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Origin of Judaism

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  • featherrobert
    The idea that the Elephantine Papyri can provide evidence of Jewish-style practices at Elephantine Island that can be extrapolated across to Canaan is
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 4, 2010
      The idea that the Elephantine Papyri can provide evidence of Jewish-style practices at Elephantine Island that can be extrapolated across to Canaan is extremely speculative. The form of `pseudo-Judaism' being followed on the Island was radically different from what we know of Judaism for the periods concerned. In fact you cannot call the people at the Settlement at Elephantine `Jewish' at all. They spoke Aramaic, intermarried with Egyptians, allowed the charging of interest, gave women equal and sometimes superior marriage rights, appeared to be polytheistic, and had no knowledge of the Exodus, or Passover protocols.

      The information we have about the form of Judaism at Elephantine cannot be used to push self identity in Canaan forward, as their form of Judaism was completely detached from that country until the Persians arrived.

      Russell Gmirkin talks about 'multiple temples' at Yeb. Where does he get this idea from? Of course there were other pagan temples on the Island, but only one at the Settlement in question. There is strong evidence from the Papyri and from recent excavations by a team from the German and Swiss institutes working on the site since 1969, that there was one temple at the Elephantine settlement but no- one seems interested in why they built a temple in the first place, or when they arrived there. The confusion on this matter is illustrated by people like Sir Martin Gilbert, who is thoroughly confused about the geography and timing of their arrival. Liz Fried is almost certainly correct in her dating of the Settlement as existing in the 7th century BCE, but I would say this date is conservative. For example they used 18th dynasty seals on some of their letters. We do not know if they celebrated Passover. They asked for information on how to celebrate it, when they came into contact with Canaan, which implies they had no knowledge of the festival, or about the Exodus. As Liz Fried points out, the name of Israel never appears in the correspondence.
      Robert Feather, London
    • victor avigdor hurowitz
      Dear Robert, Your depiction of the Jews of Elephantine is quite amusing. I would think you may be describing American Reform Jews, or even not a few Orthodox
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 4, 2010
        Dear Robert,
        Your depiction of the Jews of Elephantine is quite amusing. I would think
        you may be describing American Reform Jews, or even not a few Orthodox
        Jews. They speak English, intermarry with Americans of all origins, demand
        equal marriage rights for women, maybe have a Hanukkah bush in their
        house, and are ignorant of their traditions. So why not look at the
        positive rather than the negative, namely that they call themselves
        YHDY', the worship a God named YHW and maintain contacts with the
        religious establishment in Jerusalem and want to know something about
        Passover. I don't know whether the chief Rabbinate of Israel would
        recognize them as Jewish, but quite a few of their correligionists would
        have no problem with it whatsoever.
        As for not mentioning Israel, what's wrong with YHD instead?
        Victor Hurowitz
        BGU



        On Mon, 4 Jan 2010, featherrobert wrote:

        > The idea that the Elephantine Papyri can provide evidence of Jewish-style practices at Elephantine Island that can be extrapolated across to Canaan is extremely speculative. The form of `pseudo-Judaism' being followed on the Island was radically different from what we know of Judaism for the periods concerned. In fact you cannot call the people at the Settlement at Elephantine `Jewish' at all. They spoke Aramaic, intermarried with Egyptians, allowed the charging of interest, gave women equal and sometimes superior marriage rights, appeared to be polytheistic, and had no knowledge of the Exodus, or Passover protocols.
        >
        > The information we have about the form of Judaism at Elephantine cannot be used to push self identity in Canaan forward, as their form of Judaism was completely detached from that country until the Persians arrived.
        >
        > Russell Gmirkin talks about 'multiple temples' at Yeb. Where does he get this idea from? Of course there were other pagan temples on the Island, but only one at the Settlement in question. There is strong evidence from the Papyri and from recent excavations by a team from the German and Swiss institutes working on the site since 1969, that there was one temple at the Elephantine settlement but no- one seems interested in why they built a temple in the first place, or when they arrived there. The confusion on this matter is illustrated by people like Sir Martin Gilbert, who is thoroughly confused about the geography and timing of their arrival. Liz Fried is almost certainly correct in her dating of the Settlement as existing in the 7th century BCE, but I would say this date is conservative. For example they used 18th dynasty seals on some of their letters. We do not know if they celebrated Passover. They asked for information on how to celebrate it, when they came into contact with Canaan, which implies they had no knowledge of the festival, or about the Exodus. As Liz Fried points out, the name of Israel never appears in the correspondence.
        > Robert Feather, London
        >
        >
        >
      • featherrobert
        Dear Victor, I don t doubt the people on Yeb followed a form of Judaism and worshipped YHW, in association with other associates, rather reminiscent of the
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 4, 2010
          Dear Victor,
          I don't doubt the people on Yeb followed a form of Judaism and worshipped YHW, in association with other associates, rather reminiscent of the Kuntillet Ajrud phenomena. The real point is – can you use what we know of their experience to correlate experience in Canaan? I think only to a limited extent. To say they `maintain contacts with Jerusalem' is not strictly true. Both Reuven Yaron, of the Hebrew University, and G.W.Anderson, University of Edinburgh, conclude we just don't know when or how the original Aramaic speaking settlers came to Elephantine. When Cymbyses and the Persians marched into Egypt, c525 BCE, they found a long-established priestly colony that worshipped YHW and Astarte – the Egyptian version of Anathbethal. They also followed Egyptian legal, fiscal, and social precedents which conformed to Egyptian practice of many centuries earlier.

          Prior to 419 BCE they appear not to have celebrated Passover. How do you explain this?

          We have to be very cautious about using evidence of their practices as even sub-streams of mainstream Judaism. The common denominator between the streams of modern Judaism you mention is that they all believe in only one G-d. E. Maclaurin's extensive study of their form of worship concludes it `could not have existed in a Hebrew group which had been exposed to the influences of Sinai and Canaan after the settlement.'

          Robert Feather , London.
        • victor avigdor hurowitz
          Dear Robert, All this is beside the point. Do you know of any other group besides people from Judah and Israel who worshipped YHW(H)? Who cares where the
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 4, 2010
            Dear Robert,
            All this is beside the point. Do you know of any other group besides
            people from Judah and Israel who worshipped YHW(H)? Who cares where the
            original settlers came from, but some of them called themselves yhdy' and
            I can hardly think of any other place more suited to these people's origin
            than Judah. I don't know what "mainstream" Judaism was then, but you are
            talking like an Orthodox Jew who thinks that anything but Torah True
            Judaism as interpreted in the Art Scroll Siddur and Torah Tidbits is not
            Judaism. It's amazing how truly orthodox critical scholars can be in
            denying diversity. As I said, you should be focusing on what unites these
            people
            and not what divides them. As for Maclaurin's statement cited here, I must
            confess that it is incomprehensible to me. And why do you say with
            certainty that prior to 419BCE they appear not to have celebrated
            Passover? Is the so-called Passover papyrus so well preserved and so well
            understood that we can make such a definitive statement? You're demanding
            too much of these people and reading too much into what we don't really
            know.
            Victor Hurowitz
            BGU



            On Mon, 4 Jan 2010, featherrobert wrote:

            > Dear Victor,
            > I don't doubt the people on Yeb followed a form of Judaism and worshipped YHW, in association with other associates, rather reminiscent of the Kuntillet Ajrud phenomena. The real point is – can you use what we know of their experience to correlate experience in Canaan? I think only to a limited extent. To say they `maintain contacts with Jerusalem' is not strictly true. Both Reuven Yaron, of the Hebrew University, and G.W.Anderson, University of Edinburgh, conclude we just don't know when or how the original Aramaic speaking settlers came to Elephantine. When Cymbyses and the Persians marched into Egypt, c525 BCE, they found a long-established priestly colony that worshipped YHW and Astarte – the Egyptian version of Anathbethal. They also followed Egyptian legal, fiscal, and social precedents which conformed to Egyptian practice of many centuries earlier.
            >
            > Prior to 419 BCE they appear not to have celebrated Passover. How do you explain this?
            >
            > We have to be very cautious about using evidence of their practices as even sub-streams of mainstream Judaism. The common denominator between the streams of modern Judaism you mention is that they all believe in only one G-d. E. Maclaurin's extensive study of their form of worship concludes it `could not have existed in a Hebrew group which had been exposed to the influences of Sinai and Canaan after the settlement.'
            >
            > Robert Feather , London.
            >
            >
            >
          • Clark Whelton
            ... Interesting. What else is known about this practice, and/or about the seals themselves? Clark Whelton New York
            Message 5 of 5 , Jan 4, 2010
              Robert Feather wrote:

              >>>>>>>...Liz Fried is almost certainly correct in her dating of the
              >>>>>>>(Elephantine) settlement as existing in the 7th century BCE, but I
              >>>>>>>would say this date is conservative. For example they used 18th
              >>>>>>>dynasty seals on some of their letters...




              Interesting. What else is known about this practice, and/or about the seals
              themselves?



              Clark Whelton
              New York
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