The Aramaic Papyri Found At Elephantiné -- By: William W. Everts

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:269 (Jan 1911)
Article: The Aramaic Papyri Found At Elephantiné
Author: William W. Everts

The Aramaic Papyri Found At Elephantiné

William W. Everts

A considerable number of Aramaic papyri have recently been found at Elephantiné, opposite Assuan, four hundred miles south of Cairo. These Aramaic manuscripts are fully fifteen hundred years older that the oldest Hebrew parchment of the Bible. It is manifest, from the exclamations of Semitic scholars when they were published, how important they are.

Staerk, who published an edition of some of them, regards this contribution to biblical history as “equal in value to the most important cuneiform inscriptions.” Steuernagel refers to them as “a bright, clear spot in an obscure period of Jewish history.” Stanley A. Cook says that they will occupy “a prominent place in future biblical research.” Lidzbarski calls them “unique for Semitic antiquity.” Margoliouth thinks that they open “the wonderful prospect of a history of Israel based on authentic and contemporary records.” Sachau, another editor, speaks of them as adding “a whole chapter as new as it is rich in contents.” “That which directly concerns the Bible, as these do,” Gunkel observes, “is more important than all other finds in the East.” Clermont Ganneau said: “While they settle great questions they raise new ones.” Bousset declares that these documents are “more important than all that has been found concerning Jewish history.”

In the year 1901, a long strip of papyrus written on both sides in Aramaic was offered for sale at Luxor. This was published

two years later at Strasburg by Euting: but he did not know where it had been found. It was Ganneau who identified the word jb as Egyptian for Elephantine, the only city in ancient times so near the tropics. He concluded further that the author was not an Egyptian, because he brought a complaint against the Egyptians; that he must have been a Jew, because he left off the divine title when he referred to the idol worshiped there: and that “there certainly must be at Elephantine a nest discoverable of which we have only a small part of what must be hidden there still.” Ganneau’s suggestion was adopted, and by 1906 the Germans had begun digging, followed by the French soon after.

Meanwhile, in 1904, Robert Mond and Lady Cecil had purchased nine of ten papyri found there. All of these were edited by Sayce and Cowley and published in 1906. When Rubensohn, of the German Expedition, arrived, he first discovered the precise spot where the documents procured by Mond and Lady Cecil had been unearthed. He then proceeded to excavate in the same mounds, and was rewarded by finding on digging north, after less fortunate digging south, a large roll securely tied w...

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