The Elephantine Papyri

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Russell Gmirkin
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

neilgodfrey wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 3:55 pm
John2 wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 3:48 pm As far as when the Torah/OT was written in light of the Elephantine Papyri goes, if it happened in Greek times I still don't see how it matters. Jews do things in the Papyri that some Jews do in the OT (multiple altars and gods, buying and selling on the Sabbath, etc.). It may not be regarded as an "ideal" kind of Judaism, but whenever the OT was written, this kind of Judaism appears to have existed in Persian times.
How does one define Judaism? Was not the complaint of the prophets that these "bad" Jews were indistinguishable from pagans? And if those complaints were written in Hellenistic times....?
I think it is disingenuous to call these "bad" Jews, when the writings of the Hebrew Bible uniformly condemn the practices such as polytheism as hateful, worthy of extermination, a rejection of the Mosaic covenant that defined the children of Israel as belonging to Yahweh. "Biblical Judaism" (to adopt Kratz's terminology) condemned these practice as the cause of all the curses of the covenant. The "non-Biblical Judaism" of Elephantine was basically everything "Biblical Judaism" hated and was trying to eradicate, but was apparently perfectly compatible with current Persian Era practices at Jerusalem's temple and in Samaria, given the amicable correspondence between the two and other communication on religious matters by means of envoys such as Hananiah. There's not the slightest contemporary evidence that biblical writings or "Biblical Judaism" existed during the Persian Era, despite the evidence-free wishful thinking of ivory tower scholars.
John2
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

Post by John2 »

Russell Gmirkin wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 5:20 pm
The "non-Biblical Judaism" of Elephantine was basically everything "Biblical Judaism" hated and was trying to eradicate, but was apparently perfectly compatible with current Persian Era practices at Jerusalem's temple and in Samaria, given the amicable correspondence between the two and other communication on religious matters by means of envoys such as Hananiah. There's not the slightest contemporary evidence that biblical writings or "Biblical Judaism" existed during the Persian Era, despite the evidence-free wishful thinking of ivory tower scholars.

I wonder if the gulf between "Biblical Judaism" and "non-Biblical Judaism" was any wider than the one between Reform and Orthodox Judaism today. Maybe there has always been "bad" Jews and "normative" Jews can't get rid of them.
andrewcriddle
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

Post by andrewcriddle »

One point I am genuinely unsure about, is how far would the 'non-biblical' practices of the Elephantine community have been evident from the correspondence between them and Palestine taken on its own ?
We have a wider variety of surviving letters etc than were available in Jerusalem. Did the Elephantine community possibly present a more 'orthodox' picture of themselves to Jerusalem than was entirely accurate ?

Andrew Criddle

EDITED TO ADD

I should have noted that the Elephantine community appears to have been in contact with the wider Jewish world, not only by letter, but also via an official called Hananiah who was at one time actually present in Egypt. This would have reduced the possibility of ignorance about Elephantine practices.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

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John2 wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 6:06 pm
Russell Gmirkin wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 5:20 pm
The "non-Biblical Judaism" of Elephantine was basically everything "Biblical Judaism" hated and was trying to eradicate, but was apparently perfectly compatible with current Persian Era practices at Jerusalem's temple and in Samaria, given the amicable correspondence between the two and other communication on religious matters by means of envoys such as Hananiah. There's not the slightest contemporary evidence that biblical writings or "Biblical Judaism" existed during the Persian Era, despite the evidence-free wishful thinking of ivory tower scholars.

I wonder if the gulf between "Biblical Judaism" and "non-Biblical Judaism" was any wider than the one between Reform and Orthodox Judaism today. Maybe there has always been "bad" Jews and "normative" Jews can't get rid of them.
How does one define "Judaism"? Is it possible to have a non-biblical Judaism? What would that look like and still be "Judaism"?
John2
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

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neilgodfrey wrote: Tue Nov 22, 2022 11:34 pm
How does one define "Judaism"? Is it possible to have a non-biblical Judaism? What would that look like and still be "Judaism"?

I guess it depends on the time period. Whenever the OT may have been written, even in its presentation of events Jews were in the process of getting their act together in the 400's BCE as far as observance of the Torah-as-we-know-it goes, as was the Torah-as-we-know-it itself according to the DH.

So what was "normative" Judaism in this era? I don't entirely know. But to judge from the Elephantine Papyri, I'd say it involved being Jewish (and being concerned with fellow Jews in Judea) and worshiping (if not exclusively) a God that Jews worship today and offering sacrifices to him in a sanctuary outside of Jerusalem (like "bad" Jews do in the OT).

This may have been the way that all people worshiped back then, but not all people were Jewish and worshiped YHWH, and that's what makes it Judaism to me.
Last edited by John2 on Wed Nov 23, 2022 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

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John2 wrote: Wed Nov 23, 2022 6:58 pm
neilgodfrey wrote: Tue Nov 22, 2022 11:34 pm
How does one define "Judaism"? Is it possible to have a non-biblical Judaism? What would that look like and still be "Judaism"?

I guess it depends on the time period. Whenever the OT may have been written, even in its presentation of events Jews were in the process of getting their act together in the 400's BCE as far as observance of the Torah-as-we-know-it goes, as was the Torah-as-we-know-it itself according to the DH.

So what was "normative" Judaism in this era? I don't entirely know. But to judge from the Elaphantine Papyri, I'd say it involved being Jewish (and being concerned with fellow Jews in Judea) and worshiping (if not exclusively) a God that Jews worship today and offering sacrifices to him in a sanctuary outside of Jerusalem (like "bad" Jews do in the OT).

This may have been the way that all people worshiped back then, but not all people were Jewish and worshiped YHWH, and that's what makes it Judaism to me.
If I understand -- your definition embraces some narrative of origins that we read about in the Pentateuch?
John2
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

Post by John2 »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Nov 23, 2022 7:16 pm
John2 wrote: Wed Nov 23, 2022 6:58 pm
neilgodfrey wrote: Tue Nov 22, 2022 11:34 pm
How does one define "Judaism"? Is it possible to have a non-biblical Judaism? What would that look like and still be "Judaism"?

I guess it depends on the time period. Whenever the OT may have been written, even in its presentation of events Jews were in the process of getting their act together in the 400's BCE as far as observance of the Torah-as-we-know-it goes, as was the Torah-as-we-know-it itself according to the DH.

So what was "normative" Judaism in this era? I don't entirely know. But to judge from the Elaphantine Papyri, I'd say it involved being Jewish (and being concerned with fellow Jews in Judea) and worshiping (if not exclusively) a God that Jews worship today and offering sacrifices to him in a sanctuary outside of Jerusalem (like "bad" Jews do in the OT).

This may have been the way that all people worshiped back then, but not all people were Jewish and worshiped YHWH, and that's what makes it Judaism to me.
If I understand -- your definition embraces some narrative of origins that we read about in the Pentateuch?

I think the religion in the Papryri embraces some elements of a type of worship (by Jews of YHWH -if not exclusively- with sacrifices in a place outside of Jerusalem) that at some point (let's say in Greek times) was depicted in the OT as being a "bad" kind of Judaism.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

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fwiw .... from Kratz, Reinhard G. “Ahiqar and Bisitun : The Literature of the Judeans at Elephantine.” In Elephantine in Context, edited by Reinhard G. Kratz and Bernd U. Schipper, 155:209–36. Researches on the Old Testament. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2022. pp 314-315
The Hebrew Bible, too, is teaching for life; at least, it was supposed to be a teaching for the life of Judaism in Persian and Hellenistic-Roman times. It is therefore surprising that no part of the Hebrew Bible was found at Elephantine. One may, of course, suggest that religious practices, such as mourning, fasting, or celebrating the festivals of Mazzot, Pesach and Sabbath, presuppose knowledge of the Torah, and that the Hebrew (Israelite) onomasticon proves the influence from biblical psalms. However: “The only piece of literature found at Elephantine was the Wisdom of Ahiqar. It is not known, therefore, whether the Elephantine Jews had collections of Psalms.” Furthermore, all the religious notions and rites attested in the material from Elephantine can be easily explained through the lens of the traditions and customs of the traditional YHWH-religion, which - while it encompasses both the Bible and religious practice at Elephantine - does not necessarily take knowledge of either the Torah of Moses or the biblical psalms of David as a prerequisite. Because of this, I still tend to think that the Judeans at Elephantine were not yet aware of the biblical writings.
John2
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Re: The Elephantine Papyri

Post by John2 »

But even the OT narrative presents Jews in Judea as not knowing or having forgotten the Torah-as-we-know-it and needing it explained to them in the 400's BCE. And even before that they are presented as not knowing about Deuteronomy until Josiah's time and practicing an Elephantine-like religion until then (sacrifices to YHWH and other gods at multiple altars). This presentation in the OT fits the DH and the Elephantine Papyri to me.

Regarding the presence of the Wisdom of Ahiqar at Elephantine, I'd never heard of it before, but according to Wikipedia, it has been characterized as "one of the earliest 'international books' of world literature." I wouldn't characterize OT writings as "international books of world literature" or expect Egyptian Jews to know them in the 400's BCE, when even Jews in Judea are presented as not knowing about them then.

But Elephantine Jews do know about observances that the Torah/OT revolves around, i.e, sacrifices to YHWH and concern with Jews (Hebrews) living in Judea (Canaan/the Land of Israel), so in that respect their religion looks like a kind of Judaism to me, whenever you date the OT.
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