The Assuan Aramaic Papyri
The Biblical World
THE ASSUAN ARAMAIC PAPYRI Far up the eastern bank of the Nile, near its first cataract, lies a little town whose claim to distinction is destined to be recognized. Here lay the quarries from which the granite of many Egyptian monuments was hewn; and here the British government performed the mighty engineering feat of damming up the waters of the Nile. Once more Assuan attracts attention, but this time as the site of the discovery of a collection of Aramaic manuscripts, outranking in number and
... king in number and age all previously known Aramaic documents. The place itself is one of great antiquity. Its Egyptian name was SWN.' By the Greeks it was called Syene. Some scholars find trace of it in Ezek. 29:10; 30:6, and, by a slight emendation, in 30:15,i6. It was a twin fortress of Yeb (now Elephantine), situated opposite Syene on an island in the river, standing out on the southern border, protecting Egypt from the Soudanese tribes. The papyri, ten in number, seem to have been unearthed by workmen engaged in constructing a short line of railway. In the spring of I904 they were acquired by Robert Mond, M.A., F.R.S.E., and by Lady William Cecil, the former obtaining papyri C, D, F, H, J, and part of G, which are now in the Cairo Museum, and the latter B, E, K, and the other part of G. A and L, belonging to the Bodleian Library and procured earlier, are of the same class. All are published, with transliterations and translations, by A. E. Cowley in an admirable treatise under the editorship of A. A. Sayce. They were found in a wooden box, in such perfect condition that even the clay seals fastening the strings round them were intact. They are dated in the years 47I to 411 B. c. In each case the day of the Jewish month is given, followed by the corresponding day of the Egyptian month and the reigning year of the Persian king. It will be noticed that they fall within the reigns of Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius Nothus. If we recall that Nehemiah and Ezra were active in Jerusalem during the latter part of this period, we shall better appreciate the temporal advantages of these colonists over their contemporaries in Jerusalem. The papyri represent the business documents of a family through three generations. Were they buried for safe-keeping in the hour of impending calamity?