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Papyrus offers nonbiblical mention of Judean kingdom in Jerusalem

The document is preserved in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls laboratories. Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
The document is preserved in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls laboratories. Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The document is preserved in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls laboratories. Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

JERUSALEM (RNS) Israeli archaeologists have unveiled the earliest known nonbiblical Hebrew-language reference to Jerusalem, dating back to the time of the First Temple in the seventh century B.C.

The reference, part of a wine-shipping order, was written in ancient Hebrew on a small piece of papyrus.

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

Plundered from a cave in the Judean Desert (in what is today the West Bank) by antiquities robbers, the papyrus was recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority’s robbery prevention unit, dated and analyzed.

The papyrus, or scroll, like the Dead Sea Scrolls found nearby decades ago, was preserved thanks to the Judean Desert’s extremely dry climate.

With the help of volunteers during the past year the Israel Antiquities Authority has been conducting an archaeological excavation in search of ancient artifacts in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert. According to Israel Hasson, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "every day robbers go into the desert in order to search out and plunder ancient documents such as the papyrus that was exposed. The state has to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to embark upon a historic operation together with the public, and carry out systematic excavations in all of the Judean Desert caves.” Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

With the help of volunteers during the past year the Israel Antiquities Authority has been conducting an archaeological excavation in search of ancient artifacts in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert. According to Israel Hasson, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority: “Every day robbers go into the desert in order to search out and plunder ancient documents such as the papyrus that was exposed. The state has to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to embark upon a historic operation together with the public, and carry out systematic excavations in all of the Judean Desert caves.” Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

“The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organized administration in the Kingdom of Judah,” said Eitan Klein, deputy director of the robbery prevention unit. “It underscores the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the second half of the seventh century B.C.”

Klein said that according to the Hebrew Bible, any one of three kings could have been the wine’s intended recipient.

Some Israeli politicians seized on the papyrus discovery, calling it ironic that at a time when archaeologists are finding artifacts made by Jews nearly 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem and other places in the ancient land of Israel, the United Nations’ world heritage organization, UNESCO, has ratified two resolutions referring to the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam — solely by its Arabic name, with no mention of Jewish and Christian religious or historical ties.

Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, called the papyrus “further tangible evidence” that Jerusalem “was and will remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

“The Temple Mount, the very heart of Jerusalem and Israel, will remain the holiest place for the Jewish people, even if UNESCO ratifies the false and unfortunate decision another 10 times,” Regev said.

(Michele Chabin is RNS’ Jerusalem correspondent)

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Michele Chabin

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  • “UNESCO, has ratified two resolutions referring to the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam — solely by its Arabic name, with no mention of Jewish and Christian religious or historical ties.”

    Once again.

    You have not once in this article called the Temple Mount by the name “Noble Sanctuary” a single time in your article, so where the heck do you get the authority to criticize someone for never calling the Noble Sanctuary by the name “Temple Mount”??

    This is just nothing but the pot writing three articles to whine about how the kettle is black.

    Oh BOO HOO. Someone calls a place by their favorite name instead of calling it by your favorite name. How TERRIBLE for you. How DARE those meanies not call it the name you EXCLUSIVELY use and instead only use their favorite name exclusively.

    Unless you go out of your way to, every article on the subject, use the term “Noble Sanctuary” and point out the MUSLIM connections to the site, HOW ARE YOU NOT DOING THE SAME THING THAT YOU ARE WHINING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE DOING?! Hypocrisy!!

  • Didn’t you know? RNS only allows the voice of one side of the Israeli/Palestine conflict on their site. For some reason, they never allow any articles that are pro-Palestinian to be posted here. If you want more actual fair and balanced reporting on these issues, stick with Al Jazeera.

  • Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, called the papyrus “further tangible evidence” that Jerusalem “was and will remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

    Not quite. Jerusalem was the capital for a while. It hasn’t been for 2000 years. Since Israel now posesses Jerusalem they can make it their capital if they are willing to deal with the fallout.

  • Prior to Israel’s occupation it was for more than a millennium in the hands of Muslims so the Muslin name is appropriate. Maybe just use both names hyphenated like modern couples’ married names.

  • It says, “from the king’s maidservant”? So a woman knows how to write and she is in the business of supplying or managing the king’s household? Gosh, maybe she wasn’t a complementary woman.

  • Jerusalem was being abandoned before Constantine established christianity as the roman religion and his mother traveled there to revive what they guessed were old sites. They made best guesses of where events happened and immediately monetized it for tourists. Since those Jesus events were literary inventions and none of that happened the whole city is one big Ark encounter.

  • Happily, archeology once again demonstrates the deep historical roots of the Jewish people on the eastern banks of the Mediterranean. This for those prone to disdain their well documented presence in the past.

  • Muslims did not allow Jews to enter the site anywhere. You have ignored the fact that it is the FIRST holiest site in Judaism and the THIRD holiest site in Islam. The holiest site for Muslims it in Saudi Arabia.

    You are not a geneticist and you are not a historian of the ancient Near East.

  • Jews have never abandoned the Temple Mount. The Temple maybe a literary inventions for Christians, but the Temple has never been abandoned by Jews.

  • Let’s not forget that Zionists decided to invade Palestine after first considering Argentina and Uganda. They weren’t concerned about genealogy but which country would offer the least resistance.

    What I like best about the Zionist claim on Palestine is the insistence on Jews having lived in Palestine in the distant past. By that “reasoning” the aboriginal peoples of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, for example, are similarly entitled to reclaim those lands too despite centuries of occupation by non-aboriginals. Not a valid argument.

  • They were desperate choices made by people who had no where else to go. The US rejected a boat full of Jewish children. OK if its not a valid argument for New Zealand, then its not a valid argument for for Jews.

  • That just proves how long Jerusalem was the capitol of Israel. It’s a dangerous idea in 2016, but that doesn’t mean that its not true.

  • I did not think that there was any doubt as to the historicity of the Kingdom of Judah in the 7th C BCE, with Jerusalem as its capital. The Biblical accounts of that period are fairly historical (though chauvinistically one-sided) and far from the more mythical texts of times prior to that.

  • You conveniently confusing dates to elicit fake sympathy. The Zionist occupation of Palestine began in the 1880s so don’t try bring a war that occurred 60 years later into the equation. Jews have zero right to invade another people’s lands.

    So you agree that if the Maori cannot get their land back then so too the Jews cannot get Palestine back. Good, then start lobbying them to leave, or, 1. pay reparations, 2. enable the right of return for displaced Palestinians, 3. set up Jerusalem as an international city governed by the U.N., 4. set up a two state solution and 5. get the Jewish settlers out of the West Bank.

  • I didn’t say the whole city was abandoned, I said it was being abandoned. Saying they knew where jesus walked or died brought a new industry, tourism. Since the jesus story never happened in real life all those sites are tourist traps.

  • “Since Israel now posesses Jerusalem they can make it their capital if they are willing to deal with the fallout.”

    Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950.

  • I took that to mean Jerusalem is the spiritual capital for Jews, much like it’s the spiritual capital for Christians. Those kinds of things are not dependent on legal status.

  • It is appalling that ancient artifacts really being stolen. I’m grateful that there are dedicated people working to preserve these crucial bits of human history.

  • Nope. Just pointing out the falseness of the Zionist “historical” claim to someone else’s land.

  • I’ve studied it for years and I disagree. Using any rational rules of evidence nothing holds up. good luck with that.

  • Maybe not, but a more sophisticated culture, superior armed forces, and a determination to not surrender or relinquish legitimately captured territory, surely does.

  • So your theory is might equals right. Not too convincing.

    And, by the way, a group of people who decide to invade someone else’s land exiling and murdering hundreds of thousands is not a superior culture. They are a repulsive, marauding gang.

  • Your “invasion” was land purchased from Arab and Ottoman landlords … at inflated prices.

    “Murdering hundreds of thousands” is too bizarre … and disgusting to even warrant comment. Perhaps you could document your claim.

    As if.

    Unless you are referring to the American colonies, conquered from the natives and from Mexico, resulting the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of death of native tribes.

    Ditto the Muslim invasions and conquests of Arabia, Europe and other spots.

    And DO tell us about the recent rape and genocide of Tibet by the Chinese. Oh DO!

  • These two comments of yours are not arguments and are not persuasive. It is always unclear how far back in history one must go to determine sovereign rights to land or sea. But I think one sticking point that is truly problematic is the conduct of the UK during World War I, with the Sykes-Picot Agreement guaranteeing Palestinians an independent homeland and the Balfour Document guaranteeing the Jewish people an independent homeland, all in the place.

    You do sound as though you are arguing for might makes right, without attempting any ethical examination of the collective rights of peoples living in a place. For instance, would you apply your analysis as well to the Armenian Massacre, implying that because Turkey had the might, it had the right?

  • No purchases of land were made in 1948, when the newly declared State of Israel drove out many thousands of Palestinians from their homes, even depopulating whole towns.

  • You have tried twice to change the topic and mislead in this last post of yours.

    I said “exiling and murdering hundreds of thousands” But if you insist: exiled = 7 million, murdered = 510,000 just since 1948. Source: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/

    Of course, the Zionist deplorables also murdered British and French soldiers, a U.N. ambassador, and blew up a hotel killing dozens.

    Second, mentioning the abuse of Tibetans by the Chinese does nothing to legitimize the Zionists doing the same thing to Palestinians. In fact, it shows the Zionists to have set the standard for the Chinese to invade Tibet and murder/exile its inhabitants.

  • <> Well, duh, Einstein.

    <>

    Actually, the Sykes–Picot Agreement was a secret 1916 agreement between Great Britain and France, to which the Russian Empire assented. The agreement defined their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in Southwestern Asia. The agreement allocated to Britain control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and an additional small area that included the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean.

    An international administration was proposed for Palestine. However, the Sykes–Picot plan itself described how France and Great Britain were prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab state, or confederation of Arab states, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief within the zones marked A and B on the map.

    An international administration. No independent Palestinian homeland.

    On the off-chance that facts are still worth something.

    <> Show me where, Bub.

  • Then it’s a damned good thing the Israel Antiquities Authority’s robbery prevention unit is ON THE JOB!

  • You’ve merely studied everything and learned nothing. Even among ardent skeptics with respect to Christ’s ministry and claims, only a few outliers who are really out on a limb, such of yourself, deny that he lived. You are among a very small minority even among skeptics.

  • Might rarely equals right, but it is the particular currency of human history, as is amply pointed out below. The point is that today the State of Israel controls the territory and is not likely to be compelled to give it up. That is the sum and substance of the practical state of affairs. Sussing out arguments over legitimacy will continue to be a long and drawn out process.

  • Israel only controls the territory because the U.S. arms Israel. That is not a permanent situation, especially with the U.S. so eager to label as war crimes actions in the Middle East that are similar to Israel’s war crimes.

  • true. they rely on tacitus and josephus who hadn’t been born yet when the jesus story took place, then didn’t write about it till they were very old (why did they wait?). Its about how strict a person makes rules of evidence, you couldn’t prove jesus lived in a court of law (that’s why you take it on ‘faith’).

  • Josephus had quite a busy time as I’m sure Tacitus did as well. Jesus was probably not on the top of their list initially. And there are well written texts by Strobel and Habermas which delineate the historic evidence for Jesus quite well. Additionally, there are other figures from antiquity with less attestation whose existence does not garner the scrutiny that Christ does. And you are still among the minority even among skeptics. I may take Christ’s claims as God on faith, a faith I may add that is based on evidence you can not presently comprehend but faith is not necessary on the question of his existence.

  • faith by definition is belief with no proof/evidence. if you say you have proof then your beliefs are up to scientific scrutiny, not faith. you have to chose. I said you couldn’t prove jesus in court with our rules of evidence (first hand witness/physical evidence/dna/fingerprint/circumstantial (there is none)). I stand by that.

    If you accept the evidence you site then it’s you wanting it to be true. I don’t care.

  • Your definition of faith is incomplete and not entirely accurate depending on the philosophical mindset behind the semantical construct used. On the basis of your argument we could not prove the existence of many historical figures for whom we have neither DNA evidence, nor living witnesses to attest to their existence. Your reasoning is both flawed and specious and marred by a philosophical prejudice against the Subject in question. I’m done.

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