RE: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic Papyri
- Dear Robert,
I cannot accept your definition of Jewish. "Jewish" is a translation of the
Hebrew yehudi, and that designates a member of a people, the people of
This is how the community of Elephantine designates itself when writing to
other members of the community, although in contracts written by non-Judeans
they are usually stylized as Arameans because of their language.
If you want to respect the texts, as I'm sure you do, then you have to take
these people at their word.
They are Judeans, even though they may not have lived in Judah for some 200
So, are they YHWHists or Pseudo-Yahwists, as you style them? They have built
and maintained a temple to YHWH from the time of their arrival at the time
of Cambyses, according to their own words. They went into mourning for three
years and abstained from meat, from sex, from washing themselves, after the
destruction of their temple to him.
You seem to think that there was some "normative" Judaism that they weren't
following, and therefore they aren't Jews. I don't know what that
"normative" Judaism is, or when you think it took effect. You say that they
didn't follow the mitzvoth? Is that what makes a Jew? Am I not Jewish
because I don't keep the Sabbath? Because sometimes I sneak a cup of coffee
to make it through Yom Kippur? You complain that they did not follow the
"oral law." When did these "laws" come about, do you think?
You deduce from the Passover Letter that they weren't keeping Passover and
didn't know about it. What I deduce from it is that they weren't allowed to
sacrifice the Passover Lamb, since that alone is not mentioned in the
letter. They are permitted to abstain from work, and eat unleavened bread,
but not to conduct the main act which absolutely defines the Passover
You complain also that they worship other gods, so they can't be "real"
Jews. What is the evidence for that? They took oaths on other gods? Does
that mean they worshipped them? I know of Jews who took oaths on a bible
which contained the New Testament. Does that make them non-Jews?
You state that they took up a collection for other gods? Our synagogue has
taken up collections for various churches in the past when those churches
suffered from fire, vandalism, etc. Does that make us not YHWH worshippers?
I think that you define a Judaism, i.e., the culture and behavior of
Judeans, that never actually ever existed.
Lisbeth S. Fried, Ph.D.
Department of Near Eastern Studies
and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
University of Michigan
202 S. Thayer -- Room 4111
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I sent (too much) rain on one city, and sent no rain on another city;
and still you did not return to me, says YHWH. (Amo 4:7-8 )
From: ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:ANEemail@example.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2011 6:34 AM
Subject: [ANE-2] Elephantine Aramaic Papyri
Discussion on Elephantine has strayed a long way from David Hall's original
question where he puts his finger on a crucial, so far unanswered question,
about Passover: "Shouldn't they have already known about this observance for
Firstly it is quite wrong to talk about a Jewish Community on Elephantine.
They are better described as pseudo-Jahwehists and their religion cannot be
equated to the Jewish version in Israel of the 5th and 6th centuries. There
were many fundamental differences in their beliefs and practices that
differentiated them from normative Judaism. For example, they allowed the
charging of interest, women had dissolution rights in marriage and property
ownership rights, members of the community married non-believers from
outside, and their worship was a form of Jahwehism in conjunction with
Astarte, based on the Egyptian concept of `Maat'.
They did not follow and were not aware of the Oral Laws, nor did they appear
to celebrate Passover. The reason for this anomalous situation is, in my
view, because the Elephantine Community were not `diaspora' or mercenary
Jews, and they did not know about what had been going on in Israel because
they had never been part of the Exodus.
I have written extensively on the subject in my previous books and will
expound further in another book on 'Black Holes in the Dead Sea Scrolls'
being published next year.
A close study of the form of worship at Elephantine was made by E.
Maclaurin, in 1968, at the University of Sydney, Australia. He concluded: `
.that it was of a form which could not have existed in a Hebrew group which
had been exposed to the influences of Sinai and Canaan after the
A number of theories ascribe the origins of the colony to the Dispersions of
722 and 586 BCE - the periods of Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of the
Northern and Southern Kingdoms
of Israel. For numerous reasons these ideas do not work. Even the eminent
historian Sir Martin Gilbert, to make the point, has to place Elephantine
550km further north than it really is in his Atlas of Jewish History.
A German/French team has been excavating at the site for a number of years
and there is good evidence that the Colony came into existence many hundreds
of years before the Greeks arrived. The layout of the buildings and the
Temple they built are further clues to the real explanation for the origins
and existence of the colony.
Robert Feather, Institute of Materials, London.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- The 10th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (MICAH) will take place October 2011, friday to sunday 28th-30th,
at the Johannes-Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany:
Topics cover the Ancient and Classical Hebrew, i. e. Epigraphic and Biblical Hebrew, as well as adjacent languages and epigraphics,
as for instance Phoenician & Punic, Old and Imperial Aramaic, and the ancient Transjordan languages.
The program schedule is online now:
For participation, we request a fee of 30 Euro, which is due onsite. This includes the conference binder, abstracts, badge, free WLAN access onsite, and refreshments. We are sorry that because of misuse by certain alien cadgers at the last meetings, these benefits will only granted to those who wear an authentic conference badge.
For proper preparation, we request a simple pre-registration e-mail to micah@....
Looking forward to meeting you in Mainz soon.
Reinhard G. Lehmann
Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann
Research Unit on Ancient Hebrew & Epigraphy
FB 01/ Faculty of Protestant Theology
Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz
Subsidia et Instrumenta Linguarum Orientis (SILO):
10th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (MICAH):
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]