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Palestine and Israel

David M. Jacobson
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
No. 313 (Feb., 1999), pp. 65-74
DOI: 10.2307/1357617
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1357617
Page Count: 10
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Palestine and Israel
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Abstract

This article critically reexamines the origin of the name Palestine. The earliest occurrence of this name in a Greek text is in the mid-fifth century B. C., Histories of Herodotus, where it is applied to the area of the Levant between Phoenicia and Egypt. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century A. D., explicitly links this name to the land of the Philistines and modern consensus agrees with him. Yet, some 300 years earlier, the translators of the Greek Septuagint version of the Pentateuch chose Philistieim rather than Palaistinoi to describe the Philistines. In the earliest Classical literature references to Palestine generally applied to the Land of Israel in the wider sense. A reappraisal of this question has given rise to the proposition that the name Palestine, in its Greek form Palaistinē, was both a transliteration of a word used to describe the land of the Philistines and, at the same time, a literal translation of the name Israel. This dual interpretation reconciles apparent contradictions in early definitions of the name Palaistinē and is compatible with the Greeks' penchant for punning, especially on place names.

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