The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine

The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine

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Passover, also called Pesach ( / ˈ p ɛ s ɑː x , ˈ p eɪ -/ [2] Hebrew: פֶּסַח ‎ Pesaḥ), is a major Jewish holiday that occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of Aviv, or spring. The word Pesach or Passover can also refer to the Korban Pesach, the paschal lamb that was offered when the Temple in Jerusalem stood, to the Passover Seder, the ritual meal on Passover night, or to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. One of the biblically ordained Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Passover is traditionally celebrated in the Land of Israel for seven days and for eight days among many Jews in the Diaspora, based on the concept of yom tov sheni shel galuyot.

As recounted in the Book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to mark a lamb's blood above their doors in order that the Angel of Death will pass over them (i.e., that they will not be touched by the death of the firstborn). Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave, taking whatever they want, and asks Moses to bless him in the name of the Lord. The passage goes on to state that the passover sacrifice recalls the time when the L ORD "passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt". [3] This story is recounted at the passover meal in the form of the Haggadah, in fulfillment of the command "And thou shalt tell (Higgadata) thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the L ORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt." (Exodus 13:8)

The wave offering of barley was offered at Jerusalem on the second day of the festival. The counting of the sheaves is still practiced, for seven weeks until the Feast of Weeks on the 50th day, the Pentecost.

Nowadays, in addition to the biblical prohibition of owning leavened foods for the duration of the holiday, the Passover Seder is one of the most widely observed rituals in Judaism.

Related Articles

The surprising ancient origins of Passover

Were Hebrews ever slaves in ancient Egypt? Yes

For you were (not) slaves in Egypt: The ancient memories behind the Exodus myth

The &ldquoPassover Letter&rdquo was addressed to Yadaniyah (aka Jedoniah), the Jewish leader of Elephantine. The letter is incomplete: What has survived is a segment about 4.5 inches long (11.4 centimeters) and just over 9 inches (23 centimeters) wide.

Dated to the fifth year of King Darius II, it was discovered among other papyri in the early 20th century by the German archaeologists Otto Rubensohn and Friedrich Zucker. The author Haggai Misgav noted in Jewish history magazine Segula in 2013 that the letter explicitly cites the permission of the Persian ruler to celebrate the holiday, which would have been necessary for the Persian solders.

&ldquoSome suggested that Hananyah is the brother of Nehemiah mentioned in Nehemiah 1:2, but not all agree on this,&rdquo Maeir remarks.

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The surviving bit does not actually mention the word Pesach. But it does hand down instructions that smack of the holiday of unleavened bread:

&ldquoCount 14 [days in Nisan] and at [twilight?] on the 14th [from twilight observe Pesach?] from the 15th day to the 21st day of [Nisan] observe the festival of unleavened bread, eat unleavened bread for seven days. Do not work on the 15th and 21st days of Nisan &hellip do not drink. . And everything that is leaven take into your rooms and seal up between these days.&rdquo

Yedoniyah's letter requesting the rebuilding of the temple at Elephantine, dating from 407 B.C.E. Abhandlungen der Königlich Preussischen Geologischen Landesanstalt

In 1912, William R. Arnold of the Andover Theological Seminary wrote in the Journal of Biblical Literature: &ldquoIt is perfectly clear that we have here a letter of instruction to the Jewish community at Elephantine, with directions for the punctilious observance of a feast &hellip from the 15th to the 21st day of Nisan &hellip which requires abstinence from labor,&rdquo combining the Passover and feast of unleavened bread &ndash matza.

Hiding it from sight in the house was apparently what the biblical-era Jews did with chametz instead of selling it to amiable qualifying infidels.

The ban on quaffing is baffling, but Arnold postulates (based on the Mishna) that it refers to the ubiquitous Egyptian beer, which was made of fermented grain &ndash i.e., leavened, an interpretation that Porten deems plausible.

Rites of spring and the Deutoronomic reform

What might it mean to observe Pesach on the 14th? The letter could be instructing the Jews of Elephantine to sacrifice to YHWH, Misgav suggests. That would seemingly fly in the face of the assumption that ritual was centralized in Jerusalem by that time.

Just over 100 years before the &ldquoPassover Letter&rdquo crawled from Jerusalem to Elephantine, in 525 B.C.E. Persian forces led by King Cambyses II invaded and subjugated Egypt, which became part of a vast Persian empire stretching from western India to Sudan.

Temple of Khnum at Esna, Egypt. Claude Valette

It seems Jews were already on Elephantine Island when the Persians rolled over Egypt, Porten (aka &ldquoElephantine Man&rdquo) tells Haaretz. At least, they claimed to be so in a letter they wrote later to the governor of Jerusalem on the occasion of the destruction of their temple, some years after the &ldquoPassover Letter.&rdquo

&ldquoThey described how they got there, and one thing they say is: &lsquoWe were here before the Persians entered Egypt,&rsquo&rdquo Porten explains.

As the Jewish community had lived under the Egyptians, so they lived under the Persians, he says. Hananyah&rsquos letter is addressed to Yadaniyah, the head of the Jewish community and commander of the Jewish garrison on Elephantine. Its role was to protect the southern Egyptian border. But how or why did the letter come to pass?

The origins of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, are shrouded in mystery. Many scholars believe that the holiday as we know it subsumed two different spring rituals in antiquity, going back over 3,000 years: A Pesach animal sacrifice, marked by semi-nomadic Israelite herders and Hag Hamatzot (the holiday of unleavened bread), a grain celebration by farmers, the settled segment of Israelite society. When the two holidays merged is unknown.

&ldquoThere is also mention [in 2 Chronicles, which might be a later invention] of King Hezekiah celebrating Passover &ndash in fact, celebrating &lsquoPesach Sheni,&rsquo supposedly right before his reformation of the cult,&rdquo Maeir observes.

According to the biblical account, King Josiah instated a &ldquoDeutoronomic reform&rdquo in 622 B.C.E., based on a book of law claimed to have been found in the Temple in Jerusalem &ndash which scholars believe became the Book of Deuteronomy. Among other things, according to the biblical account, the king centralized the Passover ritual in the Temple &ndash the First Temple, ostensibly built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E.

The god Khnum, with ram's head Jean-Francois Champollion / Brooklyn Museum

Then, come the seventh century B.C.E., as the second book of Kings says: &ldquoAnd the king [Josiah] commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the Lord thy God, as it is written in the book of this covenant&rdquo (2 Kings 23:21) &ndash which stipulates that the Passover sacrifice could no longer be made locally (&ldquowithin any of thy gates&rdquo) but only at the Temple (Deuteronomy 16:5).

The First Temple was destroyed after Josiah&rsquos time, in 586 B.C.E. by invading Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar II the Second Temple was completed in about 515 B.C.E. It bears adding that back in the 10th century B.C.E. when Solomon or whoever built the First Temple, whatever the status of Jerusalem may have been, worship was evidently not centralized. Just one example is a temple found in Motza that dates to about the same period as the First Temple, which also had a sacrificial altar. &ldquoThe notion of temples outside Jerusalem existed,&rdquo Maeir says.

And almost 200 years after Josiah and a century after the Second Temple was built in Jerusalem by returning exiles from Babylon, animals were being sacrificed in the Elephantine temple, according to other papyri and ostraca found on Elephantine, Porten says. i.e., it was a full-blown temple.

Nor was it the only Jewish temple in ancient Egypt where sacrifices postdated Josiah&rsquos reform. At another temple in the Egyptian province of Onias (in northern Egypt), sacrifices were offered as well, Porten explains. (The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus dwells at some length on the Onias temple in his book &ldquoThe Jewish War.&rdquo)

Were Jews over the ages ignoring the Josiah reform? Did it only exist in the minds of the king&rsquos pet scribes? Was the biblical text about it written later in time, with only hazy memory of the Persian period?

Porten has a different question: &ldquoWhy was this temple established on Elephantine to begin with?&rdquo Possibly the rationale for both temples in Egypt lies in the book of Isaiah 19:19, he suggests: &ldquoIn that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord.&rdquo

The god Khnum with consort Roland Unger

&ldquoThis verse served as warranty for the establishment of the Onias temple. So I assume that the same verse could have served as warranty for the establishment of the Elephantine temple because it was on the border,&rdquo Porten posits.

Asked when the book of Isaiah was written, he answers that we don&rsquot know but Isaiah supposedly lived in the eighth century B.C.E., before the boy-king Josiah arose. The temples in ancient Egypt could have been &ldquoexempted&rdquo from Josiah&rsquos centralization of Judaism.

Or, as Maeir suggests, the Jews of Elephantine may have arrived there from Israel or wherever before the concept of centralized worship or from communities that didn&rsquot accept the concept of centralization.

&ldquoIt could well be that they had a tradition under which temples could be built outside Jerusalem,&rdquo he says. &ldquoNehemiah prohibited mixed marriage, but we have certificates [in Elephantine] documenting intermarriages. They had different customs.&rdquo

As some documents from Elephantine show, one of these customs may have been that the Judean community there fiercely devoted themselves to YHWH in the temple, but at home did not cavil at having a household idol or two (like in Dan, in northern Israel).

Or, the biblical accounts of Jerusalem&rsquos central role during the Persian period may indeed have been written later maybe the Elephantine documents (written in &ldquoreal time&rdquo) suggest that, in contrast to canon, sacrifice and ritual were not limited to Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C.E.

As Gard Granerød postulated in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 2019: perhaps the Elephantine documents better reflect the substance of Judean life at the time than biblical texts. &ldquoThe documents from Elephantine &hellip have not been subject to editorial processes such as is the case with texts of the Hebrew Bible,&rdquo he writes.

The Temple Of Satet in Aswan, Egypt. Olaf Tausch

However it came to pass, Jews living some two centuries after Josiah on the tiny Island of Elephantine, near the present-day Aswan Dam, either solicited or were handed down instructions regarding the observance of Passover, which as said, indicates that the rituals hadn&rsquot been formalized yet.

Misgav notes that instead of being solicited, the letter may have been notice from Jerusalem to hold the holiday from the 15th to 21st of Nisan.

Death of a lamb

But although the Persian king was great and the empire waxed strong, in 410 B.C.E., the Egyptians on Elephantine rebelled against Arsames, the satrap of Egypt. They took this opportunity to destroy the temple to YHW (&ldquoYahu&rdquo), as the Elephantinians spelled the god&rsquos name.

Why the Egyptians destroyed the temple is speculative. Maybe it was because they adored Khnum, the ram-god who, together with his consort Satis and daughter Anuket, were responsible for the waters of the Nile, on which Egypt was utterly dependent then, as now. They may have been repelled by the lamb sacrifices in the temple.

Thee years later, in late 407 B.C.E., the addressee of the &ldquoPassover Letter&rdquo &ndash the same Elephantine Jewish leader Yadaniyah &ndash wrote to the governor of Judea (still under the Persians) seeking permission to rebuild the community&rsquos temple &ndash which, he wrote, had predated the Persians and had been erected under Egyptian rule. Two years later, in 405 B.C.E., the temple on Elephantine was rebuilt.

The following year, the Egyptians managed to finally beat back the Persian forces and would remain in control of their own country for about half a century, during which time the Jews of Elephantine sank into obscurity.

&ldquoAmong the Elephantine papyri are contracts dating from 495 to 399 B.C.E.,&rdquo Porten tells Haaretz, adding: &ldquo399 is the last dated document.&rdquo That&rsquos all we know about that.

&ldquoI think there were other types of Judaism during the Persian period,&rdquo Maeir sums up. &ldquoIn Babylon, in Jerusalem and on Elephantine Island, and in other places, we would have seen various weird and wonderful variations compared with the biblical text, which represents a specific worldview.&rdquo Plausibly, as Granerød suggests &ndash based on theophoric names in Elephantine, even if the evidence smacks of a Judean pantheon there &ndash &ldquoThe lived religion was a form of Yahwism,&rdquo and they might have appreciated directives from Jerusalem.

The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine - History

There is no longer “The Septuagint “. It was lost centuries ago. Any claim that we have copies of the true and only Septuagint are completely false.

Why can’t I find an actual Greek Bible that I can read Kuyrios THeos PantoKrator Basilios, kai Iesouys ho KHristos, on the internet? THey give me a bunch of silly nonsense about books I can’t buy, but no one on the internet has the faintest clue how to put the New Testament Zondervan Interlinear hEllenika Greek on the internet, like EuvAnggelion kata Ioanen, En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton THeon, kai THeos en ho logos. Lost Conklin book blocks my use of library.

Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaticus greek septuagints are the oldest sources and were neglected for too long because early scholars thought the masoretic text was closer to the original. Thankfully this is no longer the case and some errors are gradually being corrected which confirm prophecies quoted in the New Testament.
I have asked Bible Gateway to include Brentons Septuagint in their translations but they will not do it for some reason.

Interesting….I like reading Tov sometimes. NIV says “three year old bull” but the AOTC commentator argues against that and translates “weaned him with three bulls” and then explains his reasoning…… I find these other comments by people on this site interesting. Tov may or may not think himself the final arbiter on biblical translation, as Gareth seems to believe, but he is one voice, and that is fine.

@Laura, I think you meant “…LATER translations…” as the Aleppo Codex was written in the 10th Century (901 – 1000) AD/CE or a little earlier (roughly) than the Masoretic Text. Thus translations earlier than the 10th Century AD/CE couldn’t have been copied from it.

Also remember that the Greek Septuagint IS a Greek translation(s) from Hebrew versions of the Torah. Since the Septuagint was written in the 3rd Century (300 – 201) BC/BCE, those Hebrew Torahs were most likely written in the late 4th Century (350 – 301) or early 3rd Century BC/BCE.

Its interesting that Tov considers himself the only one with the correct interpretation of the bible. Sometimes what may be “inconsistencies” are actually there for a reason.
While he may be a bible scholar the bible will always be viewed from the beliefs of the one translating it which in my opinion is where it always has gone wrong.

They should provide a word for word translation and allow interested readers to interpret it as they see it. I must it seems really odd and obnoxious to say the dead sea scrolls are a “inferior text” simply because it does not match the beliefs of Tov. Classical and amateur mistake is to discard something based solely on how one sees the world or how things should be according to them.

I recall reading (I think it was in BAR) that the Dead Sea Scrolls are a mix of masoretic and non-masoretic texts, with the majority being masoretic. This article makes it sound like all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are non-masoretic.

The oldest text I have heard of is the Allepo Codex and it was in Hebrew so I would think earlier translations would have been originally copied from it. I have read that Scribes would come from all over the World to check there texts against the Allepo to make sure there text matched it perfectly.

I would really like to know from did the stories of risen is taken is it real

Lean la Biblia Textual IV edición. Esta versión incluye esta corrección en su traducción al español en 1 Samuel 1.24:
“Y cuando lo hubo destetado, subió con él a Silo llevando un novillo trienal, un efa de flor de harina y un odre de vino y entró en la Casa de YHVH en Silo junto con el niño.”

new world translation of the holy scriptures

Love you guys. The KJV is one of hundreds of English translations of what survives of the original manuscripts, in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek — what have you. Today the Bible leaves us with a series of linguistic conundrums that can never be “solved” — which is in itself the real message of the Bible: it’s not about words, it’s about awakening to the reality of our existence in our universe and contemplating what we make of it.

It wasn’t until 1,200 AD when the KJV come out that JESUS existed. He was NEVER in the ORIGINAL writings! He really NEVER EXISTED! Just like there was no such person as the Virgin mother Mary. The REAL virgin in the ORIGINAL writings was mother MARIAN, not Mary! The original writings there was NO GOD, he was YAHWEH! The catholic TRANSLATIONS will condemn you!

I would like to know why is man changing the word of God constantly and I would like to know where I can get original Bible from the very beginning before man started changing it

I would like to know where can i get a english copy of ancient biblical old testament text.

KJV was not inspired by GOD… …but by man, do ur research!

All I want:
To have love for all my fellow brothers and sisters
To make sure my KJV Bible is the real truth and its true origin
Gain knowledge everyday
Spread the truth and love

Slave says: I completely agree!

We Dont Need To Ague Too Much On Scriptures They Are Inspired By God Himself Thanx

Debates , confusion , translation of words and verses , please , we can’t debate the greatest commandment of them all which needs no interpretation no special language . To have LOVE amongst yourselves , to LOVE your enemy. Discussions are great , but some discussions lead to frustration and anger . If we can all master this commandment our world would be a better place for us all .

Is our Lord, Savior and soon comng King an idea, fable or the most authentic vessel of truth and clarity to man’s existence? Are the Holy Scriptures just a conglomoration of contaminated writings or the history and future accurately narrated of our LORD’S journey from Creator in creation to the Babe hiding in Egypt to the Lamb slain on the cross and finally the conquering King who shall return to judge this world? What about the recorded truths concerning Israel and “those who call themselves jews and are not”? Translations? I’m not going to get distracted by minor differences, what is important is that I know the truth and how it is going to climax and those arguments/differences have no bearing on my eternal salvation. Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Why change our messiah’s name? Names donot change, westernizing or transliterating his name is blasphemy. Yahushua was not greek or latin or greek

I would love books translated straight from hebrew to english. There is so much kept fron us, but Yahuah is being restored as well as the saving power through his name Yahushua, chip away to reveal what has been hidden from us. Truth seeker

And oh btw, I just have to remind us all, this is Hebrew hero tale. It is a huge planet with about a million OTHER Hero tales that have nothing to do w/ Jesus. Read the other JC (Joseph Campbell) and learn of heros. Jesus’ life story, myth, PR, historical truths and hyperbole are sacred and worthwhile. But ultimate reality of our origins? No. Walk with ALL the heros. One creator force brought us all into being. But to believe in only one story, is egocentric and ignorant. The real truth, I suspect, is far more incredible than one man dying on a cross. Far more, mind blowing and far too complicated for us humans to fathom. Yet, the death and resurrection motif is so powerful an icon, it alone serves to draw us into a deeper inward journey.

Interesting history of course. However, so much competing/conflicting dogma to slog through which is why I posit this: I sit by a tree and sense if, feel it, recognize the tree as, ‘tree.’ Why then would I dwell on dogma of ‘tree,’ instead of simply, sitting with the tree? No dogma. Just, tree as she is, created by a seeding decades ago. Dogma kills the poetry. Humans eat metaphor like hungry jackals and never sit by a tree. This is why, scriptures of any kind, fail. The words of men, lowly men ne’re a deity. Or for that matter, a tree. Peace.

The word of God would have been written in the language of the original writer! Copies would have been made through time and written in other languages!! The originals most likely, wouldn’t have survived time!! What did survive are copies and so we have something to think and argue about! The word of God still hold’s it’s value as being absolutely the truth!! In the bigger picture of things, are you ready to meet the almighty God !! I just hope to hear him say well done my good and faithful servant, and I hope that along the way I have made the difference in someone life that they hear those same words as well !! GOD bless you all !!

My friends just believe that Jesus Christ who died on Calvary shed his blood for you, and that by shedding his blood he covered your sins and obey the 10 Commandments. My Jewish friends “Your Savior” has already come and he is coming again! God is a supernatural God and will lift the veil from your eyes if you earnestly prey for truth. Although it is next to impossible to obey “the commandments” at all times in your walk through life, God sent you a redeemer. Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Rejoice for the Angels are Rejoicing in Heaven that the time is near for our Savoir is soon to return “again”. May he open all hearts to this Truth….. Amen!

All this intense study and you still neglect the most important fact! THE HEBREWS ARE NEGROID DESCENT. AND YAHUSHA (JESUS) WAS TOO!

Does anyone know of research done on differences between the 5 Books of Moses as found in the Dead Sea scrolls and the ones scribed today?

What is the government of today up to? In regards to modern changes?

I have been reading the book of Job, where on earth did the wrighter of this book come up with such detailed events, seems pretty far fetched to me that they found such a complete scroll ,please let me know where I can read how this story came about.Thank you so much for your time.PL

you can find thousands of books
preach thousands of doctrines
limit God to three when revelations mentions about the 7 Spirits of God
but at the and a very simple teaching was left to us
Believe in Him and be righteous

we are all lost and none of us can see.
the scriptures tell us about the Messiah. Jesus full filled the profecies. It also says that Jesus teach them but and multitudes followed him. I wonder what was He teaching that only a few things got written. And what else he taught his disciples?
No one of them took more notes of his teachings?
The book of Enoch talks about the Son of Man. Jesus is called the Son of Man in so many verses.
people saying Jesus is not the Messiah and that he is Satan and they say the same thing about the Book of Enoch.
And 2 Tesalossians 2:1-12 is really powerful
are we believing the lies?
we think we have faith but do we?
but one thing is for sure we all forgot about righteousness.
and be careful of what you preach because at the they of the judgment everyone that learned from you will point their fingers to you

HEBREW TEXT: The Masoretic Hebrew text used for the preparation of the English text of the Hebrew Scripture portion of the New World Translation was the Codex Leningrad B 19A (of U.S.S.R.), as presented in R. Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (BHK), seventh, eighth and ninth editions (1951-55). An update of this work known as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), 1977 edition, was used to prepare the footnote apparatus of this 1984 edition. Italicized words designated as “Heb.” are transliterated from BHS.

Can you please provide specific details (title and or isbn) to what you would consider the most credible translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls? An email with this information would be greatly appreciated.

I find mistranslations and man made stories written in Modern day bibles. The true original texts are gone. Although i do believe some is true.

Ya he dejado antes una respuesta pero si la borran no es culpa mia.

Creo que la Biblia es la TORÁ pero no se hebreo . Jose Naim Wolf

Psalm 12:6-7 the words The Lord are pure words:as silver tried in a furnace of earth,purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them,O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Hosea 8:12 I have written to him the great things of my law,but they were counted as a strange thing.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith….Folks He wrote It and preserved it. There can’t be a couple hundred years with out a English written bible and if the Dead Sea scrolls are the TRUE scrolls that would be the case. Kjv 1611 niv 1978. For they DO NOT say the same thing.Satan is very powerful and very deceitful. Look at what he said to eve in the garden, Yea, hath God said,… Questioning her did God really say that. If God is the author of one who is the author of the rest?He lives He lives.

[…] The Death, Burial , and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. (YaHushuWaH Ha’ Meschiach)The “Original” Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls – Biblical Archaeology Society […]

The Maseritic texts MUST be correct –hence ,no conflict. For the simple reason , the 300BCE copy called the septuigent does not exist and never did.
all so-called “proofs” that there ever was such a document are based on ORIGENS bogus copy in the Vatican
This copy has at least 14 “hands” correcting it
Using Origens bogus copy to prove the existance of a 300 BCE version is CIRCULAR reasoning therefore WORTHLESS
The deadf sea scroles also do not have any fragments of this BOGUS document

Get rid of the NIV , now. its a jesuite based fraud , and a lousy translation to boot

Reliability of the Bible and the DSS
We’ve had recent comments about the reliability of biblical translations in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) or Septuagint Version (LXX). I guess that some perceive a possible conflict between the Masoretic Text, the LXX and the DSS.

I consulted Geza Vermes translation of the DSS (introductory notes) and he appears to downplay any potential difficulty that might exist for how we read Scripture juxtaposed with the DSS or LXX.

We are assured by God Himself that the Word will remain intact. I have complete faith that the message of the Bible is what God intends it to be.

“And it came to pass, when the most blessed Mary went into the temple (called the ‘Capitol of Egypt’) with the little child, that all the idols prostrated themselves on the ground, so that all of them were lying on their faces shattered and broken to pieces, and thus was said by the prophet Isaiah ‘Behold, the Lord will come upon a swift cloud, and will enter Egypt, and all the handiwork of the Egyptians shall be moved at His presence (Isaiah 19:1)” (The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapter 23).

Anyone who researches the source(s) of the Old Testament and ignores Elephantine is just presenting incomplete research. My challenge to any scholar is to draw the border between Israel and Egypt in 1000 BCE on a map. We all base our so called ‘facts’ on a virtual border that’s meaningless historically. We just imagine a border, but nobody has ever been able to draw it on a map. We don’t even know when the Delta was flooded and when it was dry, let alone a border.

The actual archeology points to Elephantine as being the oldest Hebrew Temple we have. The oldest inscriptions of YHVH are the Shasu of YWH inscriptions in Nubia just south of Elephantine. The oldest mention of the, ‘House of YHVH’ is at Elephantine. There no evidence of a Temple in modern Jerusalem before Herod, in fact Josephus says there was only an altar of huge white stones, and that Herod removed whatever was there and built the Temple Mount.
The stories of the return of the of the captives to the Temple in Ezra and Nehemiah are exclusively about the restoration of the Temple at Elephantine under Darius II. The names of the people and the events regarding the Temple are the same as the names and events at Elephantine.

It’s pure ignorance to say the return of the captives was under Darius I, after all the only Darius after Artaxerxes was Darius II. Fundamentalists just say the book of Ezra is all mixed up -))). There never was a return to modern Jerusalem archeologically speaking it was the restoration of the Temple at Elephantine under Darius II about 419 BCE. In fact Ezra himself literally says there was no previous Temple when the Temple was started, the foundation hadn’t been laid. Elephantine began under Cyrus the Great but was stopped sometime after the reign of Cambyses. It was later rebuilt under Darius II. Exactly as the chronology of the Book of Ezra has it.

Ezra 3
6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.

Ezra 4
23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Josephus records the writing of Hecateus regarding what was on the Mound in modern Jerusalem before Herod in Apion I, 22. These are most likely the stones Herod used for the base of the Temple Mount (wailing wall).

“There is about the middle of the city a wall of stone, whose length is five hundred feet, and the breadth a hundred cubits, with double cloisters wherein there is a square altar, not made of hewn stone, but composed of white stones gathered together, having each side twenty cubits long, and its altitude ten cubits. Hard by it is a large edifice, wherein there is an altar and a candlestick, both of gold, and in weight two talents: upon these there is a light that is never extinguished, either by night or by day.”

As for Jesus? Long before John introduced us to the Lamb of God, there was the Prophesy of the Lamb, or Oracle of the Lamb (6 CE) in the Nile Delta. It’s a story of a Lamb sent from God to judge the world.

“The lamb’s poetic chant of “woe and abomination” recalls biblical oracles against Egypt.”
The Literature of Ancient Egypt, edited by William Kelly Simpson

“The lamb concluded absolutely all of the matters to be said, and he died.”

Since this was written when Jesus was 5 years old (6CE), it would have been circulating when Jesus, Mary and Josephus went into Egypt right?

The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine - History

Hereby is an alternative narrative of the biblical story of the Exodus, based on historical and archaeological findings, as well as Egyptian anti Jewish literature regarding the origin of the Jewish nation and the character of Moses. This alternative story relies on Prof. Israel Knohl’s fascinating book How the Bible Was Born.

The first author to offer us a glimpse on the Egyptian Exodus story is the Egyptian Greek historian Manetho, who lived in Alexandria in the Ptolemaic period in the 3rd century B.C.

Manetho reports that in the 17th century B.C., foreign invaders called the shepherds – Hyksos in Egyptian – came to Egypt and took hold of the throne. They burnt down Egyptian cities, destroyed idols, and shattered temples, performing “horrible hate crimes against all the country’s natives”. Then after a while the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt by one Pharaoh. At this stage of the text, Manetho reveals their real identity: “They left the land of Egypt with their families and possessions, and went through the desert to Syria however, fearing the Assyrian rulers, they established a city for themselves in the land then called Judea.”

Detail at the Beni Hasan cemetery site. Semite nomads on their way to Egypt, one named Avisa or Avisar, called Hyksos, “ruler of a foreign land” in ancient Egyptian.

Manetho’s text, which determines that the shepherds were the ancestors of the Jews, goes on and conveys yet another story. Centuries after the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt, the Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh Amenhotep, wished to seek the advice of the gods. His consultants told him the only way to approach the gods was to cleanse Egypt from the lepers that were living by the border. Amenhotep gathered all the lepers under his territory, and concentrated them in the abandoned city of Avaris, formerly capital of the Hyksos. The lepers upraised and rebelled against him, led by a leper priest called Osarseph, who founded for them a new, hostile religion, of which the main principles were denial of polytheism and the faith in a single god. According to some researchers, Osarseph drew his monotheistic ideas from Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled over Egypt in prior centuries.

Manetho reports that Osarseph sent messengers abroad in order to establish a military aid force, requesting also the help of the descendants of the Hyksos, the Judean shepherds, who came in masses to support him and the lepers. Together they formed a strong new force that took over Egypt. The new ruler Osarseph, leader of the lepers, then became king, who collected taxes, and preached against the Egyptian gods. So who was Osarseph? According to Manetho, after joining the Hyksos, Osarseph changed his name to Moses. Though he does refer to Moses as a fanatic hater and isolationist, Manetho also talks of Moses’ unique wisdom, courage, and what the Egyptians called a divine presence, a description that complies with Moses’ biblical description in Exodus, 11, 3: “the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.”

A segment from the Harris Papyrus – British Museum, WikiMedia

Let us now discuss the Great Harris Papyrus – the longest known papyrus from Egypt (40 meters long), discovered in a grave near the state of Habu across from Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile. The Harris Papyrus speaks of a time in which Egypt was a deserted land, lacking solid leadership, until a man by the name of Irsu came to power. The literal meaning of his name is pretender, a man from outside the dynasty, who pretends to be king. Irsu was also a Kharru , that is, originated from either Canaan or across the Jordan river, territories called in Kharru Egyptian. These two titles imply that Irsu was not worthy of the throne. Reading onwards we learn that Irsu collected taxed, used to put down the Egyptian religion and prevented the worshipers from bringing their sacrifices to their temples. Then a turning point occurred: when the gods restored their mercy upon Egypt, they placed their son on the throne – Setnakhte, the founding Pharaoh of the 20th dynasty. Setnakhte fought the foreigner, got rid of him, and took the throne.

Another interesting finding, that supports the Harris Papyrus, is a tombstone discovered in Elephantine, dated back to the second year of ruling of Sethnakhte. It tells of Setnakhte, who rehabilitated Egypt after the era of the foreign ruler who broke the religious principles of the pharaohs.

The Exodus of the Children of Israel, painting by David Roberts, 1828

According to the theory of Prof. Knohl, Irsu mentioned in the above sources, the one who despised the Egyptian religion and brought mercenaries from Canaan, was in fact our Moses. He supports his assumption by the fact that the queen who ruled before Setnakhte was Twosret, wife of the second Sethi who died in 1196 BC. The documents stated that her rule only lasted two or three years, after which a mysterious enigmatic event took place. An inner struggle broke in Egypt, that ended the 19th dynasty and brought to power a new one, founded by Setnakhte . This brings Knohl to conclude that the struggle was in fact the taking over by Moses and the lepers, joined by the shepherds on the Delta area.

Prof. Knohl dates the Exodus to the second year of the kingship of Pharaoh Setnakhte, around 1186 BC. He explains that Moses’ parents belonged to the descendants of Jacob, who came to Egypt during the famine. Moses grew up in the court under the protection of queen Twosret, who had no children of her own, and is possible the biblical Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted and raised Moses. After her death, Moses saw himself worthy for kingship and used the support of his people, the children of Jacob, who were enslaved in Egypy, for his conquest moves. He then brought additional backup from abroad – the shepherds from Canaan. In the struggle between the two forces, Moses and his men lost, deported from Egypt and went towards Canaan.

This is the Egyptian version then. The rest is history as the cliché goes, or rather – an alternative history. It’s up to you to choose. Happy Pesach!

The family archive of Ananiah and Tamut

The eight papyri contained at the Brooklyn Museum concern one particular Jewish family, providing specific information about the daily lives of a man called Ananiah, a Jewish temple official his wife, Tamut, an Egyptian slave and their children, over the course of forty-seven years. Egyptian farmers discovered the archive of Ananiah and Tamut on Elephatine Island in 1893, while digging for fertilizer in the remains of ancient mud-brick houses. They found at least eight papyrus rolls which were purchased by Charles Edwin Wilbour. He was the first person to find Aramaic papyri. The papyri have been grouped here by topic, such as marriage contract, real estate transaction, or loan agreement. [15]

Marriage document

Ancient marriage documents generally formalized already existing relationships. In this case, Ananiah and Tamut already had a young son when the document was drawn up. Because Tamut was a slave when she married Ananiah, the contract has special conditions: usually, it was the groom and his father-in-law who made Jewish marriage agreements, but Ananiah made this contract with Tamut's master, Meshullam, who legally was her father. In addition, special provision was made to free the couple's son, also a slave to Meshullam perhaps Ananiah consented to the small dowry of either 7 or 15 shekels (the text is ambiguous) in order to obtain his son's freedom. Future children, however, would still be born slaves. In contrast to Jewish documents like this one, contemporaneous Egyptian marriage documents were negotiated between a husband and wife. [16]

Deed of Emancipation

Nearly twenty-two years after her marriage to Ananiah, Tamut's master released her and her daughter, Yehoishema, from slavery. It was rare for a slave to be freed. And though a slave could marry a free person, their children usually belonged to the master. As an institution, slavery in Egypt at that time differed in notable ways from the practice in some other cultures: Egyptian slaves retained control over personal property, had professions, and were entitled to compensation. During the Persian Period in Egypt, it was not uncommon to sell children, or even oneself, into slavery to pay debts.

Real estate documents

Bagazust and Ubil sell a house to Ananiah

This document to the left describes a property purchased by Ananiah, twelve years after his marriage, from a Persian soldier named Bagazust and his wife, Ubil. The property, in a town on Elephantine Island, named for the god Khnum, was located across the street from the Temple of Yahou and adjacent to the Persian family of Ubil's Father. As such proximity might suggest, the Egyptians, Jews, and Persians in Elephantine all lived among one another. The renovation of the house and its gradual transfers to family members are the central concerns of the next several documents in Ananiah's family archive. [17]

Ananiah gives Tamut part of the house

Three years after purchasing the house from Bagazust and Ubil, Ananiah transferred ownership of an apartment within the now renovated house to his wife, Tamut. Although Tamut thereafter owned the apartment, Ananiah required that at her death it pass to their children, Palti and Yehoishema. As with all property transfers within a family, this gift was described as made "in love". Image of document in gallery. [18]

Ananiah gives Yehoishema part of the house

Drawn up thirty years after the preceding papyrus, this document is one of several that gradually transferred ownership of Ananiah and Tamut's house to their daughter,Yehoishema, as payment on her dowry. The legal descriptions of the house preserve the names of Ananiah's neighbors. They included an Egyptian who held the post of gardener of the Egyptian god Khnum and, on the other side, two Persian boatmen. Image of document in gallery. [19]

Ananiah gives Yehoishema another part of the house

For his daughter Yehoishema's dowry, Ananiah had transferred to her partial ownership of the house he shared with Tamut. After making more repairs to the building, Ananiah transferred a further section of the house, described in this document, to the dowry. Image of document in gallery. [20]

Ananiah and Tamut Sell the House to Their Son-In-Law

This papyrus records the sale of the remaining portion of Ananiah and Tamut's house to Yehoishema's husband. Possibly because the clients were dissatisfied with something the scribe had written, at one point the text of the document breaks off and then starts over again, repeating what has gone on before with some additions. The boundary description included here refers to the Temple of Yahou in Elephantine, now rebuilt eight years after its destruction in 410 BCE during a civil war conflict that arose out of a land dispute. Image of document in gallery below. [21]

Loan agreement

Sometime in December 402 BCE, Ananiah son of Haggai borrowed two monthly rations of grain from Pakhnum son of Besa, an Aramaean with an Egyptian name. This receipt would have been held by Pakhnum and returned to Ananiah son of Haggai when he repaid the loan. No interest is charged but there is a penalty for failing to repay the loan by the agreed date. The receipt demonstrates that friendly business relations continued between Egyptians and Jews in Elephantine after the expulsion of the Persians by pharaoh Amyrtaios of the 28th Dynasty. Image of document is in gallery below. [22]

The Elephantine Temple, 407 BCE

Now our forefathers built this temple in the fortress of Elephantine back in the days of the kingdom of Egypt, and when Cambyses came to Egypt he found it built. They (the Persians) knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt, but no one did any damage to this temple.

Current Location- Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany (P. 13495)

Language and Script- Aramaic alphabetic

Biblical Verses- 2 Kings 25-26 Deuteronomy 12

Elephantine Temple Papyrus Recto

Elephantine Temple Papyrus Verso

The Elephantine papyri, which include letters, business contracts, and literary texts, document the daily life of a Jewish military colony in southern Egypt. The papyri, written in Aramaic, date to the 5th century BCE, when the Persian Empire dominated the Ancient Near East. In this particular text, we learn a great deal about the relationships of the Jewish community in Elephantine (Yeb in Aramaic) with their Egyptian neighbors and Persian rulers. The papyrus contains a letter from Yedaniah ben Gemariah, the community’s leader, to the Persian governor in Yehud (Judah). Yedaniah requests permission to rebuild his community’s temple, which had been destroyed by a group of Egyptian priests in league with the local Persian administrator. Amazingly, we discover in this letter that the Jewish community and temple had already been established at Elephantine long before the Persians established hegemony over Egypt under Cambyses in 525 BCE (compare with 2 Kings 25-26). Even more confounding is the fact that the community had its own temple, where sacrifices were offered to the Israelite deity. This raises significant questions about the nature of Jewish worship during this period since it seems to be in opposition to biblical law (Deuteronomy 12). The Torah bans sacrificial ritual at sites other than the one place “where God chooses to establish his name,” an ambiguous term that literally points to the mobile Tabernacle but surely includes the Temple in Jerusalem, which was the religious capital at the time. In contrast, the Elephantine community offered the full range of animal sacrifices, grain offerings, and incense offerings at their temple! To complicate matters even further, we have a later document from the same archive that states that permission to rebuild the Elephantine temple had been granted by the religious authorities in Israel, along with permission to perform grain and incense offerings mention of animal sacrifice, however, is conspicuously absent.

Circumstances of Discovery and Acquisition- Papyri from Elephantine first began to surface in the early 19th century as collectors acquired fragments of papyri from all around Egypt. A small number of fragments appeared over the course of several decades until the beginning of the 20th century. Teams of French and German archaeologists conducted excavations at Elephantine in the hopes of finding more textual material, and in 1907–1908 Otto Rubensohn and Friedrich Zucker struck gold. They discovered numerous Greek, Demotic, and Aramaic papyri, including the communal archive of Yedaniah ben Gemariah, in which this letter was kept. The contents of this archive were published by Eduard Sachau in 1911.


From later Biblical times the Passover, formerly sometimes called the Pasch (Heb. happesah, Gr. τ ὸ π ά σ χ α ), celebrated on the night of the 14th to the 15th of Nisan (March or April), has been the principal feast of the Jewish calendar. In the Bible it is combined with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is kept from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan. Passover commemorates the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and is observed with great solemnity as well as rejoicing. From the many Biblical references to it, both legislative and historical, no completely clear picture of its origin and evolution is apparent, but there is a widespread consensus of scholarly opinion.

The Sources. The Old Testament texts that contain laws for the observance of the Passover are the passages in the ancient festival calendars of Ex 23.15 34.18 (see also 34.25) Dt 16.1 – 8 Lv 23.5 – 8 Nm 28.16 – 25 (see also 9.9 – 14), besides Ex ch. 12, which gives the feast a historical setting. Celebrations of the Passover are described or referred to in Nm 9.1 – 14 Jos 5.10 – 12 4 Kgs 23.21 – 23 (see also 2 Chr 35.1 – 19) 2 Chr 30.127 Ezr6.19 – 22. In addition to the principal Old Testament texts, important witnesses to the antiquity of the feast are found in a papyrus and two ostraca of the 5th century b.c. from the Jewish settlement at Elephantine in Egypt. In the New Testament, the Passion narratives of all four Gospels mention details of the Passover. Moreover, the intertestamental Book of Jubilees, the writings of Philo Judaeus and Flavius Josephus, and other ancient works describe the feast. The Mishnah tractate Pesahim contains details of the later mode of observance.

Name. The Old Testament derives the name pesah from a Hebrew verb meaning to limp or to jump and hence to jump over or to pass over (e.g., Ex 12.27), referring to Yahweh's "passing over" the houses of the Israelites during the 10th plague of egypt. But this historical explanation is secondary, and it is not clear that the etymology in it is the original one. Attempts to derive the word from Akkadian or Egyptian roots have not won general acceptance.

In this article the name Passover will be understood to refer to the combined Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread except where otherwise indicated.

Origin. The oldest Biblical allusions to the festival (Ex 23.15 34.18) do not mention the name Passover but enjoin the keeping of the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days in the spring month of Abib (the old name for Nisan). Since in the later texts this observance forms part of the Passover festival, it is generally held that two originally distinct feasts were combined into one. Probable origins of both can be reconstructed.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread or Feast of Azymes (Heb. ḥ ag hamma ṣ ṣ ô t, Gr. ἡ ἑ ο ρ τ ὴ τ [symbol omitted] ν ά ζ ύ μ ω ν ) was one of the three great agricultural pilgrimage feasts, along with the Hebrew Feasts of pentecost and booths (Tabernacles), that the Israelites, after their entry into the Promised Land, adopted from the Canaanites. It was celebrated at the beginning of the barley harvest but at no fixed date the fact that it extended from Sabbath to Sabbath may have been an Israelite innovation. The avoidance of leaven was probably a symbol of the new beginning being made with the new harvest nothing from the old year was to be retained when the new season began. Though the calendars give as the reason for the feast, "For in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt," this theme was not original the Feast of Unleavened Bread, like the other ḥ agg î m, or pilgrimage feasts, was originally a harvest festival. (see unleavened bread (in the bible).

Passover in the restricted sense appears in the oldest allusions as a sacrifice and sacrificial meal of quite different significance and background. A lamb was sacrificed on the evening of the full moon in the month later called Nisan, and its blood was spread around the doorframes of homes. The meat was roasted and consumed that night with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Apparently the rite was conducted privately by families or small groups at home, although one cannot exclude the possibility that at some early epoch whole tribes gathered for it at local sanctuaries. In any event, it appears to be very ancient in the history of Israel, even though the oldest festival calendars do not mention it, perhaps because it was not at the time a public celebration.

Passover seems to be the spring festival of nomadic peoples when they sacrificed one of the firstlings of the flock in petition for an ensuing year of prosperity. Analogies for it have been pointed out among ancient and modern Arab tribes, and all of its details can be accounted for among the customs of a shepherd people. For example, the bitter herbs were a natural seasoning, the unleavened bread the normal fare of nomads, and the blood upon the doorframes an apotropaic rite, i.e., one performed to ward off evil spirits. The "destroyer" mentioned in Ex 12.23 is regarded as a trace of this last element. The Israelites had been seminomads prior to their settlement in Canaan, and they may have celebrated this feast even in Egypt before the Exodus. But sometime after that event they altered its meaning radically.

Evolution. The description of the "first Passover" in Ex ch. 12 (a late text embodying several traditions) relates the familiar story of the slaughter of the firstborn of Egypt and the destroying angel's "passing over" of the Israelites as they feasted within their homes. Moses enjoins observing the feast and explains all its rites as growing out of and commemorating the events of that historic night. In this passage, the seven days of Unleavened Bread are said to commemorate the going out of Egypt, and all references to either feast in the festival calendars make the same association. It is not a natural association, however, and the very probable origin of the feasts lies elsewhere. What is found in these texts is evidence of the process of historicizing by which the three great pilgrimage festivals of the Israelite year were invested with a role in reliving the drama of salvation history. In the case of Unleavened Bread this process took place earlier than for Pentecost and Booths, since it is only for Unleavened Bread that the earliest calendars (i.e., those of the yahwist and the elohist) mention the historical connotation. How early the nomadic Passover was cast in the historical mold of Ex ch. 12 it is impossible to say, but it is not unlikely that it happened in the time of Moses himself. The intervention in Israel's history portrayed as the Exodus may in fact have occurred at the spring sacrificial celebration.

One can be somewhat more precise in estimating the time when the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread were combined into one festival. This event is connected with the centralization of the Israelite cult under Josiah, King of Judah (c. 640 – 609 b.c.), that is reflected in the Deuteronomic tradition of the Pentateuch. Josiah's Passover (2 Kgs 23.21 – 23 2 Chr 35.1 – 19) is described as unique since the most ancient times, and the Deuteronomic ordinances (Dt 16.1 – 8) insist that the feast must be celebrated at the Jerusalem Temple. Josiah had made the shepherd Passover a pilgrimage festival as well, and since it nearly coincided in time with the Feast of Unleavened Bread — and also in its connotations, the latter recalling the hardships of the Israelites' flight — the two were eventually held to be parts of one festival. Unleavened Bread thus received a specific date (Nisan 15 – 21), and although it could no longer be observed from Sabbath to Sabbath, the first and last days were still kept as days of rest from work.

That this combining of the feasts was preexilic is confirmed by the fact that they are joined in Ezekiel's ideal festival calendar (Ez 45.21). Several texts seem to suggest that the combining took place even earlier, but the evidence of the calendars must be preferred. The Passover of Joshua (Jos 5.10 – 11) does not clearly mention the eating of unleavened bread as a festival rite the account of King Hezekiah's Passover (2 Chronicles ch.30), purportedly celebrated at the Temple in the 2d month because it had not been done properly in Nisan, is probably not historical, at least in its details. The "Passover Papyrus" from Elephantine, which may be dated 419 b.c., confirms the union of the two feasts.

Ancient Rites. It is the passages of the Priestly tradition (see priestly writers, pentateuchal), especially Ex 12.1 – 20, 43 – 49 Nm 28.16 – 25, that provide the most detailed picture of the Passover celebration. The rites began on the 10th day of the 1st month (with the year reckoned as beginning in spring) when the sacrificial victim was chosen, a spotless male lamb, one-year old, for each family or group of families. In the early evening of the 14th day of the month the people assembled at the Temple, and the lambs were slaughtered previously this had taken place privately at home or at local shrines. Immediately afterward, the blood of the passover lamb was daubed upon the doorposts and lintel of the house where the meal was to be consumed, in memory of the sign used to protect the Israelites in Egypt. The lamb was then roasted and had to be consumed that night, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, which recalled the haste and the rigors of the flight from Egypt. No bone of the sacrificial victim could be broken and no leftovers kept all remains had to be burned by the next morning.

The participants were to eat the Passover meal "in haste," with loins girded, sandals on, and staff in hand, i.e., dressed for traveling in remembrance of the suddenness of Israel's departure from Egypt. All the members of the household participated in the meal, even slaves and strangers, provided they were circumcised. The observance was of obligation for all, and ritual uncleanness in certain circumstances or the fact of being on a journey did not excuse from it (Nm 9.9 – 13), although in general, later texts imply the need for ritual purity (e.g., Ezr 6.20 – 21).

For the following seven days all were required to eat only unleavened bread and to be certain that no leaven was found in the home under penalty of being "cut off from Israel." The strictness of this obligation seems more a consequence of the agricultural origin of the custom than of the symbolic meaning attached to it. On the 1st and 7th days (i.e., the 15th and the 21st of Nisan) there was to be rest from work, an assembly at the Temple, and special sacrifices. In Lv 23.9 – 14 it was prescribed that "on the day after the sabbath" (an ambiguous dating that was to be the subject of controversy in later Judaism) a sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest should be waved before Yahweh (i.e., offered as a quasi sacrifice of the new harvest). Special sacrifices accompanied this ceremony, and from this day were calculated the seven weeks to Pentecost.

At the time of the New Testament, Passover was observed according to the general lines of the Priestly tradition, with strict adherence to the Deuteronomic insistence that the sacrifice itself take place at the Temple people brought their lambs to be killed and then returned home or to some nearby house to eat the ritual meal. The atmosphere of familial joy surrounding the feast had by that time been considerably heightened. In the Gospels themselves the Passover plays an important role, historically and symbolically, but the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel disagree about whether or not the Last Supper was a paschal meal. There is some evidence that the qumran community observed the feast, perhaps even quite independently of the Temple ritual and following their own calendar, which assigned the Passover annually to the same day of the week. Tuesday. After the destruction of the Temple at the fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), the sacrifice of the paschal lamb disappeared, along with all Temple rites, from the festival observance, and the rite for the Passover meal was embellished to preserve the symbolism of the feast. It is disputed whether this rite, to be described below, may not have come into existence even before the destruction of the Temple.

The slaughter of the Passover lamb survives even today in the practice of the Samaritan community centered about Nablus. It is sometimes argued that, since the destruction of their temple on Mt. Gerizim (129 b.c.) did not destroy this ritual, the ritual must have been performed privately in a family festival and not merely as a temple sacrifice. Indeed, many aspects of the Samaritan Passover celebration recall what it must have been like in the time of the Israelite kingdom. In Samaritan usage, for example, the feasts of Passover and of Unleavened Bread are still regarded as separate.

Modern Passover Meal. The ritual paschal meal, held privately in the home and sometimes conducted for groups, especially of travelers away from home, is commonly called the Seder (Heb. s ē der, order, arrangement). The present-day Seder is substantially the same as the ceremony outlined in the Mishnah (Pes. 10). The narrative text followed during the meal is called the Passover haggadah (story), and both terms Seder and Haggadah are used to designate the booklet containing text and ceremonies.

Two preliminary rites are closely linked with the Seder. One is the formal searching of the home on the night before Passover for any form of leaven or leavened food, which is set aside and later destroyed or given away. No leaven may remain in the home during the festival, and utensils used for leavened foods must be replaced or purified. The other preliminary ceremony is the so-called Fast of the Firstborn observed prior to the Passover meal.

A table set for the Seder contains the following special items: three cakes of unleavened bread (ma ṣ s : ô t, matzos) placed on a Seder dish and covered, a roasted shank bone symbolizing the paschal lamb, a roasted egg as an offering for the feast, bitter herbs (m ā r ô r, usually horseradish), some parsley and salted water, a mixture of nuts and fruit ( ḥ a'r ō set ) used to sweeten the bitter herbs, enough wine for four cups each, and a cup at each place with an extra one for Elijah, who is expected to announce the redemption on Passover night.

The ceremony begins with the blessing (qidd û š ) over the first cup of wine. Parsley dipped in water is eaten in memory of the hardships of the Israelites' life in Egypt. The master of the house breaks the middle cake of ma ṣ s : â and conceals half of it to be eaten at the end of the meal (the 'a'p î q ô m ā n ). Then the youngest one present asks the dramatic question, "Why is this night different from other nights?" There follow four specific questions regarding the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, reclining on cushions, and eating parsley. In answer, the master of the house reads the main narrative of the Haggadah, recounting the events of the Exodus (fulfilling the command of Ex 13.8 to teach the children on Passover night). There are also several rabbinic explanations, including a commentary on Dt 26.5 – 8, "A wandering Aramean was my father … ." The Hallel is then begun [Ps 112 (113) – 113A (114)], the second cup is drunk with a blessing, and all wash their hands in preparation for the meal. This begins with handing around and eating first mas ṣ ô t, then bitter herbs dipped in ḥ a'r ō set, and these again served on pieces of unleavened bread. Then the main body of the meal is taken, and the 'a'p î q ô m ā n is eaten last to retain the taste of ma ṣ s : â . Grace is said, and the third cup is drunk. Finally the Hallel is completed [Ps 113B (115) – 117 (118)], the Greal Hallel [Ps 135 (136)] sung, and the last cup taken with a blessing.

At various times and in various regions additions have been made to this basic structure. The most familiar of these is the addition in the Ashkenazic (German-Jewish rite) Seder of five medieval folk songs or poems at the end of the meal, including the "Eh ā d m î y ô d ē a" (Who knows one?) and the Had gady ā ' (An only kid).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 1746 – 51. h. haag, Lexikon f ü r Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957 – 65) 8:133 – 37 Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928 – ) 6:1120 – 49. r. de vaux, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, tr. j. mchugh (New York 1961) 484 – 93. e. g. hirsch, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer, 13 v. (New York 1901 – 06) 9:548 – 56. t. h. gaster, Passover, Its History and Traditions (New York 1949). j. b. segal, The Hebrew Passover from the Earliest Times to A.D 70 (London Oriental Series 12 London 1963), review in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 26 (1964) 123 – 26. p. grelot, " É tudes sur le 'Papyrus Pascal' d' É l é phantine," Vetus Testamentum 4 (1954) 349 – 84. c. w. atkinson, "The Ordinances of Passover-Unleavened Bread," Anglican Theological Review 44 (1962) 70 – 85. n. f Ü glister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha (Studien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 8 Munich 1963). j. jeremias, Die Passahfeier der Samaritaner, Zeitschrift f ü r die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft Beiheft 59 (Giessen 1932). "Pesahim," The Mishnah, tr. h. danby (Oxford 1933) 136 – 51. The Haggadah, tr. c. roth (London 1934). l. n. dembitz, The Jewish Encyclopedia 11:142 – 47. a. z. idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy and Its Development (New York 1932) 173 – 87.


On the island of Elephantine, opposite Aswan and just below the first cataract in Egypt, several hundred Aramaic papyri and ostraca were discovered between 1893 and 1910. Typically, some of the best finds were made on the antiquities market, and two archives of Jewish families from the fifth century b.c.e. were acquired by purchase. One was bought in 1897 by the American Egyptologist, Charles Edwin Wilbour (1833–1896), but was not published until 1953 by Emil Gottlieb Heinrich Kraeling the other was acquired in 1904 by Sir Robert Ludwig Mond (1867–1938) and Lady William Cecil (Georgina Sophia Pakenham, 1827–1909) and by the Bodleian Library in Oxford and was published shortly thereafter (1906) by Archibald Henry Sayce (1845–1933) and Arthur Ernest Cowley (1861–1931). The Wilbour papyri, now in the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, contain the family archive of the Temple official Ananiah son of Azariah, covering a period of fifty years, namely, two generations (451–402 b.c.e.). The Mond-Cecil papyri are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and together with the Bodleian papyrus constitute the archive of the woman Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah, spanning over sixty years and covering three generations (471–410 b.c.e. ).

In the wake of the publication of the Mibtahiah archive, German and French teams set out to excavate on the island of Elephantine. The French discovered several hundred ostraca but only a dozen or so have so far been published. Under the direction of Otto Rubensohn (1867–1964), the Germans discovered ostraca and papyri, particularly in their second season (1907), and these were promptly published by Eduard Sachau (1845–1930) in 1911. The finds, which were divided between the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, the sponsor of the expedition, included letters, lists, legal texts, a literary piece (The Words of Ahiqar) and the Bisitun inscription of Darius I. In 1923 Arthur Ernest Cowley collected all the then known Aramaic texts in a small volume that remained the standard source for some thirty years. In the years 1986–1999 Bezalel Porten and Ada Yardeni issued, in four volumes, a Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt Newly Copied, Edited and Translated into Hebrew and English (=TAD A–D). (All documents discussed herein are cited according to this source.)

The Elephantine documents reveal the presence on the island of Elephantine and on the mainland (Syene) of a Jewish military colony serving Persian interests. They illustrate in detail what life was like on this southern border of the Persian Empire which ruled “from India to Nubia” (Est. 1:1). If the Jews exiled to Babylonia had any thoughts of erecting a temple in their midst, they were deterred from doing so by the prophet Ezekiel (11:16), who proclaimed in God’s name, “I have indeed removed them far among the nations and have scattered them among the countries, and I have become to them a diminished sanctity (i.e. a mini-sanctuary) in the countries where they have gone.” However, the Jews who made their way to Elephantine did erect a magnificent Temple, with cedar roof and five stone gateways, probably taking their cue from the prophet Isaiah (19:19), who prophesied: “In that day, there shall be an altar to the Lord inside the land of Egypt and a pillar to the Lord at its border.” The Elephantine Jews observed the Sabbath, celebrated A seven-day festival to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (eight days outside Israel) beginning on the 15 th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Also called the "Festival of Ma zz ot" the "Festival of Spring" Pesa h . Passover and gave their children Hebrew names. They shared the tight space in the fortress of Elephantine with the temple of the Egyptian god Khnum and in the year 410 the priests of that deity connived with the local Persian governor, Vidranga, to destroy the Jewish Temple (TAD A4.7–8). The Jews mourned its destruction, prayed for the downfall of the perpetrators and wrote to their co-religionists in Jerusalem and Samaria for intercession with the Persian authorities in Egypt to have their Temple restored. A limited recommendation was finally forthcoming (TAD A4.9–10) and both textual and archeological evidence suggest that the Temple was indeed rebuilt.

One of the most striking features of the Elephantine papyri is the prominent role that women play. It is no exaggeration to say that they are everywhere. They mourned the destruction of the Temple together with their menfolk and in a petition to the governor of Yehud (Judah) the head of the Elephantine community, Jedaniah son of Gemariah, wrote, “Our wives are made as widow(s)” (TAD A4.7:15, 20). Should the governor Bagavahya successfully bring about the restoration of the Elephantine Temple, “We shall pray for you at all times—we, and our wives, and our children, and all the Jews who are here” (TAD A4.7:26–27). On June 1, 400, a collection was taken up for the God YHW, as the Jewish deity was called at Elephantine, and one hundred and twenty-eight contributors gave two shekels each (TAD C3.15). Every name and contribution was duly recorded in a long list that ran to seven columns. The first column opens with a female name, Meshullemeth daughter of Gemariah son of Mahseiah, and contains another half dozen or so female names. Two female names appear at the end of Column four all of Column five and almost all of Column six are taken up with female names. Almost a third of the contributors were women. Their names enhance our knowledge of female onomastica and include such names as Abihi (“she is my Father,” TAD C3.15:90) Abiosher (“my father is wealth,” TAD C3.15:104) Jahmol (“may the Lord have mercy,” TAD C3.15:89. 97) Jehohen (“the Lord is grace,” TAD C3.15:92, 101) Jehotal (“the Lord is dew,” TAD C3.15:103) Jehoeli (“the Lord is exalted, TAD C3.15:105) Jehoshama (“the Lord heard,” TAD C3.15:87, 98–99, 117) Menahemeth (“comforter,” TAD C3.15:81, 108) and Nehebeth (“beloved,” TAD C3.15:22, 91, 96, 107). While a married woman in the Bible was regularly known by the name of her husband, e.g. Deborah wife of Lapidoth (Ju. 4:4), Huldah wife of Shallum (2 Ki. 22:14), these women, as well as the ones mentioned in the contracts, are referred to by their fathers’ names, e.g. Hazzul daughter of Hodaviah (TAD C3.15:112). Even if we assume that they were all unmarried, their representation as independent contributors is certainly noteworthy.

The Elephantine contracts span the fifth century b.c.e. , the earliest having been drawn up on October 22, 495 (TAD B5.1) and the latest on June 21, 400 (TAD B4.6) both concern women. The first document records a voluntary exchange between the parties of half of their respective, independently inherited shares, probably realty, and testifies to the right of women to inherit, hold, and exchange property solely in their own names. The second document is an IOU, apparently following a divorce, in which the man pledges to pay the woman, within five weeks, the balance of her document of wifehood (a sum of two shekels). As in any other debt, failure to pay would render all of his property liable to seizure and held as security until payment is made. A third document, from the middle of the century (TAD B3.1 [December 13, 456]), records a loan for a year of four shekels at five percent monthly interest given to a woman by a prosperous slaveholder. The terms of the loan illustrate that a woman could freely borrow money at interest from another Jew and be expected to be in possession of realty and chattels which could be seized in the event of non-payment.

In addition to these three documents where women are the sole or main parties, there are two family archives in which women figure prominently. The woman best known at Elephantine was Mibtahiah (“the Lord is trust”), daughter of Mahseiah (“the Lord is refuge”). Her name reveals an awareness of the word sequence hsh bth which occurs in several psalms (62:8–9, 91:2, 118:8–9). In 459 she married Jezaniah son of Uriah who had a house bordering on one owned by Mahseiah. In a document running to thirty-four lines, the father bequeathed this house to his daughter (“in my life and at my death”) (TAD B2.3) and in a parallel document gave her husband rights of usufruct therein (TAD B2.4). In a state of disrepair, the house was probably held by the father for the occasion of his daughter’s marriage and the terms of the bequest make it clear that it was to be treated as an estate perpetuated within the family or among designated heirs, corresponding to Babylonian mul’gu and Talmudic melog.

Four more documents reveal the extent of Mibtahiah’s wealth. Apparently Jezaniah died leaving her childless and in 449 she married an Egyptian builder, Eshor son of Djeho (TAD B2.6), subsequently known by the Hebrew name Nathan (TAD B2.10:3, 2.11:2). Her dowry was worth sixty-five and a half shekels. In 446 she received a house from her father in return for unspecified goods worth fifty shekels which she had provided him when he was engarrisoned (TAD B2.7). By 416 she was dead and her sons were in possession of the house she inherited from Jezaniah (TAD B2.10). The sons, named respectively after Mibtahiah’s father Mahseiah and her grandfather Jedaniah, in 410 divided among themselves two of their mother’s four Egyptian slaves, holding the remaining two, mother and child, in joint possession (TAD B2.11). In sum, the twice-married Mibtahiah had acquired three houses and four slaves, in addition to personal objects such as clothing and toiletries.

At the other end of the social ladder was the Egyptian handmaiden Tamet, married to a minor Temple official, Ananiah (Anani) son of Azariah. Her document of wifehood, drawn up between the master Meshullam son of Zaccur and the groom in the same year as that of Mibtahiah with Eshor (449), displays erasures, supralinear and final additions that indicate a much-negotiated arrangement whose aim was to enhance the status of the bride vis-à-vis her master. Even so, her dowry was worth but a third of that of Mibtahiah. What characterizes this contract as a post-nuptial agreement is the presence of a son, Pilti (Pelatiah), whom Tamet’s master may not reclaim unless Anani expels Tamet. Any such attempt would cost him fifty shekels, in essence elevating the child’s status from a master’s slave to a couple’s child. After Tamet bore Ananiah a second child, the girl Jehoishma, Anani bestowed upon her rights of usufruct to a room in his house which he had acquired three years earlier as a piece of abandoned property (TAD B3.4–5). In his old age and over twenty years after Tamet’s marriage, Meshullam issued a deed of testamentary manumission for mother and daughter: “You are released from the shade to the sun, you are released to God,” in return for which the pair pledged to serve Meshullam and his son Zaccur as “a son or daughter supports his father” (TAD B3.6). Manumission was strengthened by adoption so that when Jehoishma was married in 420, her adoptive brother Zaccur handsomely endowed her with personal possessions worth seventy-eight and one-eighth shekels (TAD B3.8). Sixteen years later (404), Anani wrote a second deed for his daughter, this time granting her title upon his death in exchange for old-age support (TAD B3.10), thereby providing a consideration and strengthening her title in the face of potential claims by other heirs. Barely two years later (402) Anani made over the property “from this day forever” and designated it an “after-gift” to her document of wifehood (TAD B3.11). By the end of 402, Ananiah and Tamet sold the remainder of their house to their son-in-law, also named Anani (son of Haggai) (TAD B3.12).

These two family archives present us with women at either end of the social and economic spectrum. One owns several houses and several slaves the other is herself a slave and yet may possess title to a room in her husband’s house. Her daughter, emancipated and adopted, could bring in a dowry of greater value than that possessed by the owner of slaves. The common ground among all three women was the “document of wifehood” (spr ’ntw), the so-called marriage contract. No matter what their social status, all three women had essentially the same death and repudiation clauses. Should either spouse die, the couple being childless, the deceased’s property would fall to the survivor in one fashion or another (TAD B2.6:17–22 B3.3:10–13, 3.8:28–36). Of even greater significance is the fact that in the matter of repudiation, there existed virtual equality of the spouses.

Either party could stand up in an assembly and proclaim, “I hate my husband/wife.” Jehoishma’s contract is the most elaborate: “And if Jeh[oi]shm[a] hate her husband Ananiah and say to him, ‘I hate you, I will not be your wife,’ silver of hatred is on her head her mohar will be forfeit. She shall place upon the balance scale and give her [hu]sband Anani silver, seven [and a half] shekels, and go forth from him with the rest of her money and her goods and her property. … He shall give (them) to her on [one] day at one stroke and she may go to her father’s house” (TAD B3.8:21–28). Rich or poor free, slave, or emancipated of Jewish or Egyptian birth, the woman in the Jewish community of Elephantine had rights of repudiation equal to those of her husband. Although the Elephantine woman may not have had the right to witness documents, the many documents in which she appears are ample witness of the extensive rights she enjoyed five hundred years before the common era.

Watch the video: Preview of Passover Letters from the Elephantine Papyri - (May 2022).