The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 106
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:09 am Just a comment on a comment, by NG, which reads:
"And yet, one has to reconstruct a scenario where Pentateuchal literature was being composed or redacted in a culture where such literature appears to have been unlike any other and in a world where Judeans left evidence that they had no knowledge of a holy sabbath day of rest, of an exodus-passover myth, of a Mosaic law, of a central place of worship.... (Elephantine)."

First, putting aside the question whether some regard Torah literature as somewhat like some others.

Again, absence of evidence (in Elephantine extant text) is not evidence of absence.
In 2007, reviewing the 2006 Berossus book, I wrote, in part:

"....Gmirkin mentions a letter among the Elephantine papyri written from a Jewish mercenary colony in upper Egypt dating from the 5th century to the High Priest in Jerusalem which fails to reveal a knowledge of some of the most basic events in the Jewish tradition and claims that it supports his position that the Pentateuch was not then in existence. What is strikingly omitted in his discussion is the fact that the colony also wrote a letter to the Samaritans. What distinguishes the Samaritans from the orthodox Jews is basically three items: (1) the place of worship (Gerazim or Jerusalem) (2) purity of descent (the Samaritans were considered to be a mixed race of Jews and infidels) and (3) the canon of scripture -- the Jews accept The Law, The Prophets and The Writings whereas the Samaritans accept only the Pentateuch. It would seem that the omission of the letter to the Samaritans was deliberate since it undermines Gmirkin's position.

....Also, the temple in Elephantine does not attest to non-existence of written Torah then, any more than does the later temple at Leontopolis. In fact, the Elephantine papyri, Cowley 33 and 32, may well attest to Deuteronomy 12, and possibly the Pentateuch as well, by promising to the governor of Yehud to comply with its explicit law limiting the burnt sacrifice, the 'olah, to one place only."

Correcting my text above: the TaNaK, of course, was not canonized until later. But some of the rest--for instance the bit about Leontopolis--may remain pertinent.
On Elephantine as representative of late Persian Era pre-biblical Judaism, see now:

Granerød, Gard, Dimensions of Yahwism in the Persian Period: Studies in the Religion and Society of the Judaean Community at Elephantine. BZAW 488. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016.

It's a must-read for those who want to intelligently comment on the relevance of the Elephantine papyri to understanding contemporary Judaism, its literature (or lack thereof) and practices. It's analysis of the significance of the Elephantine largely coincides with my own. It has been well-received as solid scholarship in journal reviews. One reviewer introduced the book with the following summary, which encapsulates this important work.

"Granerød’s Dimensions of Yahwism is an intervention. The historical study of
Persian-period Judean religion has, Granerød alleges, been enchanted—even
“brainwashed”—by the Deuteronomists. Religio-historical scholars have
mistaken the image of Judaism canonized in the Hebrew Bible for Judean religion
as it was lived and practiced, and thus have read the sole worship of YHWH,
Jerusalem-centeredness, and the epoch-making character of the Babylonian
exile onto history. To this creeping biblicism, Granerød poses a challenge: the
archive of Elephantine. Here, Granerød argues, is a source for Yahwism in
the Persian period that is more time-stamped and representative than the
unprovenanced and partisan texts of the Hebrew Bible."
StephenGoranson
Posts: 1103
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by StephenGoranson »

That Judaism evolved is not news.
Gmirkin on advising on how to "intelligently comment"--your misplaced arrogance does not help.
For now, I note that that bibliography does not include "Gmirkin."
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 106
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 1:05 pm That Judaism evolved is not news.
Gmirkin on advising on how to "intelligently comment"--your misplaced arrogance does not help.
For now, I note that that bibliography does not include "Gmirkin."
Profound insight, not.

Granerod's analysis of the texts independently arrives at the same conclusions I do. The Elephantine Papyri witness to a prosaic, pre-biblical Persian Era Judaism (Yahwism) consistent with that of Judah and Samaria that accommodated polytheism, multiple temples, etc. I encourage interested parties to read Granerod firsthand. I note Granerod is also favorably cited several times in Yonatan Adler's book, which is also evidence-based, and which concludes from careful archaeological analysis that Judaism consistent with the biblical text can only be demonstrated in the second century BCE or later.
StephenGoranson
Posts: 1103
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by StephenGoranson »

It remains apparently that:

That Judaism evolved is not news.
Gmirkin on advising on how to "intelligently comment"--your misplaced arrogance does not help.
For now, I note that that bibliography does not include "Gmirkin."
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 5415
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:09 am
Again, absence of evidence (in Elephantine extant text) is not evidence of absence.
Except it is the evidence we find at Elephantine that testifies against knowledge of the Pentateuch in the Persian era. Sabbath is a market day. Yahweh was one of a number of gods to be worshiped.

StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:09 amIn 2007, reviewing the 2006 Berossus book, I wrote, in part:

"....Gmirkin mentions a letter among the Elephantine papyri written from a Jewish mercenary colony in upper Egypt dating from the 5th century to the High Priest in Jerusalem which fails to reveal a knowledge of some of the most basic events in the Jewish tradition and claims that it supports his position that the Pentateuch was not then in existence. What is strikingly omitted in his discussion is the fact that the colony also wrote a letter to the Samaritans. What distinguishes the Samaritans from the orthodox Jews is basically three items: (1) the place of worship (Gerazim or Jerusalem) (2) purity of descent (the Samaritans were considered to be a mixed race of Jews and infidels) and (3) the canon of scripture -- the Jews accept The Law, The Prophets and The Writings whereas the Samaritans accept only the Pentateuch. It would seem that the omission of the letter to the Samaritans was deliberate since it undermines Gmirkin's position.
You've lost me. How does the correspondence being addressed to Samaritans "undermine Gmirkin's position"?
StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:09 am....Also, the temple in Elephantine does not attest to non-existence of written Torah then, any more than does the later temple at Leontopolis.
Quite correct. As a number of scholars have proposed, the writings that became the foundational texts of "biblical Judaism", if they existed at all, were confined to a coterie of outsider scribes who operated apart from the mainstream of the priestly establishment and no doubt public awareness.

Although Knauf is less willing to play with make-believe ideas:

Knauf, Ernst Axel. “Elephantine Und Das Vor-Biblische Judentum.” In Religion Und Religionskontakte Im Zeitalter Der Achämeniden, edited by Reinhard G. Kratz, 179–88. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlaghaus, 2002.
Es gibt im Judentum von Elephantine nicht nur keinerlei Hinweis auf die Existenz einer »Bibel«, es gibt im Gegenteil deutliche Hinweise auf die Nicht-Existenz einer Bibel.

=

Not only is there no indication in Elephantine Judaism of the existence of a "Bible," there is, on the contrary, clear evidence of the non-existence of a Bible. (p. 187)

As for....
StephenGoranson wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:09 amIn fact, the Elephantine papyri, Cowley 33 and 32, may well attest to Deuteronomy 12, and possibly the Pentateuch as well, by promising to the governor of Yehud to comply with its explicit law limiting the burnt sacrifice, the 'olah, to one place only."

Correcting my text above: the TaNaK, of course, was not canonized until later. But some of the rest--for instance the bit about Leontopolis--may remain pertinent.
we have Kratz and Granerød not being willing to go beyond the evidence:

Kratz, Reinhard G. Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah. Translated by Paul Michael Kurtz. 1st edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Though common before the destruction of the temple and announced for the future in the petition, burnt offerings are explicitly excluded in later documents. Whether this limitation derived from the centralization commandment in Deut. 12, which prohibits any kind of offering to Yhwh apart from in the chosen cultic place, or whether it stemmed from Persian reservations remains unclear thus far. On the whole, the Judeans of Elephantine lived as Jews among the nations, untouched by biblical Judaism and its holy scriptures. (pp. 140f)
Granerød, Gard, and Granerod. Dimensions of Yahwism in the Persian Period: Studies in the Religion and Society of the Judaean Community at Elephantine. Berlin ; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016.
However, whether Bagavahya and Delaiah themselves had any knowledge of Deut 12, and if so, whether this part of the so-called Deuteronomic Code was part of their preparatory proceedings before they announced publicly their joint statement, eludes the modern religious historian. (p. 145)
User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 7875
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by MrMacSon »

StephenGoranson wrote: That Judaism evolved is not news.
Gmirkin on advising on how to "intelligently comment"--your misplaced arrogance does not help.
For now, I note that that bibliography does not include "Gmirkin."
Russell G was being specific:
Russell Gmirkin wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 12:52 pm
On Elephantine as representative of late Persian Era pre-biblical Judaism, see now:

Granerød, Gard, Dimensions of Yahwism in the Persian Period: Studies in the Religion and Society of the Judaean Community at Elephantine. BZAW 488. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016.

It's a must-read for those who want to intelligently comment on the relevance of the Elephantine papyri to understanding contemporary Judaism, its literature (or lack thereof) and practices ... It has been well-received as solid scholarship in journal reviews. One reviewer introduced the book with the following summary, which encapsulates this important work:

"Granerød’s Dimensions of Yahwism is an intervention. The historical study of Persian-period Judean religion has, Granerød alleges, been enchanted—even “brainwashed”—by the Deuteronomists. Religio-historical scholars have mistaken the image of Judaism canonized in the Hebrew Bible for Judean religion as it was lived and practiced, and thus have read the sole worship of YHWH, Jerusalem-centeredness, and the epoch-making character of the Babylonian exile onto history. To this creeping biblicism, Granerød poses a challenge: the archive of Elephantine...is a source for Yahwism in the Persian period that is more time-stamped and representative than the unprovenanced and partisan texts of the Hebrew Bible."

Russell Gmirkin wrote: Thu Nov 17, 2022 2:03 pm
... The Elephantine Papyri witness to a prosaic, pre-biblical Persian Era Judaism (Yahwism) consistent with that of Judah and Samaria that accommodated polytheism, multiple temples, etc. I encourage interested parties to read Granerod firsthand. I note Granerod is also favorably cited several times in Yonatan Adler's book, which is also evidence-based, and which concludes from careful archaeological analysis that Judaism consistent with the biblical text can only be demonstrated in the second century BCE or later.

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 7875
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by MrMacSon »

= https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/202 ... 5584c70000 (ie. without going via a 'leaving facebook' notification)


When Did Judaism Emerge? Far Later Than Assumed, New Theory [Research] Suggests

Vast review finds no evidence that the Torah laws were commonly observed before the second century B.C.E., says Prof. Yonatan Adler. Not all agree.

When was Judaism born? Tradition says it emerged more than 3,000 years ago at Mount Sinai, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the rest of the laws contained in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

Most researchers have long dismissed the Exodus and the revelation at Mt. Sinai as foundation myths – leaving us with the question of how and when the first major monotheistic religion developed. And now new [research] springs a shock.

A broad review finds no historical or archaeological evidence that the ancient Judeans, whether in the Holy Land or in the diaspora, observed or were even aware of the laws of the Torah until the second century B.C.E., says Yonatan Adler, a professor of archaeology at Ariel University and author of the new book “The Origins of Judaism,” published Tuesday by Yale University Press.

This would suggest that Judaism as we know it became a mass religion relatively late, possibly only when Judea was ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty ...

... Adler took a different approach to studying the roots of this religion. He collated information from extrabiblical texts and archaeological digs to understand when the Judeans first began observing en masse the commandments of the Torah.

“It is possible that the principles of Judaism were much older, that the texts that became scripture were much older, but I am asking here, 'what were people doing[?]' ” Adler says ...

His investigation involved scouring ancient texts and the archaeological record for signposts of Judaism as we know it: monotheism; rejection of figural art; respect for dietary and purity rules; and observance of festivals like the Sabbath or Passover. Compiling previous research with his own findings, Adler’s study focuses mainly on the Persian and Hellenistic periods, that is, from the end of the Babylonian exile in the late sixth century B.C.E. onwards.
..< . . omitted . . >
Figurative imagery disappears from Judean coins only in the second half of the second century B.C.E., with money minted by the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus I.

It would seem that up until that time, the fundamental prescriptions of the first and second commandments of the Torah (adoring YHWH exclusively and making no graven images, respectively) were wholesale unknown or ignored ... Mikvehs (Jewish ritual baths) and synagogues appear only from the second century B.C.E. onward and before that period there is no clear textual evidence of observance of the Sabbath or Passover.

There is one letter from Elephantine that discusses a festival that is celebrated in spring, but the biblical rites of Passover are never actually mentioned, Adler argues in the book.

The archaeologist is cautious about his conclusions, and doesn’t rule out that small groups, undetectable in the archaeological and historical record, may have been following some form of Torah law in the Persian or Early Hellenistic periods.

“I can’t swear on the Bible there was no Judaism before, I can only say there is no evidence for it, and I can say we have some counterevidence for it, especially in the Persian period, so it’s less likely; while the second century B.C.E. is the more probable setting for the birth of Judaism,” he tells Haaretz.

Those clever Hasmoneans

This later period saw the Judeans, led by the Hasmonean priestly dynasty, revolt against the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire. This conflict, commemorated during the festival of Hanukkah, is remembered as a victory against those who wanted to force the Jews to abandon Torah law and assimilate into the dominant Hellenistic culture.

But given that no one seems to have been observing the Torah before the revolt, Adler suspects that the conflict was more about the Hasmoneans seizing power and asserting Judah’s independence. It was only in hindsight that they spun it as a holy war, to unite the Judeans under a common identity forged by the laws and origin narratives of the Bible, Adler speculates.

The Bible’s territorial claims over the entire Holy Land as God-given to the people of Israel...provided a useful justification to later Hasmonean expansionism, particularly under John Hyrcanus, who gained control over regions, such as Idumea, that were not inhabited by Jews, Adler notes ...
..< . . paragraph omitted . . >
“There was an ancient Judean religion before the second century B.C.E.,” he says. “They used Aramaic and Hebrew, there was a Temple, there were priests and sacrifices. But were they sacrificing according to the rules of the Torah? Were they following Torah laws? There is no indication that they were.”

[continues ... ]


StephenGoranson
Posts: 1103
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by StephenGoranson »

A question.
Trigger alert: some may not consider it intelligent or profound enough to bother. Void where prohibited. While supplies last.
(A fine scholar said to me about another: "A good mind set to the wrong task.")
To what extent is the limited amount known about Elephantine writers representative of life elsewhere?

PS. Though the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting site
https://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/annualmeeting.aspx
says
"The abstracts for this meeting are not yet available" [meaning the abstracts book?],
one can click on the searchable online program individual presentations to read the abstracts.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 5415
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: The Origins of Judaism, Yonatan Adler

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 7:05 am To what extent is the limited amount known about Elephantine writers representative of life elsewhere?
Reinhold Kratz answers that question:
Now one could object that the conditions of Elephantine were in no way representative of post-exilic Jewry in the country and in the rest of the Diaspora. Wellhausen (in the passage from his Israelite and Jewish History quoted above) already explains them as relics from ancient times, fossils that had been preserved in a remote corner of the world. But things are not quite so simple. The figure of Hananiah is striking proof that the conditions on Elephantine are representative for some, if not for large parts of Judean or even Babylonian Jewry. Although he came from Judah or the Babylonian Gola and here - according to the usual picture - would have belonged to the biblical Judaism of the post-exilic period, he calls the so completely unbiblical Jews of Elephantine his ״brothers' in the ״Passover Letter' without any reservations. Two conclusions can be drawn from this: Firstly, the Jewry of Elephantine was by no means in a ״remote corner of the world' , but was - in the matter of the building of the Temple as through the messenger Hananiah - in contact with the Jews in the land. On the other hand, the Jews in the land, who, as far as can be seen, did not object to their non-biblical brothers on Elephantine, may not have differed significantly from them either.

Original:

Nun könnte man einwenden, daß die Zustände von Elephantine in keiner Weise repräsentativ seien für das nachexilische Judentum im Land und in der übrigen Diaspora. Schon Wellhausen (in der oben zitierten Passage aus seiner Israelitischen und jüdischen Geschichte) erklärt sie als Relikte aus alter Zeit, Fossile, die sich in einem entlegenen Winkel der Welt erhalten hätten. Doch ganz so einfach liegen die Dinge nicht. Die Gestalt des Hananja ist der schlagende Beweis dafür, daß die Verhältnisse auf Elephantine für einige, wenn nicht für weite Teile des judäischen oder sogar des babylonischen Judentums repräsentativ sind. Obwohl er aus Juda oder der babylonischen Gola stammte und hier – dem üblichen Bild zufolge – dem biblischen Judentum der nachexilischen Zeit angehört haben müßte, nennt er die so ganz unbiblischen Juden von Elephantine in dem „Passabrief “ ohne irgendwelche Vorbehalte seine „Brüder“. Daraus lassen sich zwei Schlüsse ziehen: Zum einen befand sich das Judentum von Elephantine keineswegs in einem „entlegenen Winkel der Welt“, sondern stand – in der Sache des Tempelbaus wie durch den Gesandten Hananja – in Kontakt zu den Juden im Land. Zum anderen dürften sich die Juden im Land, die gegen ihre unbiblischen Brüder auf Elephantine, soweit zu sehen, nichts einzuwenden hatten, von ihnen auch nicht wesentlich unterschieden haben.

Reinhard G. Kratz: "Zwischen Elephantine und Qumran: Das Alte Testament im Rahmen des antiken Judentums" pp 142f of Congress Volume Ljubljana 2007
Likewise Gard Granerød in Dimensions of Yahwism in the Persian Period, pp 324f:
The present study has sought to show that the Yahwism practised in Elephantine is a fully legitimate candidate to represent Judaean religion in the Persian period. The so-called Elephantine papyri and the other Aramaic documents from Persian-period Egypt give us “snapshots” of lived, practised Yahwism in a concrete context, that is, in an identifiable historical, cultural and geographic environment. Thus, as religio-historical sources they enable us to say more about the actual religious practice of the Elephantine Judaeans than what the (highly edited) texts of the Hebrew Bible reveal about the actual religious practice of the contemporary Yahwistic co-religionists in Judah. To borrow Magnar Kartveit’s words concerning the corpus of inscriptions from Mount Gerizim and the Delos inscriptions, “[inscriptions are valuable information because they have not been adjusted and updated like literary texts. They may have been mutilated and tampered with, but often the original text can be read or recovered, which is different from literary evidence.”

As a consequence, the religio-historical situation emerging from the Aramaic documents from Egypt should neither be deemed as an exception nor as a curiosity. Rather, in my view it is ironically this particular dimension of Yahwism i.e. the one reflected in the documents in question and practised by a diaspora community of Judaean soldiers serving Persian overlords on Egypt’s traditional southern border—that is the best attested actual, practiced example of Judaean religion in the Persian period there is.
And p. 326
7.2.2 The Ordinariness of the Yahwism in Elephantine

The second finding contributing to the framework is that the version—i.e. dimension—of Yahwism practised in Elephantine should not be treated as “the odd man out.” In my view, there is no reason to look at the Judaean community in Elephantine as a cabinet of religious curiosities or as a living museum. On the contrary, I will argue that the Yahwism of Elephantine represents an example of Judaean religion that we should regard as an equally typical type of Judaean religion as the one emerging from the (late) texts of the Hebrew Bible. In the latter, Yahwism has become “scripturalised.” What is more, whereas the exact social, religious, cultural and geographic environment(s) that the biblical texts were written and edited within still remain elusive at the best, in spite of centuries of historical-critical research, the sources for the Yahwism in Elephantine can be connected to a concrete environment. Thus, I argue that they have been underestimated as sources, particularly in comparison to the texts of the Bible. Instead of being exotified they should be brought to the very centre of the discussion of the history of Judaean religion. Thus, when scholars claim that the Elephantine Judaeans were religiously conservative, for instance by refleeting “pre-exilic Judaean religion” untouched by the religious renewals such as the Deuteronomistic movement, then these statements in reality reflect a stereotype within the scholarly guild about the religious development of Yahwism. To be slightly more provocative: The religious practice of the Judaean community in Elephantine and the more famous community in and around Jerusalem have become subjects and victims of an “Orientalism” (cf. Edward Said) that continues to exercise influence on the history of Judaean religion. Elephantine Yahwism has suffered for having been and still being understood on the basis of stereotypes of what “real,” “true” Judaean religion in the Persian period was like. Not seldom the Yahwism practiced in Jerusalem and Judah and reflected in biblical texts have provided the templates for these stereotypes.
Post Reply