John2 wrote: ↑Sat Dec 17, 2022 1:44 pm
So we could say a) Elephantine Jews (and by extension Jews in Judea) in the 400's BCE observed a Moses-free Canaanite-type spring festival and called it Passover, or b) Passover in the 400's BCE was associated with Moses like it is in (possibly later) Jewish (and Samaritan) writings, and I prefer option b.
I don't know where or when Esther was written, but I know it doesn't mention God or praying. So let's say it was unknown until it was discovered in modern times and carbon dated to the 400's BCE. If we didn't have the Elephantine Papyri and Esther was all we had to go on to know what Jews were like in the 400's BCE, I would assume that the Jews in Esther believed in God (or gods) and praying like Jews do in the OT rather than that they did not believe in God (or gods) and praying.
It's been awhile since I've looked at Esther, but a quick word search is indicating that it also doesn't mention Moses or the Torah, only that "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws" (3:8). And if this is so, then I would assume that the Jews in Esther believed in Moses and some kind of Torah, like Jews do in other Jewish writings.
Would this be going beyond the evidence? Yes, but it would seem reasonable to me to take what other Jewish writings say into consideration, regardless of when they were written, to get an idea of the beliefs and practices of the Jews in Esther.
The difference with Esther is that it is known to date late and after other biblical literature had become extant, and it is known to come from a culture embedded in the other biblical literature. So it is reasonable to interpret Esther in the context of other writings known to its authors.
The point about the passover festival is that we are looking at the question of origins, and that implies practices before the literature. We know that there were many etiologies to explain origins of this and that, an etiology of a tribal name, an etiology of a political institution, an etiology of a city, an etiology of a custom, etc. Rarely are those etiologies considered historical because they are usually related to ideas of significance to later generations and cannot therefore belong to the original custom or institution.
Elephantine finds include references to the sabbath day, a seven day week. But we can be sure that those Judeans did not associate the sabbath with an account of God's rest from creation because they spoke of that day as a market day. Clearly the etiology of God resting on that day and sanctifying it was a later etiology for a different religious environment.
It seems reasonable to me to assume a similar development for the biblical etiology of the Passover -- especially given that the Passover at Elephantine is explicitly associated only with the authority of the Persian king and not with Moses. There may have been some notion of Moses and Exodus kept at an oral level or otherwise never found its way into the physical remains, but one would expect some other evidence for Mosaic regulations but there is none.
The etiologies are introduced in stories that are conveyed in Greek genres of history-writing; the content of those etiologies is Hellenistic events and situations; and if one accepts Gmirkin's thesis then one has also a specific motive for the introduction or invention of the etiologies (including the name of Moses) in Hellenistic times.
Before the appearance of the biblical etiology, as I understand and recall (I haven't checked up the details), we have Passover and other festivals being entirely agricultural festivals without any association with Moses.