Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A Jewish Temple in Egypt

YES, AT ELEPHANTINE: Was there a Jewish temple in ancient Egypt? (Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post).
THIS WAS the story and the European expeditions were desperate to find the temple, but after WWI they lost interest and it was not till 1967 that another expedition was mounted. This was not to search for the temple, but to record all the pagan temples that had been built at this important site in southern Egypt.

They recorded many Egyptian temples of various periods but, after many years, also found what they called “the Aramaic village.” This was a series of mud-brick houses, in ruins, that were lined up along two sides of a central site with a fine plaster surface, and a small building paved in fine tiles.

Luckily, Hebrew University professor Bezalel Porten had published his plan of the Jewish colony houses, based on the papyrus documents, and the German team recognized that what they had found were the Jewish houses around the temple site, all as Porten had predicted from the documents.

The temple itself was small, in fact only half of it remained, but it had a fine tile floor in two layers, indicating that the first had been destroyed and then replaced. It stood in a courtyard of fine plasterwork, while the houses only had crude mud floors. So this was the temple, and the papyri were true.

The final discovery was only made in 1997, but it indicated a small Jewish temple in southern Egypt, built to serve a Jewish colony that acted as garrison to defend the southern approach to the rich country of Egypt.
Hmmm ... I wonder where they got the idea for a Jewish temple?

Much more on the Judean colony at Elephantine and their Aramaic papyri here and links. More on the excavation of the Elephantine temple here. The latter link also discusses the other ancient Jewish temple in Egypt, the one in Leontopolis, which is known so far only from literary references. See also here.