Interpretatio Ivdaica in the Achaemenid Period

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The Yahwistic community at Elephantine, whose document record covers almost the entire fifth century BCE, conserves the most direct, vibrant and authentic witness of Achaemenid-era Yahwism. This article focuses on the process of interpretatio iudaica through interactions with neighboring and reigning cults: Egyptian, Levantine and Achaemenid-Zoroastrian (AZ), comparing it to other Yahwistic settlements of its time. It shows that these communities behaved as normative citizens of the polytheistic/henotheistic world surrounding them. In what is an expected process of interpretatio of their day and age, they were in full dialogue with the philosophical/theological views and innovations of the cultures surrounding them. They translated their deity/ies with “host deities” when they came into contact with other cultures. Significantly, living in an Achaemenid imperial context, Ahuramazdā was translated with Yhw, and following Artaxerxes II's reform, a new Yahwistic triad translated both the new AZ triad as well as the local Egyptian triad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Ancient Judaism
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Gad Barnea, 2023.


  • Achaemenid empire
  • Elephantine
  • Judaism
  • Yahwism
  • divine triad
  • polytheism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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