Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE) in light of the Aramaic Documents

Esko Siljanen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

This study aims at finding out what kind of picture the Aramaic documents found from Egypt present about Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE). The main research questions are: (1) What picture do the Aramaic documents discovered from Persian-period Egypt provide about the Judean settlement of Egypt during the same period in question? (2) How do these documents present the religion of the Judeans of Egypt? (3) Did the Judeans of Egypt have any knowledge of the texts and traditions included in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Torah? (4) What kind of picture do these Aramaic documents provide about the administration, military and economic organization of the Persian Empire in Egypt? The data consists of the 1,042 Aramaic documents dating from the Persian period, found from Egypt and published up through the year 2013. Historical analysis is implemented in three phases: source criticism to verify the reliability and validity of the sources, content analysis to analyze the data and interpretative dialogue to understand the findings in relation to the research questions. The vast data complements the picture provided by previous research placing the Judeans of Egypt in the historical context of the Persian Empire. The findings, in relation to the research questions, show that: (1) the Judeans were settled in Egypt mainly in the areas of Elephantine in the South as well as in the region of Memphis in the North. Through this research the picture of the Judean settlement in Egypt in general and of the Judean military garrison in Elephantine in particular becomes clearer. The research confirms the previously suggested theory that the Judean settlement of Egypt was rather old, most probably dating back to the end of the 7th and beginning of the 6th century BCE. Judeans served as loyal subjects of the Persian Empire in the positions of regular soldiers and professional Aramaic scribes. (2) They possessed a religious group identity that was mainly Yahwistic; however, clear evidence also exists to prove their partial religious acculturation, especially with the Arameans. (3) The Judeans of Egypt drew from the same source of religious tradition as the texts of the Hebrew Bible; however, their knowledge of the traditions known from the Torah was limited. They maintained good relationships with the High Priest of Jerusalem, although they did not know about the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem. No copy of the texts of the Hebrew Bible has been found from Egypt. Thus, it is very probable that the religious tradition was passed down to the Judeans of Egypt in oral form. In addition, this study (4) enhances the current understanding of well-organized Persian Imperial administration with an effective economic system, and powerful army that was present and active in Egypt during the first Persian period (525-404 BCE). Its greatest challenges were the peripheral location of Egypt from the heartland of the Empire and the evident corruption of its officials. Since the end of the 5th century BCE, the Persian rule in Egypt began fading, and also the Judeans of Egypt disappeared from the scene. This study enriches recent understanding of the Judean settlement of Egypt through its vast data of Aramaic documents that have been systematically examined. The findings confirm that Judeans had families with them in Egypt, a fact which indicates the long age of their settlement. A novel finding in this study is the fact that the Judeans occupied mainly the positions of regular soldier and professional Aramaic scribe. This research shows that the Judean community of Egypt mainly had a Yahwistic group identity. The greatest token of this identity was their temple of Yahu in Elephantine. Yahwistic names were also still highly preserved by the Judeans of Egypt during the Persian period.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Nissinen, Martti, Supervisor
  • Pakkala, Juha, Supervisor
Award date31 Mar 2017
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3019-8
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3020-4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Fields of Science

  • 614 Theology
  • 615 History and Archaeology

Cite this

Siljanen, Esko. / Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE) in light of the Aramaic Documents. Helsinki : University of Helsinki, 2017. 355 p.
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abstract = "This study aims at finding out what kind of picture the Aramaic documents found from Egypt present about Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE). The main research questions are: (1) What picture do the Aramaic documents discovered from Persian-period Egypt provide about the Judean settlement of Egypt during the same period in question? (2) How do these documents present the religion of the Judeans of Egypt? (3) Did the Judeans of Egypt have any knowledge of the texts and traditions included in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Torah? (4) What kind of picture do these Aramaic documents provide about the administration, military and economic organization of the Persian Empire in Egypt? The data consists of the 1,042 Aramaic documents dating from the Persian period, found from Egypt and published up through the year 2013. Historical analysis is implemented in three phases: source criticism to verify the reliability and validity of the sources, content analysis to analyze the data and interpretative dialogue to understand the findings in relation to the research questions. The vast data complements the picture provided by previous research placing the Judeans of Egypt in the historical context of the Persian Empire. The findings, in relation to the research questions, show that: (1) the Judeans were settled in Egypt mainly in the areas of Elephantine in the South as well as in the region of Memphis in the North. Through this research the picture of the Judean settlement in Egypt in general and of the Judean military garrison in Elephantine in particular becomes clearer. The research confirms the previously suggested theory that the Judean settlement of Egypt was rather old, most probably dating back to the end of the 7th and beginning of the 6th century BCE. Judeans served as loyal subjects of the Persian Empire in the positions of regular soldiers and professional Aramaic scribes. (2) They possessed a religious group identity that was mainly Yahwistic; however, clear evidence also exists to prove their partial religious acculturation, especially with the Arameans. (3) The Judeans of Egypt drew from the same source of religious tradition as the texts of the Hebrew Bible; however, their knowledge of the traditions known from the Torah was limited. They maintained good relationships with the High Priest of Jerusalem, although they did not know about the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem. No copy of the texts of the Hebrew Bible has been found from Egypt. Thus, it is very probable that the religious tradition was passed down to the Judeans of Egypt in oral form. In addition, this study (4) enhances the current understanding of well-organized Persian Imperial administration with an effective economic system, and powerful army that was present and active in Egypt during the first Persian period (525-404 BCE). Its greatest challenges were the peripheral location of Egypt from the heartland of the Empire and the evident corruption of its officials. Since the end of the 5th century BCE, the Persian rule in Egypt began fading, and also the Judeans of Egypt disappeared from the scene. This study enriches recent understanding of the Judean settlement of Egypt through its vast data of Aramaic documents that have been systematically examined. The findings confirm that Judeans had families with them in Egypt, a fact which indicates the long age of their settlement. A novel finding in this study is the fact that the Judeans occupied mainly the positions of regular soldier and professional Aramaic scribe. This research shows that the Judean community of Egypt mainly had a Yahwistic group identity. The greatest token of this identity was their temple of Yahu in Elephantine. Yahwistic names were also still highly preserved by the Judeans of Egypt during the Persian period.",
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Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE) in light of the Aramaic Documents. / Siljanen, Esko.

Helsinki : University of Helsinki, 2017. 355 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

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N2 - This study aims at finding out what kind of picture the Aramaic documents found from Egypt present about Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE). The main research questions are: (1) What picture do the Aramaic documents discovered from Persian-period Egypt provide about the Judean settlement of Egypt during the same period in question? (2) How do these documents present the religion of the Judeans of Egypt? (3) Did the Judeans of Egypt have any knowledge of the texts and traditions included in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Torah? (4) What kind of picture do these Aramaic documents provide about the administration, military and economic organization of the Persian Empire in Egypt? The data consists of the 1,042 Aramaic documents dating from the Persian period, found from Egypt and published up through the year 2013. Historical analysis is implemented in three phases: source criticism to verify the reliability and validity of the sources, content analysis to analyze the data and interpretative dialogue to understand the findings in relation to the research questions. The vast data complements the picture provided by previous research placing the Judeans of Egypt in the historical context of the Persian Empire. The findings, in relation to the research questions, show that: (1) the Judeans were settled in Egypt mainly in the areas of Elephantine in the South as well as in the region of Memphis in the North. Through this research the picture of the Judean settlement in Egypt in general and of the Judean military garrison in Elephantine in particular becomes clearer. The research confirms the previously suggested theory that the Judean settlement of Egypt was rather old, most probably dating back to the end of the 7th and beginning of the 6th century BCE. Judeans served as loyal subjects of the Persian Empire in the positions of regular soldiers and professional Aramaic scribes. (2) They possessed a religious group identity that was mainly Yahwistic; however, clear evidence also exists to prove their partial religious acculturation, especially with the Arameans. (3) The Judeans of Egypt drew from the same source of religious tradition as the texts of the Hebrew Bible; however, their knowledge of the traditions known from the Torah was limited. They maintained good relationships with the High Priest of Jerusalem, although they did not know about the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem. No copy of the texts of the Hebrew Bible has been found from Egypt. Thus, it is very probable that the religious tradition was passed down to the Judeans of Egypt in oral form. In addition, this study (4) enhances the current understanding of well-organized Persian Imperial administration with an effective economic system, and powerful army that was present and active in Egypt during the first Persian period (525-404 BCE). Its greatest challenges were the peripheral location of Egypt from the heartland of the Empire and the evident corruption of its officials. Since the end of the 5th century BCE, the Persian rule in Egypt began fading, and also the Judeans of Egypt disappeared from the scene. This study enriches recent understanding of the Judean settlement of Egypt through its vast data of Aramaic documents that have been systematically examined. The findings confirm that Judeans had families with them in Egypt, a fact which indicates the long age of their settlement. A novel finding in this study is the fact that the Judeans occupied mainly the positions of regular soldier and professional Aramaic scribe. This research shows that the Judean community of Egypt mainly had a Yahwistic group identity. The greatest token of this identity was their temple of Yahu in Elephantine. Yahwistic names were also still highly preserved by the Judeans of Egypt during the Persian period.

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KW - 614 Theology

KW - 615 History and Archaeology

M3 - Doctoral Thesis

SN - 978-951-51-3019-8

PB - University of Helsinki

CY - Helsinki

ER -

Siljanen E. Judeans of Egypt in the Persian period (539-332 BCE) in light of the Aramaic Documents. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 2017. 355 p.