A Jewish Temple In Egypt, B.C. 525-411. -- By: S. R. Driver

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:257 (Jan 1908)
Article: A Jewish Temple In Egypt, B.C. 525-411.
Author: S. R. Driver


A Jewish Temple In Egypt, B.C. 525-411.3

S. R. Driver

Great interest has been aroused among biblical scholars by the recent discovery of three Aramaic papyri found at Elephantinê, near the First Cataract of the Nile. They prove to have been written only twenty-four years after Nehemiah’s

second visit to Jerusalem (432 b.c.), and bring us nearer to the Old Testament than any inscription hitherto discovered. As Professor Driver remarks, “we are sensible, as we read them!, of being in an atmosphere very similar to that into which we are brought by the (Aramaic letters and edicts in Ezra 7:11-26 (b.c. 458); 4:11–16; 17–22 (shortly before b.c. 444); and even by the earlier ones of Ezra 5:6–17; 6:2–12 (b.c. 520).” These “have just been published by Dr. Sachau, Professor of Semitic Languages, and Director of the Oriental Seminary, at Berlin (Drei Aramaische Papyrus-urkunden aus Elephantinê, Berlin, 1907, with many valuable notes). These documents were found in a chamber of a house excavated from under the mound, which now marks the site of the ancient Elephantinê.”

“The first of the papyri consists of thirty lines, written as the facsimile shows, in a clear and bold hand. It is a petition addressed by the colony of Jews at Elephantinê to Bagohi— the Bagoas of Josephus—the Persian Governor of Judah, to crave his intervention on their behalf. The ‘temple of the God Yahu’—of course, Yahweh, or, in the pronunciation with which we are more familiar, Jehovah—in Elephantinê, in which they worshiped the God of their fathers, and to which they were intensely devoted, had, to their great sorrow, been destroyed; and they ask Bagohi’s intervention and assistance to get it rebuilt… . From the description here given, it is evident that it was a substantial and handsomie building, with pillars of stone, and seven stone gates. It was used not, like a synagogue, for prayer only, but also for sacrifice; it had an altar, upon which burnt-offerings, meal-offerings, and frankincense were regularly offered; mention is also made of gold and silver bowls, bearing the same name as those used in the Temple at Jerusalem, for tossing the sacrificial blood against the sides of the altar.”

From the narrative it appears that the “Jewish colony had been settled in Elephantinê, and their Temple had been built there, for m...

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