First Temple “Jerusalem” Papyrus Revealed to Public

We have more news about the papyrus discovery I mentioned earlier. The Israel Antiquities Authority has revealed what they describe as “the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing.” C14 tests and paleographic analysis date the papyrus to the 7th century BC, around the time of kings Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah.

jerusalem-papyrus

A First Temple-era, 2,700-year-old papyrus bearing the oldest known mention of Jerusalem in Hebrew. (Credit: the Israel Antiquities Authority)

This papyrus was plundered from a desert cave before being recovered in an IAA anti-theft operation. It is an ancient packing slip. Here is an interesting excerpt from the IAA press release.

Most of the letters are clearly legible, and the proposed reading of the text appears as follows:

[מא]מת. המלך. מנערתה. נבלים. יין. ירשלמה.

[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Na‘artah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima.

“From the king’s maidservant, from Na‘arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”

This is a rare and original shipping document from the time of the First Temple, indicating the payment of taxes or transfer of goods to storehouses in Jerusalem, the capital city of the kingdom at this time. The document specifies the status of the sender of the shipment (the king’s maidservant), the name of the settlement from which the shipment was dispatched (Na‘arat), the contents of the vessels (wine), their number or amount (jars) and their destination (Jerusalem). Na‘artah [Hebrew rendering – LC], which is mentioned in the text, is the same Na‘arat [English rendering – LC] that is referred to in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: “And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Na‘arat, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan”.

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organized administration in the Kingdom of Judah. It underscores the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the second half of the seventh century BCE… It is not possible to know for certain which of the kings of Jerusalem was the recipient of the shipment of wine”.

Israel Prize laureate and biblical scholar Prof. (Emeritus) Shmuel Ahituv attests to the scientific importance of the document, “It’s not just that this papyrus is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing; it is the fact that to date no other documents written on papyrus dating to the First Temple period have been discovered in Israel, except one from Wadi Murabba‘at.  Also outstanding in the document is the unusual status of a woman in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE.”

One might think we have many examples of the name Jerusalem in Hebrew from the First Temple period, but in fact we have virtually nothing at all on papyrus from that time. (The Dead Sea Scrolls are from the Second Temple period, roughly half a millennium later.) Papyrus does not hold up in environments with moisture, which leaves us only the desert as a source for more manuscripts. Is the Judean Desert tapped out yet? This discovery gives hope that more manuscripts may be found in time.

Here’s a YouTube video showcasing this First Temple papyrus.

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, Jerusalem, Languages, New Discoveries, Short videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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