13605SV: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic papyri
- Oct 1, 2011Before I start: My forgot my glasses in my office in Copenhagen yesterday. It is an 80 miles drive! So if spelling etc is more compromised than usual, that's the reason.
And to Gardner's mail:
first, before we get to far from the subject, the Elephantine papyri: This list is not about biblical historicity.
Second, the argument is wrong: It is nowhere to be proven that the mentioning of the names of Ezra and Nehemiah makes them historical. I could mention Tarzan without making him historical. Gilgamesh was probably in the hoary past a king from Lagash, but that will be the only historical part of the epic, etc etc.
Third: Jeremias has nothing to say about Elephantine. a) can we date Jeremias? except from conventional beliefs that be belonged where he is said to belong? b) the context of Jer 44 and 46 is N.E Egypt. Migdol, as one of the place names mentioned there could be everywhere (meaning "tower"), the other names is about something in the eastern delta. How long is the distance from, say the present Suez canal to Elephantine?
Fourth: The geography of Jerusalem in the Persian and Hellenistic periods is definitely a hot subject today. Some leading archaeologists like David Ussishkin would say that there was really nothing here before c. 200 BCE, making this discussion totally redundant
Fifth: The post-exilic period is a concept, an ideological one, that comes from the Old Testament. We are investigating whether or not the concept is meaningful, as the Jewish society persisted in Iraq until 1951.
Sixth: the term "Jew" in this connection is ideological and certainly not very precise. Which also means arguing that the Elephantine sociewty was Jewish is already presupposing something that is far from secure.
Seventh: Bill Dever did not find out that Iron Age Yahweh of Juda/Samaria was a bachelor -- although he would be happy to be reckoned so. Here it would be more precise to quote the specialized literature by Tilde Binger, Paolo Merlo, Wiggins and more.
But again, this is not the place to discuss the historicity of Ezra and Nehemiah. Such questions really belongs in biblical lists like Biblical studies. A remark like this "Rejection of biblical testimony per se has little critical merit and risks
seeming ideologically-driven, perhaps after the minimalism of the age" has nothing to do here.
Niels Peter Lemche
Fra: ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:ANEemail@example.com] På vegne af drbrucekgardner@...
Sendt: den 1 oktober 2011 12:16
Emne: Re: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic papyri
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
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.
Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
In a message dated 30/09/2011 22:02:16 GMT Daylight Time,
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.
I do not think it possible to generalize from what was known at
Elephantine to what was known in Judah at the time.
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