Freie Universität Berlin
Hebrew University Jerusalem
Dr. Noah Hacham (Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel)
Einstein Foundation Berlin
Leitung: Prof. Dr. Tal Ilan, Dr. Noah Hacham (Jerusalem)
Mitarbeiter: Deborah Jacobs, Meron Pietrkowski (Jerusalem)
In this project we intend to collect, correct, update, and sometimes publish for the first time the evidence for Jews in Egypt in post-biblical antiquity, extant on papyri (until it went out of use, with the introduction of paper), ostraca, and parchment.
Collecting the evidence for Jews in Egypt from the Hellenistic take-over down to the Arab conquest is a complex and ambitious undertaking. Gradually but consistently the Jewish community in Egypt grew significantly in size throughout the Hellenistic, Roman periods, until it came to violent end in 117 CE, in the wake of a Jewish uprising. Despite this traumatic event, in the Late-Roman/Byzantine periods a new Jewish community emerged, which had a completely different character. Over all this time the Jews remained a small minority in Egypt. The evidence for Jewish presence must therefore be carefully and thoughtfully sifted and separated from the enormous repository of material which has survived. Separating the Jewish documents from the rest must follow rigorous rules and criteria; but it cannot be done without taking into account and evaluating the rest of the evidence.
The collection of the Jewish papyri in one corpus is not a new idea, and much work has already been undertaken or completed by different scholars (see particularly Tchrikover’s Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum in three volumes and Sirat’s Les Papyrus en Character Hebraïques Trouvés en Égypt and also B. Porten and A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt (4 vols. Jerusalem, 1986 and 1999), but much remains to be done – all of which makes our project at the same time indispensible and innovative.