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

Oct. 28 2016

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?

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at PaleoJudaica

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

For the Time Being, Palestinians Are Best Off under “Occupation”

Nov. 18 2019

Many who profess concern for the Palestinians agree that Israel ought to abandon its presence in the West Bank—which remains controlled by Jerusalem, even as most of its Arab residents live under the governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But, writes Evelyn Gordon, the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew completely, provides a clear demonstration why West Bank Palestinians are beneficiaries of the status quo:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at JNS

More about: Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy, West Bank