An Ancient Papyrus May Be the Oldest Known Hebrew Document to Mention Jerusalem. But Is It Genuine?

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has recently announced that it has obtained a papyrus fragment from 7th or 8th century BCE whose text reads “From the female servant of the king, from Na’arat [a place near Jericho], two wineskins to Jerusalem.” If authentic, it would join a handful of Hebrew papyri predating the destruction of the First Temple. But a few respected experts have raised the possibility that it could be a forgery, written on genuinely ancient papyrus in an antique style. The scholar and blogger Jim Davila cautiously makes the case for its authenticity:

On general principles I would be tempted to file an unprovenanced 7th-8th century BCE Hebrew papyrus that happens to mention Jerusalem under “likely too good to be true.” But . . . the radiocarbon dating of the papyrus [that confirms its age] is important. It is not entirely impossible that a forger would be able to get hold of a blank papyrus fragment dating to the 7th-8th century BCE, but it seems very unlikely. And even then, how would the forger be sure enough of the date to make the script of the Hebrew match so well? So I think it is very probable that the papyrus and the inscription on it are genuine and that we should proceed with that as our preliminary conclusion, as the IAA is doing. . . .

[A]ncient blank papyrus is not terribly hard to come by, but the cases [of forgeries on ancient material that] I remember hearing of involve papyrus from late antiquity and the Byzantine era. There are far fewer papyri surviving from as early as the 7th-8th century BCE. Is it really likely that a forger got a blank piece of papyrus this ancient along with a context that told the exact age of the papyrus so the forger could fake the Hebrew script accordingly?

Read more at PaleoJudaica

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, First Temple, History & Ideas


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad