Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rare papyrus from the 7th century mentions Jerusalem

A link forwarded by my former student Danielle Liberman reports on the finding of a rare 7th century papyrus fragment that refers to a wine consignment for a person of high station in Jerusalem. Ancient Hebrew manuscripts are very rare. What excites the reporter is that it mentions Jerusalem (in the common biblical and more ancient spelling of the name "yerushalem," not the later popular "yerushalayim"). What excites me is that the servant of the king sending the wine is a woman, herself clearly an important person.
See the article HERE.
The significance of the difference in the spelling of the name is that it attests to the antiquity of the way in which it is spelled in most biblical references to the city by that name. The later and now common pronunciation (Yerushalayim) is a grammatical dual and indicates the mythological notion (found among others in St. Paul's letters and in rabbinic literature) that Jerusalem exists twice, namely, above and below. As the rabbis put it: yerushalayim shel mata and yerushalayim shel ma'la.
"Yerushalem" - the city's biblical name, now further attested in the newly identified papyrus - indicates that the biblical Judahites did not rename the city when they occupied it and made it the seat of their kingdom but simply continued calling it by its ancient Amorite/Hittite/Canaanite name, an homage to the "evening star"shalem (twin-brother of the "morning star").
BTW, the article also reports that the papyrus was discovered during a sting operation that busted a ring of "looters" who were offering archaeological artifacts on the vast black market that exists for such items. The fourteen "looters" were apparently condemned to 18 years in prison, which sounds harsh to me. As long as they don't destroy the artifacts, perhaps they should be enlisted rather than punished. 

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