron the priest to give the terumah (the farmer’s contribution to the priests of crops grown in the Land of Israel, also called a “heave-offering”) and Moses to give a tenth of the remaining produce to the Levites. This tenth is called ma’aser rishon: the “first ma’aser.” As the tribe of Levi did not receive a portion in the Land of Israel, these harvests would support them as they worked in the Tabernacle or the temple. Each Levite then had to separate for himself a ma’aser from the ma’aser, or a tenth of that which he received, which is called terumat ma’aser, and give it to a kohen or priest (Num 18:21-32). The “second ma’aser,” ma’aser sheni, was a second tithe taken from the produce remaining after both the terumah and ma’aser rishon were taken. This second ma’aser was supposed to be taken in kind to Jerusalem where it was eaten by the owner and his family while in a state of ritual purity. If one was unable to bring the produce to Jerusalem immediately, it could be “redeemed” by bringing an equivalent sum of money to Jerusalem and spending it there on food and drink, provided they were consumed in a state of ritual purity (Lev 27: 30-31; Deut 14:22-29). In the third and sixth year of the seven-year Shemittah (Sabbatical) cycle, ma’aser ani, the ma’aser for the poor, was given instead of the maaser sheni (Deut 26:12-15). Following the third and sixth years, on Passover of the fourth and seventh years, a process called “biur ma’asrot”—removal of the tithes—would take place. All tithes that had not been distributed, eaten, or redeemed in the previous three years were dealt with then. If they were not given, eaten, or redeemed, the tithes had to be burned or otherwise disposed of so they could not be used in any way (Deut 14:22-29; 26:12).

Chambers in the Jerusalem temple stored all the contributions of the people – the tithes and holy things (2 Chr 31:4-6, 11). The tithes, whether animals, agricultural produce, or money (in the pre-rabbinic period “silver”), supplied sacrifices for the altar and food and clothing for the temple personnel. After the temple’s destruction and the disappearance of temple priests and sacrifices in Jerusalem, however, this situation changed.[499] Instead of bringing tithes to Jerusalem, Jews were now encouraged to burn the food or kill the animals locally (m. Ma’aser Sheni 1:5: “if there is no Sanctuary, it should rot”; m. Ma’aser Sheni 1:6: “And when there is not Temple, it must be buried together with its hide.”). As for the “silver” (now interpreted by the rabbis as money, seeing that legal tender was introduced in Judaea during the Second Temple period), [500] the Jerusalem Talmud encourages people to “throw it in the Salt Sea” (t. Shekalim 8:51b; m. Tem 4:2; m. Tem 4:3; m. Naz 4:4, y. Šeqal 8:4 [51b]).[501]

For many farmers living after 70 CE, destroying so much food was unacceptable and thus they often chose to redeem the produce for money (t. Ma’as Shen 5:7: the House of Shammai already believed that Deut 14:25 requires any tithe produce that could not be eaten in purity in Jerusalem to be exchanged for money). However, because this money could not be used to purchase food to eat in Jerusalem after 70 CE, there were large amounts of tithe coinage that had to be kept out of circulation, as the coins were now earmarked as sacred. Thus, a whole field of Tannaitic law developed to deal with this money, including rules for hiding and discovering it (t. Ma’as Shen 5:8; 5:9; 5:11). For example, it seems that large amounts of sacred tithe money could be stored in the houses of individuals, as the following story suggests:

“A story of R. Simon b. Gamaliel and R. Judah and R. Jose who went to a householder in Keziv. They said: how do we know how this householder tithes his produce? He noticed and went and brought before them a purse full of golden denarii. They said to him: How do you tithe your produce? He said: this is what I say: “The second tithe in this object is redeemed by this as (a copper coin.” They said to him: go and use (=eat) your coins; you have profited in money and lost your soul.” (t. Maas Shen. 3:18)[502]

Over time, the goal of the second tithing changed from compensating real value money (the money needed by the pilgrim to purchase food in Jerusalem), to the permanent storage of large amounts of coins, to a more or less symbolic act performed with small coins: a small coin as pars pro toto for the total ma’aser sheni.[503] In late Antiquity, furthermore, when silver coinage became scarce at the end of the 4th century, the silver tithe coin was replaced by the bronze coin.[504] No longer able to utilize the biblical “silver,” bronze coins became the symbolic representation of the harvest, to be set aside and designated as sacred.[505]

Coin hoards have been found in houses around Palestine. Some of these caches presumably are remnants of tithing money, taken out of circulation and stored for safekeeping. However, I also believe that some of this money made its way into synagogues, sprinkled in and under the building as a consecration.

When money is taken out of economic circulation and earmarked as sacred, it enters the divine realm. From there, it is just a small step to connect the money to the other sacred space in the village: the synagogue. [506] I propose that, since people felt a strong connection to their synagogue, and since synagogues were seen more and more as “small Temples” in Late Antiquity (see below), it would have been only a small step to link the stored tithing coins to the synagogue. Placed inside the building, the coins were consciously positioned in a space where people anticipated that God was more likely to interface with earthly spaces and its supplicants.[507] We can compare this practice to (the secular) tossing of coins in a well, or to offering precious objects to the gods by throwing them in a river or spring, thereby destroying them. This is also brought up by Ahipaz and Leibner as a reason for why they do not believe these “floor deposits” are tithing coins: they argue that the discovery of hundreds of low-value bronze coins in springs, wells, and baptismal fonts in Palestine indicates that this was a widespread phenomenon also among pagans and Christians, and that the ritual was thus not connected to tithing.[508] I do not agree with this statement. First, the many coin deposits found at pagan and Christian sites seem to be older than the synagogue floor deposits. At the Te’omim Cave in the western Jerusalem mountains, for example, 33 bronze coins and many oil lamps from the second to fourth centuries CE were discovered, and have been connected to the worship of Persephone and Demeter.[509] The coins found at Mamre (see above) date primarily to the fourth and early fifth centuries. Almost none appears to postdate the reign of the emperor Arcadius, suggesting a steep decline in or possibly a change in the character of the sacred life of the site in the mid-fifth century.[510] Second, the pagans and Christian coin deposits are almost always linked to water sources, [511] while we have no evidence of Jews throwing in coins in wells or springs. Third, the phenomenon of depositing coins under the floor of Christian churches and baptisteries is not known in Palestine at all.[512] In fact, among the hundreds of churches that have been excavated in Israel/Palestine, in only one place might a similar phenomenon be noted: at the church of Khirbet Fa’ush in central Israel.[513] The church was excavated in 2005 by Binyamin Har-Even, who dated a refurbishment and expansion of the transept of the church to the third quarter of the fifth century (level IIIb). Underneath the floor of this expansion, 153 coins of the fourth and fifth centuries were found, dispersed over four locations: in the center of the nave (83 coins), on the edge of the northern aisle (34 coins), and on the edge of the southern aisle (12 and 24 coins). The latest of the 96 identifiable coins is dated to 457-474 CE. However, this is the only example of coins found under the floor of Christian sacred spaces in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that the church is located in central Israel, and not in the Golan or Galilee, where the Jewish synagogue phenomenon seems to be located (see below), makes me believe this example is not connected to the Jewish magico-religious tithing deposits. Taken together, I believe the floor deposits are found in synagogues because they were unique to Judaism:[514] it was the only religion that had a halakhic tithing tradition connected to their sacred space.[515]

As noted in the catalogue, most of the coins found scattered under synagogue buildings are low value denominations, often very worn, and include imitations. This indicates that it was not as much about the monetary value of the donation but about the symbolic act of offering.[516] But what was the goal? As I stated in my introduction to this chapter, I believe different participants attached different meanings to this ritual. As we already saw, I believe some donors placed the coins in the building for apotropaic reasons; to call upon supernatural powers to manipulate the natural world, or, in our case, to call upon God to protect the donors and the larger community. The coins were in this sense used in what Bloch and Parry label “the long-term cycle of exchange”; to reproduce and reinforce the social and cosmic order of the Jewish world.[517] By providing gifts, supernatural entities would protect the building (and its users) from evil forces, such as the evil eye, as well as earthly catastrophes like fire and earthquakes. The coins were ad hoc contributions to the transcendent being in exchange for future protection from the ‘eyn ha-ra.

To other individual donors, the deposit perhaps meant entering into a more personal relationship with the supernatural power in the hopes it would have the consequences s/he was looking for. In this way, the donor entered a do ut des relationship with the supernatural deity and the coins fulfilled the same function as protective amulets: they were meant to bless the individual and keep him/her safe.[518] In this sense, they were not apotropaic coins, but can be interpreted as “blessing coins,” as part of the Jewish concept known as Berakhah.

A third function could take this “donation” of coins to a more literal level. Based on Malachi 3:10,[519] some individuals might have hoped that prosperity given (tithes) would mean prosperity received (much blessing). This is a frequently used concept in modern Prosperity Gospel and could have potentially influenced some ancient Jews as well.[520]

Last, to some, perhaps, “donating” of coins was seen as a necessary sacrifice. No longer able to use, sacrifice, or donate the tithing money in Jerusalem, the synagogue came to be considerate as the appropriate replacement for donations.[521] As Joan Branham has pointed out, the ancient synagogue building had a perpetual bond to the temple; over time, the sanctity of certain temple traditions became transferred to the synagogue, in a concept called “vicarious sacrality.”[522] In this sense, it is no surprise that the synagogue was perceived as the perfect space to deposit the coins. Whatever economic value these coins once had, they were now transferred to a realm outside of human control, and thus depositing tithing money in a synagogue became similar to an animal sacrifice, where an animal is destroyed and its life and flesh are given to God.[523] This “sacrificial practice” of depositing second tithe money thus continued for many centuries after animal sacrifice had long since disappeared from the Jewish world.[524]

And thus, each individual might have had their own reasons and hopes for their donation, but collectively, the community showed their loyalty to God and the temple. According to rabbinic literature, congregational offerings (qorbanot tzibur) were preferred over individual offerings (qorbanot yahid). This was also true for the yearly half-shekel payment to the Temple, even after the Second Temple Period.[525] Congregational offerings were not only meant to be made on behalf of the community as whole, but also by the entire community. Statements in the Mishnah attest that it was preferred that (tithing) offerings made to the temple in kind were to be sold for money, in this way standardizing the form of currency, and thereby unrecognizably swallowed into the anonymous greater repository of money over which the donor had no control.[526] This offering similarly was thus made by no one in particular and would tie into our hypothesis about the scattering of the coins: instead of each individual offering their own coins in a separate container, the coins were mixed and sprinkled under the floor of the building as a communal sacrifice.[527] Placing the coins in the groundwork of the building, often fused in the mortar bedding itself, formed a so-called “magical foundation” for the building. Congregational sacrifices by the community were meant to maintain the prosperity and protection of the space and thereby the well-being of the community as a whole; it was a ritual by and for the local individuals.[528] In this way, the deposition of the synagogue coins can give us a rare glimpse into the activities of the common users of the synagogue buildings; a population frequently overlooked in ancient synagogue contexts. Donor inscriptions only refer to the people who were wealthy enough to make a substantial donation to the synagogue. Sprinkling low-value coins, however, could be done by people from any social or economic status. Thus, individuals of lower social class could participate in this ritual as well, giving us unique insight into the lives of the common people. The coins tangibly preserved the voices of individuals whose hopes, dreams, and deeds are often left silent in the study of ancient synagogues.[529]

In conclusion, this overview has made it clear that archaeological artifacts were not only shaped by particular, stable meanings but were also capable of evoking new and unpredictable frameworks of meaning that are not necessarily always discursive, conscious, or documented: in our case, the pragmatic, economic coins converted into thaumaturgical instruments that left their mark in the archaeological record.[530]

It is now also apparent why a similar phenomenon cannot be observed in ancient churches: a tithing “for the priests” tradition did not exist among early Christians in the eastern Mediterranean. Christianity gave up on the idea of the second tithe after the death of Jesus when Paul no longer emphasized tithing, instead using cultic language like “sacrifice,” or “offering.”[531] Furthermore, since there was no temple, many early Christians believed it was no longer necessary to give tithes. Additionally, since the New Testament does not explicitly mention giving tithings (except when Jesus addresses people who were under the old Torah laws), many Christians thought it was a demand that was no longer requested from God.[532] Last, the emphasis on charity in early Christianity and giving coins to the poor overshadowed the tithing demand.[533] It was only in 6th century Europe that tithing became Ecclesiastical law again. In addition to tithing, early Christians also gave up on sacrifices, as the crucifixion of Jesus became seen as the final sacrifice for human sin. Jesus was declared “the end of all sacrifice” (Gal 3:24-25; Rom 10:4) and sacrifices never became ecclesiastical law.[534] In fact, as part of the anti-pagan campaign, sacrifice was officially outlawed in 390 CE under emperor Theodosius I.[535] Ecclesiastical authorities in Late Antiquity also focused on outlawing magical practices.[536] In the 380s, Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that “Taking the auspices, divination, omens, amulets, writing on leaves, the use of charms or other spells— such things are the devil’s worship.”[537] Kahlos states that “the canons of church councils produced lists of forbidden rituals and practices, often judged as magical, in the fourth to seventh century and onwards, thus defining the proper Christianity by way of exclusion.”[538] This, of course, does not mean these phenomena did not happen (in fact, there would be no reason to outlaw them if they did not!), but it does show that clergy were discouraged from participating by a higher ruling authority (an institution that did not exist for the ancient Jews), that many people were probably adhering to these laws to some extent, and that these practices were not allowed on the grounds of churches.[539] Thus, in early Christianity, tithing did not exist, coins were not collected for the temple, and coins were not placed under the floors of churches as part of a magico-religious phenomenon: hence we do not find them at church sites in Palestine.[540]

And thus, I believe Zvi Ilan and Yehoram Kentman were correct when they stated, “Perhaps the coins underneath Meroth’s floor were ma’aser sheni coins which were forbidden for use.”[541] The coins in this category, low in value,[542] scattered around the building, deposited in irretrievable spots, are very likely to be tithing money preserved by the local community over decades or even centuries before they made their way into the building.[543] This further explains the wide date range in the coins as well as the large numbers: they were not collected from the local villagers ad hoc but over many years and then deposited in the building in tertiary use.[544] Bijovsky already remarked in her 2012 analysis that “most of the coins date to the second half of the 4th century, and decreasing numbers of coins towards the date of deposition of the coins.”[545] While this is probably an indication of the long circulation of 4th century coins, it may also point towards a long collection process: although deposited in the late 5th or 6th century, the coins has been stored in their original location over decades.[546]


[497] This, and further ideas below are based on the article “Hoarding Consecrated “Second Tithe” Coins”, by Amit Gvaryahu (http://thegemara.com/hoarding-consecrated-second-tithe-coins/#fn-1047-7). I would like to thank Amit for meeting with me in Israel and discussing our ideas further. And while I acknowledge my theory can only be an educated guess based on scarce archaeological evidence, I believe it is worth pursuing based on the socio-cultural and religious framework of Late Antique Palestine.

[498] Pagolu 1998, pp. 171–191. Tithing was not unique to the ancient Israelites but was a ritual throughout the entire ancient Near East, where a yearly payment of agricultural good and animals was expected to be given to the temple(s), or the equivalent payment in precious metals (Stevens 2006, p. 6).

[499] We are talking here about the priests working at the Temple. Priests as a separate class did not immediately disappear after the destruction, but continued to be present in Palestine well into Late Antiquity, when they perhaps worked in local synagogues. See “Synagogue functions, leadership, and organization”.

[500] The rabbis further ruled that the second tithe was only to be sold (“redeemed”) for current money, not empty dies or un-coined silver (m. Ma’aser Sheni 1:2).

[501] Magness 2011, pp. 103–06: Over the past decades, thousands of coins have been found between Khirbet Mazin and ‘Ein Feshka on the shore of the Dead Sea. According to Hanan Eshel and Boaz Zissu, these are consecrated vow, offering, and tithing coins thrown in the “Salt Sea,” a phenomenon that later made its way into the rabbinic literature.

[502] Note that gold coins have replaced the biblical silver: at this time, there was almost no silver anymore and bronze and gold coins had replaced the silver currency of the earlier periods. See also Sperber 1974, p. 31: “Probably the most common and important monetary term in Rabbinic literature is the dinar. In Tannaitic times the dinar when unqualified almost always refers to the silver denarius, whereas the aureus is called a dinar zahav, gold dinar. However, some time during the second half of the third century, we find a change in the usage of the word, and the unqualified dinar comes to refer to an aureus (or later, the solidus), the gold dinar, while the silver denarius is specifically so called.”

[503] This is still a custom in certain contemporary Jewish circles: it is practice to aside terumah, separate from this the ma’aser rishon, then separate either the second tithe or the poor tithe (depending on the year), and last (if applicable) redeem the second tithe with a coin. This coin can be the minimal amount capable of purchasing food and need not be the value of the produce. When the value of the coin is “filled,” the coin can then be redeemed with a coin of higher value or discarded in a way that prevents its future use. The reason for discarding the money in such a manner is that the set-aside produce is still considered mekudash or sacred.

[504] Bijovsky 2012, p. 42: The minting of silver coins was abandoned by the end of the 4th century and silver coins were almost non-existent in the Byzantine East. Thus, the tithing practice does not necessarily conform precisely to rabbinic instructions.

[505] Danny Syon points out that, according to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ma’aser Sheni 52.4), coins of the “first kings” were unacceptable to use as the second tithe. Of the 5,802 legible magico-religious coins in our database, 12% of the coins come from before the third century CE, while 88% dates to the year 300 or later. Does this indicate that this rabbinic law was followed, or not? (Syon 2015, p. 44).

[506] Additionally, the link between tithing, the synagogue, and the Jerusalem temple was established well before this period (Grey 2021, p. 118). We know from multiple sources, for example, that legal rights were granted to Jewish communities in Judea and the Diaspora to collect tithes, first fruits, the annual temple tax, and other consecrated gifts, to store them in their synagogues, and from there to send them to Jerusalem (e.g., Philo, Leg. 155–158, 216, 311–316; Spec. 1.76–78; Flacc. 74; Josephus, B. J. 2.285–292; 7.110, 412; A. J. 14.213–216, 225–264; 16.162–173; Cicero, Flac. 67–68; CPJ 2:153). Philo also suggests it was local priests who brought the funds to Jerusalem.

[507] Bloch and Parry articulate this concept when they describe the cycles of long and short-term order as “a series of procedures by which the goods which derive from the short-term cycle are converted into the long-term transactional order” (Bloch and Parry 1989, p. 25).

[508] Ahipaz and Leibner 2020, pp. 224–226.

[509] Zissu et al. 2012. Oil lamps seem to have been favored objects to the Romans to deposit at ritual sites as well as in foundation deposits. See, for example, the latest discovery in Jerusalem (https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/305594). Perhaps the iconography and symbols on the lamps made them perfect artifacts for communicating certain intentions. It is unclear if the same sentiment was felt by Jews in Late Antiquity; oil lamps have never been found under the floor of an ancient synagogue.

[510] Kofsky 1997; Leatherbury 2019.

[511] For example, at Mamre or the Fountain of the Lamps in Corinth. While oil lamps with Jewish iconography have been found at Mamre, there is no possibility to prove that Jews also threw coins in the well. In any case, there are no specific Jewish water spaces in which coins have been found, making it doubtful that this was a common Jewish practice.

[512] We have a couple of examples from Europe. For example, at the fourth-century basilica at the site of Torre de Palma in Portugal, ten coins minted during the reign of Constantine were found embedded within the plaster of the floor (so not under the floor), with their loose arrangement suggesting that each coin was offered separately (Huffstot 1998; Leatherbury 2019, p. 255). In Malta, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Ukraine, coins have also been discovered in water systems used for the administration of baptism in the early Church (Perassi 2017). However, these examples are far removed from Israel/Palestine and I do not believe it has any connections to our phenomenon.

[513] Har-Even and Shapira 2012; Bijovksy 2012c; Ahipaz and Leibner 2020, p. 221.

[514] As mentioned in “Votive offerings and Genizot”, Christians did not embrace the phenomenon of preserving ritual or sacred objects after they went out of use. Perhaps the tithing coins were interpreted as a sort of votive offerings by the Jews, and thus preserved, but a similar sentiment concerning sacred money was not felt among the early Christians?

[515] In contrast to, for example, treasuries and charity hoards, practices that probably existed among pagans, Christians, and Jews alike. Of course, Jews would still hold on to their tithing coins even after the synagogue building was already constructed/renovated. Perhaps many of the bronze coin hoards that have been found in houses are these tithing collections?

[516] Indeed, Crawford stated in his 1983 article that “In general, of the circulating medium, hoards are likely to contain high value pieces, site finds to consists of low value pieces” (Crawford 1983, p. 202). Our deposits contradict this statement, indicating that they deviate from the “standard” hoards.

[517] In opposition to short-term exchanges, which are transactions concerned with the arena of individual competition (Bloch and Parry, 1989, p. 24).

[518] As we have seen, because of the frequent discovery of amulets with prayers, and protective decorations and graffiti within the synagogue building, Karen Stern critiques the artificial divide between magical devices and other common components of the synagogue building. If we follow this reasoning, then there is nothing “magical” about our coins either; instead, they fit into the very normal activities of (some) synagogue communities.

[519] Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

[520] For more on Malachi 3:10 and its influence on Prosperity Theology, see, for example, Baker 2006, p. 290; Hackworth 2012, pp. 40–45.

[521] The fact that we do not find coin deposits under the floors of private residences in the Byzantine period in northern Israel may also contribute to this interpretation: tithing money was seen as sacred and magical, and thus belonged to the appropriate sacred space.

[522] Branham 1995. Levine 2000 calls this the Imitatio Templi: the application of forms derived from the Jerusalem temple to synagogues. See also “Placing the Magico-Religious coin phenomenon”.

[523] For an introduction to sacrifice as a metaphysical concept, see Weddle 2017, pp. 9-24. His definition states “Religious sacrifice is a costly act of self-giving, in denial of natural inclinations, that is offered in suspense, under conditions that threaten failure, for the purpose of establishing a relation with transcendent reality.” For an introduction to the treatment of sacrifice in (early) rabbinic literature, see Balberg 2017.

[524] If my interpretation is correct, then here we have an example of a physical remnant of temple sacrifice in Late Antiquity: one of the only examples of post-70 CE Jewish sacrifice besides the immaterial sacrifice of the study of Torah (b. Menahot 110a), prayer (b. Berakhot 32b), and the acts of loving kindness (Avot de Rabbi Natan 4).

[525] Balberg 2017, pp. 109–141.

[526] m. Sheqalim 4.8.

[527] In this way, they are thus different from amulets, which were requests for personal, and very specific fulfillments. Coins, on the other hand, were an expression of collective and general requests to the Divine. The use of coins as a sacrifice could also explain the lack of similar deposits in early Palestinian churches (see below): for Christians, Jesus was the sacrifice, and there was thus no need to offer a substitute.

[528] If this is true, then the public assumed tasks that were originally only conducted by the priests, thus perhaps democratizing the ritual?

[529] See also Stern 2021.

[530] See also Bonnie et al. 2021, pp. 19–21. A last theory on these coins I want to state for the sake of completeness, is the idea that these coins were left over from construction donations. When building a synagogue, funds would have been sought from the community. If not all the funds ended up being used, perhaps the “extra” coins were simply thrown into the foundations of the building, instead of divided up and given back to the individual or added to the synagogue treasury. Maybe these coins were seen as designated for the synagogue infrastructure and could not be used for any other function, or perhaps the individual donors wanted to make sure that their donations also ended up being “useful” or “contributing” to the sacred building, so that God was aware of their intention.

[531] Paul orders his communities to collect money for the poor in the Jerusalem community (1Cor 8-9; Gal 2:10), but this is a surrogate not for the second tithing but for the temple tax. See also Longenecker 2010.

[532] Another interesting point is brought up by Klawans 2006, pp. 238–241: the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers at the Temple (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-16) might have been a protest since Jesus believed that the poor should not have to pay for the sacrifices they could not easily afford. Instead, one should enact a communitarian ethic, sharing among all whatever anyone happened to have. Thus, sacrifice and tithing were no longer needed to be given by all.

[533] See, for example, Longenecker 2010; Caner 2013; Downs 2015. The strong prominence of giving money to the needy in early Christian circles also could have deterred people from putting coins under their sacred spaces, since it would make the funds inaccessible and useless. Although, of course, the coins in synagogue deposits seem to have had had little or no monetary value.

[534] Klawans 2006, pp. 213–245; Weddle 2017, pp. 100–154; Kahlos 2020, pp. 144–147. The eucharist may be interpreted as the ongoing sacrifice of Jesus to all his people.

[535] CTh 16.10.10 (February 391) and CTh 16.10.11 (June 392).

[536] Kahlos 2020, pp. 140–144, 197–203.

[537] Cyr. Hieros. catech. myst. 1.8.

[538] Kahlos 2020, p. 141.

[539] In fact, no amulets or other magical devices have been found in churches either, although they did exist in Christian communities in the eastern Mediterranean, contributing to our theory that any use of magic was taboo in the church space (de Bruyn 2017; Stern 2021, p. 232). Perhaps this says more about the personnel who ran a church versus that of a synagogue: while clerics might be less inclined to practice magic, synagogue leaders (probably local honoratiores) might have been closer to their local populace and perhaps more prone to tolerate popular religious practices extending into the synagogue space, especially if they overlap with common ideas about participating in and manipulating divine power (and especially as they were seen as normal religious practices). It is also true that the early Christian church was much more organized and had a centralized authority, whereas Judaism in Late Antiquity did not. In this regard, it could have been more effective to control clergy and their usual procedures in the church building, whereas it was not as easy to control what was going on in every synagogue building, especially in smaller villages.

[540] Of course, it may also be that many of the churches in Palestine/Israel have not been carefully excavated (most churches in this region were excavated in the earlier and mid-twentieth century) or small finds not carefully documented, however, I assume that both synagogues and churches have been excavated according to the same standards.

[541] Ilan 1989a, p. 28.

[542] Again, if we follow most numismatists’ assessment that bronze coins were low in value in Late Antiquity.

[543] This would, for example, explain Arslan’s observation on the coins from L812 at Capernaum, which have a very broad date span and seem to “have been ‘accumulated’ in a different place and then brought there to be included in the sub-foundation of the pavement (Arslan 2011, p. 149).

[544] Thus, the coins can only provide us with a very general terminus post quem for the date of the synagogue’s construction or its renovation.

[545] Bijovsky 2012, p. 90.

[546] For why the coins only started to be deposited in the second half of the 5th century, see chapter “Dating the Magico-Religious coin phenomenon”.