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13604Re: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic papyri

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  • drbrucekgardner@aol.com
    Oct 1, 2011
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      Leaving aside the debated Ezra Memorial, Ezra-Nehemiah makes specific
      reference to historical figures that must constitute a kind of historical
      comment, however cautiously they be used. As Schurer's History of the Jewish
      People in the Age of Jesus Christ points out (III; 38-40) Elephantine
      references to the establishment of Passover at an imperial level are consistent
      with the biblical accounts of Nehemiah's mission. A Jewish settlement in the
      6th Cent BCE is mentioned in Jer. 44:1 and 46:13-14, from which literary text
      (Jer 44:1-23), also, we have the condemnation of "the Queen of Heaven",
      which appears to be a reference to a consort of Yhw. See also W. G. Dever Did
      God Have A Wife? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 2005). Nehemianic stories of
      Sanballat the Horonite and other local enemies of the land also make the point
      about a stricter Judaism founding itself in post-exilic Jerusalem,
      determined to be the norm in the midst of what may have been wide theological
      variations. All such references point to the same concept of normative,
      monotheistic Jerusalem and, while one may wish to be cautious in their
      application, their relevance as evidence seems undeniable.

      To ignore all biblical testimony, therefore, merely on grounds of uncertain
      dating, seems to be excessively dismissive. Besides, by what standard of
      logic do we deny the probity of biblical writers, while automatically
      ascribing the highest level of probity to non-biblical writers? We know of
      Elephantine what a writer in a highly-politicised climate told someone else. If
      one is going to be consistent one must maintain reserve about the
      reliability of non-biblical witnesses. All reconstructions are tentative, as the
      history of criticism reminds us.

      To favour one source, apparently uncritically and unreservedly, while
      excluding another one in the same way,
      risks prejudice in sources. One accepts the cautious argument, therefore,
      but one must reserve the right to cite biblical sources. And in those
      sources there appears a reason for a distance between the Jerusalemite and
      Elephantine perspectives that should not, be ignored, namely a centralist and
      monotheistic ideology in Jerusalem. By all means let that theory be tested,
      but let it not be shut out of possibility, merely because the sources are
      "literary". What does that mean, in real terms, when writing letters is a
      literary endeavour?

      Rejection of biblical testimony per se has little critical merit and risks
      seeming ideologically-driven, perhaps after the minimalism of the age. Gam
      zeh ya'avor. In the meantime, let us keep a level head on all sources.

      Bruce Gardner
      Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.

      In a message dated 30/09/2011 22:02:16 GMT Daylight Time,
      RUSSELLGMIRKIN@... writes:

      Yes, but at least we know what was known at Elephantine in the fifth
      century. We do _not_ know what was known in Judah in the fifth century,
      we make unwarranted assumptions about the historical value of undated
      such as Ezra or Nehemiah or the Prophets. Surely contemporary non-literary
      evidence from Elephantine that is secure in date should be given priority
      over literary texts of unknown date.

      Best regards,
      Russell Gmirkin

      I do not think it possible to generalize from what was known at
      Elephantine to what was known in Judah at the time.

      Liz Fried
      Ann Arbor

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