The Elephantine Papyri are a number of different papyri that were found on the Egyptian Nile island of Elephantine near Aswan. The resident military colony housed mercenaries from different origins, including Greek, Phoenician and Syrian groups. The desert climate favored the preservation of papyrus, therefore, find themselves out of a period of about 1000 years to access documents in demotic, Greek and Aramaic, Latin and Coptic.

Aramaic papyri

In Elephantine existed before the year 525 BC a Jewish colony had its own YHWH temple with sacrificial cult. Otto Rubensohn found in his excavations the archives of the Jewish community. Hugo Ibscher was entrusted with the unfolding and conservation of the still -sealed documents. The obtained Imperial Aramaic documents of this colony are written in the period of 495-399 BC, and give important information about the Diaspora Jews in the 5th century BC in the Persian Empire, but also insight into the management of the Achaemenid Empire. This is partly to private documents such as loan agreements and marriage certificates, but also to official correspondence with the Persian government in Susa, with the satrap in various Achaemenid provinces and with the priests at the temple in Jerusalem. No parts of the Tanakh were found in Elephantine, however.

Background of the Papyri was the destruction of YHWH Temple at Elephantine. The culprits, including the commander of the military colony, were found and punished with death. Nevertheless, the community initially did not get permission to rebuild the temple and take the sacrificial cult again. Jedoniah and his fellow priests at Elephantine wrote about letters to Arsames, the governor of Egypt, Bagohi ( Bagoas ), the governor of Jahud ( Judea ) in Jerusalem, to Jehohanan, the high priest in Jerusalem and at Delajah and Schelemjah, the sons Sanaballats, the governor of Samaria. The documents show in language and style much in common with the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, some people are also mentioned in these books. The name of God is instead of יהוה in these documents continuously reproduced as יהו, where it is probably not a different way of speaking, but a different spelling, in which the last letter will be invisible with a short final vowel as a mater lectionis.

Greek papyri

In an excavation in 1906 Otto Rubensohn found in two places pots of Greek writings as well as a number of ostraca in different languages ​​from the Ptolemaic period. The documents of the first funds include documents such as marriage contract, Testament and accounts of an inheritance. For the second fund include Greek and demotic writings in connection with the temple of Edfu, the under Ptolemy III. was built. The documents belonged to a priest named Estphenis, who was probably high priest of this temple.