Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Absence of Evidence and Post-Churban Yerushalayim

I meant to post on this a few days ago, but have been sick. The general consensus (with some objectors) was that after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, no Jewish settlement within the area of Yerushalayim survived.

This was based on absence of evidence of their existence. Of course, absence of evidence only exists so long as no evidence is found, and once evidence is found, theories need to be revised. As such, it is a bad idea to be extremely confident based on absence of evidence, but rather one should realize that this is just a reconstruction based on the evidence that exists. More specifically, when people claim that the Bible claims X, and there is no evidence found of X, and thus the Bible is false, I chuckle, given the many times in the past the Bible has said Y and people argued that the Bible was false based on absence of evidence of Y, only to later be disproved when Y was found. (And, more generally, how many times in general Z was thought to be not so because of absence of evidence, only to be disproven when evidence is found. This case is another such example.) Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

To cite from the article from HaAretz:
Recent archaeological excavations near the Shuafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem indicate the existence of a Jewish community in Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

The findings - said to be the first indication of an active Jewish settlement in the area of Jerusalem after the city fell in 70 C.E. - contradict the common wisdom that no Jewish settlement survived the Roman destruction of the city. However, some Israeli archaeologists have argued that Jewish settlement revived and continued to exist even after the destruction.


Scholars usually say that there were no Jews living in Jerusalem after their Great Revolt against the Romans, which was cruelly repressed by the army headed by Titus, which destroyed both the city and the Temple.

The main indication that the settlement was a Jewish one is the assemblage of stone vessels found there. Such vessels, for food storage and serving, were only used by Jews because they were believed not to transmit impurity. Archaeologists believe stone basins discovered at the site were used to hold ashes from the destroyed Temple.


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