The priestly courses inscription.
The first Jewish mention of the town of Nazareth.
Also of interest, the Nazareth
This inscription is our earliest Jewish mention of the town of
The priestly courses are laid out in 1 Chronicles 24.7-18.
The inscription purports to tell where the priests from each
course settled after the destruction of the temple in
70. For informational purposes, I here quote Andrew Criddle,
from an IIDB post dated November 17, 2007
(I have taken the liberty of expanding standard abbreviations,
adding periods after initials, and correcting a couple of typos):
The only full description in English of the
fragments is in a very obscure book, The Teacher's Yoke, a memorial volume for
Henry Trantham published by Baylor in 1964. (There may be a full
article in Hebrew; I'm not sure.) Pages 42-45 are an introduction
to the fragments and their implications, by E. Jerry Vardaman,
followed by pages 46-57, The Caesarea
Inscription of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses, by Michael
Since this publication is so obscure I'll try and abstract the
Three fragments of a Hebrew inscription on a marble slab have
been discovered at Caesarea. Fragments 1 and 2 were found in 1962 in
controlled excavations near the remains of the synagogue. Fragment
3 was discovered some years earlier, and was photographed but has
since disappeared. It is probable but not certain that they all
came from the same physical inscription.
Fragment 1 has the putative mention of Nazareth; it was dated
by Professor N. Avigad to the 3rd or 4th century (presumably on
paleographic grounds). According to the excavator's account of the
history of the synagogue (which if I understand correctly has been
challenged by some), a purpose-built synagogue was constructed in
the 3rd century, destroyed around 360 or slightly earlier, and
rebuilt nearly a hundred years later. This 5th century rebuilt
synagogue seems too late for the inscription which is more likely
part of the earlier one. If the inscription was part of the
original construction it would date from the 3rd century.
Fragment 3 reasonably clearly refers to the 15th, 16th, and 17th
priestly courses. Fragment 2 has only 5 letters, but in the light
of fragment 3 is probably also referring to priestly
courses. Fragment 1 is the critical one.
The only genuinely questionable reading is the N [nun]
in line 2, which is only half preserved.
At first sight fragment 1 is unclear. However, in Jewish
tradition (an early example of which is found in Hebrew texts
from the Cairo Genizah) we have a list of the priestly courses
and their locations, the relevant part of which reads: Chezir
at Mamliach..., seventeenth priestly course; Hap (or Hapizzez)
at Nazareth, eighteenth priestly course; Pethachiah Akh (or Akhlah)
at Ar (or Arab), nineteenth priestly course; Jehez (or Jehezekel)
at Migdal Nunaiya..., twentieth priestly course.
From century III, IV, or V, in Hebrew: