Photo by Zev Radovan

Excavators found this silver amulet, a little more than 4 inches long, near the bronze amulet (see second sidebar to this article) in the Sepphoris basilica. Crammed with 55 lines of Aramaic text, it is a curse tablet soliciting divine power to rebuke, smite and crush a “murmurer.” That the divine power is the Jewish god Yahweh is indicated by various formulas used to write the ineffable divine name: YAH, YH, YHW, YYY and YY (see the first sidebar to this article). Although the meaning of “murmurer” is not clear, authors McCullough and Glazier-McDonald suggest two possibilities: The term might simply refer to the malign spirit responsible for the amulet owner’s unspecified “misfortune,” or the term might have a political meaning relating to conflicts between Sepphoris’s Jewish and Christian communities. By the fifth century, Christians were aggressively proselytizing in Sepphoris, the traditional home of the family of the Virgin Mary. The Talmud refers to conflicts in Sepphoris between rabbinic authorities and minin (heretics). “Murmurers” may thus refer to “heretics” who do not follow the rabbinic laws of the people of Yahweh—perhaps Christians or Christianized Jews.