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13609SV: SV: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic papyri

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  • Niels Peter Lemche
    Oct 1, 2011
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      Dear Russell,

      Jerusalem is a most elusive place, It is never there when you need it the most. We have a series of letters from Jerusalem in the Amarna period, but so far nothing that looks like a city has been found dating to the LB period. Then the 10th century BCE ? An area of conflict, and I stay with my Tell Aviv friends and Margreet Steiner saying that it is not there, in spite of the traditions said to belong to this century. Then we have the Persian period and early Hellenistic period which is now also getting into trouble.

      I have aired the possibility that it is not the city that is important but its religious tradition. There need not be a city in order that a kahan rab should be there. A temple would do fine even a sanctuary of some sort (think also of recent downdating of the second temple of Jerusalem to the second half of the 5th century [Edelman]).

      The place's religious prestige is difficult to doubt. It But there is a kind of cultural memory to the idea that David opened for the religious tradition by pkacing the ark of the Lord at Araunah's treashing ground and in the discussion in connection with the plans of building a temple, if this God really needs a temple.

      Te argument that not enough diggings have taken place in Jerusalem is rubbish although often heard. I suppose that it would be impossible to find another place on earth as extensively digged as Jerusalem (maybe Rome can compete). As to an administrative centre in the Persian Period, other candidates have been aired, such as Ramat Rahel.

      Niels Peter Lemche

      -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
      Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af RUSSELLGMIRKIN@...
      Sendt: den 1 oktober 2011 17:35
      Til: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Emne: Re: SV: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic papyri

      In light of NPL's comments below, I will refrain from engaging in Bruce
      Gardener's comments on biblical historicity other to state that he
      misunderstands my position and that I welcome historical data from any literary
      source that has been subjected to proper historical criticism, which, I hasten
      to add, Dr. Gardner appears to attempt to perform.

      With respect to the archaeological debate on Jerusalem that NPL mentions in
      point 4 below, I would invoke the Elephantine Papyri no. 30 [Cowley],
      which is addressed to "Johanan the high priest and his colleagues the priests
      who are in Jerusalem" along with a body of "nobles" as contemporary evidence
      in 408 BCE of the importance of Jerusalem in religious matters and some of
      the social institutions present there. As an indisputably contemporary
      document, IMO this constitutes the best available evidence at present for
      Persian period Jerusalem (the archaeological remains remaining relatively mute
      at present date).

      Best regards,
      Russell Gmirkin

      Before 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

      -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
      Fra: _ANE-2@yahoogroups.com_ (mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com)
      [mailto:_ANE-2@yahoogroups.com_ (mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com) ] På vegne af
      _drbrucekgardner@..._ (mailto:drbrucekgardner@...)
      Sendt: den 1 oktober 2011 12:16
      Til: _ANE-2@yahoogroups.com_ (mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com)
      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
      People in the Age of Jesus Christ points out (III; 38-40) Elephantine
      references to the establishment of Passover at an imperial level are
      with the biblical accounts of Nehemiah's mission. A Jewish settlement in
      6th Cent BCE is mentioned in Jer. 44:1 and 46:13-14, from which literary
      (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
      God Have A Wife? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 2005). Nehemianic stories of
      Sanballat the Horonite and other local enemies of the land also make the
      about a stricter Judaism founding itself in post-exilic Jerusalem,
      determined to be the norm in the midst of what may have been wide
      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
      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
      monotheistic ideology in Jerusalem. By all means let that theory be
      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.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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