The origins of Christian holy places in Palestine and the beginnings of Christian pilgrimage to these sites have seemed obscure. From a detailed examination of the literature and archaeology pertaining to specific sites and the region in general, the present author finds no evidence that Christians of any kind venerated 'holy places' before the fourth century. It appears that scholarly Christians had visited certain Biblical sites out of historical and exegetical
concerns, but that these sites were not considered holy, or the visitors as 'pilgrims'. Instead, the origins of Christian pilgrimage and holy places rest with the emperor Constantine, who established
four basilicas in Palestine c. 325-30 and provided two imperial matrons, Helena and Eutropia, as examples of a new kind of pious pilgrim. Pilgrimage to intrinsically sacred shrines had been a pagan practice, which was grafted on to Christianity. Many Jewish, Samaritan, and pagan sites were thereafter appropriated by the church and turned into Christian holy places. This process helped to destroy the widespread paganism of Palestine and mark the country as a 'holy land'. Very few
sites are genuine, the most important being the cave (not Garden) of Gethsemane, in which Jesus was probably arrested.
`Jewish readers will find much of interest in Taylor's book. I certainly would recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Israel soon, as it will at the very least enliven your perception of the Christian holy places, whether you visit them or just drive by...more than that, her book allows us to gain a much more accurate and complex picture of what happened to the Jews in the first few centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple. This period
so vaguely seen through the eyes of later rabbinical writings is much richer and more exciting, I think, now that we can begin to see it through other than triumphant Christian perspectives.'
Norman Simms, New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, May 1994
`Taylor has written an important book. This study is a valuable and welcome contribution to our knowledge about the origin and evolution of the Christian holy places in Palestine. Besides that, Taylor has irrefutably proven that a Jewish-Christian origin of the holy places is a myth and a scholarly invention.'
Jan Willem Drijvers
`This book retains the characteristic style of a doctoral dissertation, including the wealth of documentation.'
Choice, November 1993
`Taylor makes a generally compelling case, combining careful literary analysis with coherent summaries of the complex archaeological data.'
John S. Kloppenborg, University of St. Michael's College, Toronto School of Theology, Toronto Journal of Theology, 10:1
`Taylor examines the evidence and the interpretations offered site by site, with relentless rigour. ... her book is a model of historical enquiry, careful, thorough and judiciously critical, into problems where archaeological material has a crucial part to play in interpreting scraps of literary, often legendary, information. It is well illustrated with maps, diagrams, plans and photographs, essential for discussion of the archaeological evidence.'
R.A. Markus. Ecclesiastical History. Vol 45 Apr '94
`This book is attractively produced and packed with interesting material, photographs and maps. ... a substantial contribution to Holy Land studies'
'a concise survey, based mainly on archaeological data, of the distribution of religious groups in Palestine from AD 135 to 324, from which the pagans emerge as the largest religious group... this well structured, erudite, and often stimulating study is an important contribution to the study of the history of Christian aspirations for, and interest in, the Holy Land in late antiquity.'
Oded Irshai, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Journal of Roman Studies
'This is a work of great erudition, carefully researched, as evidenced by the bibliography and footnotes. It is remarkable for its display of linguistic knowledge of nine languages, including Aramaic, Hebrew and Syriac. It has clean, sharp illustrations.'
G. S. P. Freeman-Greenville, Palestine Exploration Quarterly
`important book ... The argument is thorough and some intriguing solutions offered to some puzzling details ... Taylor has produced a thorough and convincing critique which was long overdue.'
Peter Walker, Tyndale House, Cambridge. Anvil, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1994
`The author's detailed discussion of the various sites which became the Christian 'holy places' in Palestine is valuable. Her clear and well-organized study is a real contribution to scholarship ... the book will be a valuable companion to the wider-ranging works of Walker and Wilken.'
W.H.C. Frend, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, The Heythrop Journal, October 1994, Volume 35, Number 4
`The book is crammed with information and nowhere does it bring the period to life more than in the description of settlement patterns of pagan, Jewish, Samaritan and Christian communities in the third and fourth centuries. There is a tremendous amount of information provided, structured to a most interesting and relevant theme.'
Kay Prag, University of Liverpool, Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol. 41, No. 1, '96
`This is a rare book that combines technical scholarship with stylistic grace ... she shows a wealth of scholarly experience in archaeology and literary sources of early Christianity and displays a lucid and vivid style of expression, a model for all scholarly writing.'
Thomas A. Idinopoulos, Miami University, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Winter, 1997 )