Bible Prophecy Research
Title: "The Name 'Palestine'"
Submitted by:
Date: May 03, 2001

The Name 'Palestine'

Date sent: Thu, 3 May 2001 10:21:14 -0400 
Subject: [bprlist] The name "Palestine"

Biblical Archaeology Review has an article entitled "When Palestine Meant Israel" that just came out in the May/June 2001 edition.

"The name Palestine, surprisingly, may have originated as a Greek pun on the translations of 'Israel' and the 'Land of the Philistines.'"

The article explains that the traditional view that Palestine comes from "Land of the Philistines" (which is a very narrow area) may be in error and should be broadened to include all of Israel. A few examples of why the traditional view might be incorrect follows:

1. Herodotus speaks of the population of Palaistine as being circumcised (the Israelites were, Philistines not).

2. Aritstotle & Dio Chrysostom describe the Dead Sea as being situated in Palestine.

3. "...he [Philo] remarks that a considerable proportion of Palestinian Syria is occupied by the populous nation of the Jews."

The article goes on to explain how the Greeks love wordplay, puns and double meanings and how "the word Palaistine is remarkably similar to the Greek palaistes, meaning 'wrestler,' 'rival' or 'adversary'" which is an allusion to Jacob wrestling with an angel (Gen 32:25-27). The Jews' telling of this story of their ancestor would have struck a chord with the Greeks who were the original "wrestle-mania" crowd. "In Greek eyes, the people of Israel were descendants of an eponymous hero who was a god wrestler (a palaistes); the name wrestler also puns on the name of a similar-sounding people of the area known locally as Peleshet."

Unfortunately, this is not one of the online articles at so if you need more info, you'll have to hunt down a copy (maybe the library?).


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