The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

“He Showed Him the Likeness of the Tabernacle” (Tibat Marqe 3, 49b): Samaritan Images of the Biblical Tabernacle in their Cultural Contexts

Images of the biblical Tabernacle were produced at various points in Samaritan history, from late antiquity onward. The small corpus of surviving images stems from Samaritan centers across the Near East, in Damascus, Cairo and Shechem. Images were produced in mosaic, metal work, embroidered textile, the scribal arts, and on placards. Only Samaritan script is more important as a visual symbol of Samaritan identity and presence.

The first generation of interpreters did an admirable job of deciphering these images and setting them within their textual contexts. In this talk I will contextualize Samaritan Tabernacle images within their larger Samaritan and non-Samaritan environments— be they Jewish and Christian sources from late antiquity; Islamic art or modern pilgrimage/tourism cultures. I will suggest ways that later Samaritan images of the Tabernacle can be useful in interpreting earlier depictions. Finally, I will explore some of the ways that Tabernacle imagery has functioned in synagogue and pilgrimage settings.