- Interesting that Niels Peter Lemche broadens the discussion into biblical standards and `modern discussion about the history of the southern Levant' and talks about the validity of the Hebrew Testaments. I think the origins and beliefs of the Colony at Yeb can help resolve some of these issues.
Niels Peter Lemche says: "We don't know if people living in the Jehud in the Persian period did also reckon them as Judeans. So the ethnicity of these Judeans is not an established fact as we only have the emic and not the etic idea of their ethnicity. In this way, they can easily understand themselves as Judeans although living in Egypt for 200 years. It is no more astonishing than the modern acceptance of the Falashians as Jews in modern Israel. It is a matter--as defined by Fredrik Barth and his many successors--of ascription and description."
How do we know they understood themselves as Judaeans, when we don't know if the Jehud knew who they were? I have reiterated that the Elephantine papyri texts show that when the Greeks first arrived in southern Egypt, the Colony wrote that they had built their temple in the time of the Egyptian kings. Incidentally the Falasha prefer to be called Beta Israel. We know from DNA analysis approximately where they came from and there ethnicity. What we do not know is that the Elephantines 'definitely considered themselves to be Judaean?'
Niels Peter Lemche says "The idea of the Judeans at Yab (should be Yeb))as deriving from Israelites left behind by the Exodus is simply ridiculous. It has never been discussed for serious in serious scholarship."
In fact a number of scholars cite this as a possibility, including E Maclaurin of Sydney University, and there is little consensus as to how they arrived there. Isaiah 11.11 refers to the redeeming of some of the Lord's people from an area called Pathros. Professor Bezazel Porten, discussed the possibiity in a lecture given at Limmud Conference 2005 on Elephantine, and said the finding of the Elephantine papyri and ostraca confirmed that The Elephantine colony was the remnant being referred to in the Bible.
Niels Peter Lemche says "We really do not know if the cult in Jerusalem was monotheistic."
I do not say all the Jews living in the Israel of the time were law-abiding diligently observant monotheists. I simply said that the Bible indicates the measures they tried to live up to, which at its core was belief in one God.
We cannot be sure the Elephantines knew the Commandments, but we do know they were happy to break two central tenets, so the logic is they meant little to them, or they just didn't know them.
Peter Daniels asks:
When did the "Ten Commandments" become normative? How do you know that the "Jews" of Jerusalem didn't do all the things you list as practiced by the Yeb folk (mutatis mutandis for Egyptian precedents, depending on who was in the ascendant at any particular time)?"
I don't know, all I have quoted is evidence for what happened at Elephantine. Certainly the Commandments were extant quite early on in Israel's history, as Dwight D. Swanson and Philip R. Davies conclude from evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Behind the Essenes - History and Ideology in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Program in Judaic Studies, No. 94, Scholars Press, 1987).
So far, no one has commented on the known design of the Temple and town layout at Elepahantine and I wonder if anyone has any information on this subject?
Robert Feather, Institute of Materials, London