BAR 27:02, Mar/Apr 2001
Helios in the Synagogue
Did some ancient Jews worship the sun god?
Archaeologist Zeev Weiss has described in these pages the extraordinary synagogue mosaic recently uncovered at ancient Sepphoris.a Its most striking feature is a zodiac in whose center is an abstract depiction of the Greek sun god Helios (represented as a radiant sun disk) riding in his quadriga, or four-horse chariot.
What in the world is a Greek god doing in a synagogue? As Weiss correctly observed, the zodiac and Helios together are common features in ancient synagogues. Even worsein some synagogues, Helios is shown in human form, rather than as an abstract sun disk!