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Old March 13th, 2012 #1
Karl Radl
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Herodotus, Palestine and the Jews


One of the oldest arguments made by skeptics of the Christian and jewish historical cosmos is that Herodotus; the 'Father of History', does not mention jews at all in his 'Histories'. Indeed if you look up Herodotus and Jews in Google you will find an absolute wealth of Christian and jewish sites claiming this isn't the case and professing to deal with the skeptic objections. I will deal with some of those objections here.

Why answer them?

Very simply: the objections that are used by Christians and jews alike tend to place the jews at the very centre of the world and as such place them on a proverbial pedestal of being a key and influential historical nation. However if we strip that away and we find little mention of the jews in Herodotus then their supposed pivotal importance in ancient history becomes downgraded to a mere tribal curiosity.

Let us begin with the mentions that Herodotus makes of Palestine and then work through what it does in fact tell us as opposed to what it doesn't. To wit:

'The Scythians next turned their attention to Egypt, but were met in Palestine by Psammetichus the Egyptian king, who by earnest entreaties supported by bribery managed to prevent their further advance. They withdrew by way of Ascalan in Syria. The bulk of the army passed the town without doing any damage, but a small number of men got left behind and robbed the temple of Aphrodite Urania – the most ancient, I am told, of all the temples of this goddess. The one in Cyprus the Cyprians themselves admit was derived from it, and the one in Cythera was built by the Phoenicians, who belong to this part of Syria. The Scythians who robbed the temple at Ascalan were punished by the goddess with the infliction of what is called the 'female disease', and their descendants still suffer from it. This is the reason the Scythians give for this mysterious complaint, and travellers to the country can see what it is like. The Scythians call those who suffer from it 'Enarees'.' (1)

[...]

'The Egyptians did, however, say that they thought the original Colchians were men from Sesostris' army. My own idea on the subject was based first on the fact that they have black skins and woolly hair (not that that amounts to much, as other nations have the same), and secondly, and more especially, on the fact that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians are the only races which from ancient times have practised circumcision. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves admit that they learned the practice from Egypt, and the Syrians who live near the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they learnt it only a short time ago from the Colchians. No other nations use circumcision, and all these are without doubt following the Egyptian lead. As between the Egyptians and the Ethiopians, I cannot say which learn from the other, for the custom is evidentially a very ancient one; but I have no doubt that the other nations adopted it as the result of their intercourse with Egypt, and in this belief I am strongly supported by the fact that Phoenicians who have contact with Greece drop the Egyptian usage, and allow their children to go uncircumcised.' (2)

[…]

'Fifth: from the town of Posideiium, which was founded by Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus, on the border between Cilicia and Syria, as far as Egypt – omitting Arabian territory, which was free of tax – came 350 talents. This province contains the whole of Phoenicia and that part of Syria which is called Palestine, and Cyprus.' (3)

[…]

'Between Persia and Phoenicia lies a very large area of country; and from Phoenicia the branch I am speaking of runs along the Mediterranean coast through Palestine-Syria to Egypt, where it ends. It contains three nations only.' (4)

[…]

'The Phoenicians, with the Syrians of Palestine, contributed 300. The crews wore helmets very like the Greek ones, and linen corslets; they were armed with rimless shields and javelins. These people have a tradition that in ancient times they lived on the Persian Gulf, but migrated to the Syrian coast, where they are found today. This part of Syria, together with the country which extends southward to Egypt, is all known as Palestine.' (5)

Now it is clear from all the mentions that Herodotus gives of Palestine and its people that they did not have a particularly odd monotheistic religion (which the Biblical claims they did) as if they had done so: it is the kind of thing that Herodotus was and is apt to mention. However none of his informants mention this and thus neither does Herodotus. Indeed the only mention we have of a temple is of a pagan one; to Aphrodite, who was apparently much favoured by the locals in Ascalan; modern Ashkelon, who were supposedly jews at this time according to the Biblical narrative. This is certainly an odd omission not easily argued against.

The only mention we have of unusual religious practices is in the practice of circumcision among both the Syrians of Palestine and the Phoenicians who are directly suggested to have derived their practice from Egypt. This is often taken as 'proof' that the 'Syrians of Palestine' were jews, but this cannot be done for the precise reason that we have no way to know that the 'Syrians of Palestine' were jews or even followed a monotheistic or quasi-monotheistic religion! To blandly assume the connection is to make a conclusion a priori and then 'see' the 'evidence' for it.

Indeed the fact that Herodotus mentions that circumcision was also used among the Phoenicians removes any basis what-so-ever for making the connection as it tells us of plurality of use: in other words if more than one people in the same area used circumcision then how can it be used as evidence of the existence of a specific people when more than one people in the area was using it?

The idea that the 'Syrians of Palestine' are simply equatable with jews is further condemned to the dustbin of history by Herodotus' clarifying remark: 'Phoenicians who have contact with Greece drop the Egyptian usage, and allow their children to go uncircumcised'.

This tells us quite directly that the Phoenicians behaved rather like Hellenizing jews of the same general period. To explain briefly: at around this time the Tanakh tells us that the jews had two generalised factions. One were the cultured jews; the Hellenizers of a sort, who tended to; as Herodotus says, abandon the mark of covenant (circumcision) and to a large extent Judaism in favour of Greek practices. The other were the religious fanatics (like the Prophets Ezra and Nehemiah) who held that anything non-jewish was inherently evil and demanded that circumcision be practised.

What this means is that because Herodotus clearly identifies the Phoenicians as behaving like Hellenizing jews and not the 'Syrians of Palestine' you cannot claim that the Phoenicians and 'Syrians of Palestine' are distinguishable from each other. In other words you cannot claim that the 'Syrians of Palestine' are jews precisely because the Phoenicians in Herodotus' account are actually behaving more like the jews of the Tanakh than the 'Syrians of Palestine' who are the claimed jews of the Christian and jewish historical cosmos.

The other argument oft propounded; although this time by Zionists and their apologists, is that Palestine is an 'invention' of the Emperor Hadrian's: thus dating the name to after the jewish kingdoms that are claimed to have existed. Thus; in jewish eyes, meaning that Palestine is an 'invention' and gives rise to the common claim that the Palestinians are an 'invented people'. This is absolute cobblers as Herodotus clearly says Palestine and Syrians of Palestine in the original Greek: he does not say an approximate or substitute. Thus the region was called Palestine long before the jews turned up and declared Yahweh had given the land to them.

To argue; as many jews do, that there was a jewish kingdom of substance before Herodotus is rather difficult precisely because the only evidence we have is from jewish religious writings written after the fact. When I say only evidence it might surprise some as it is one of those great historical shibboleths that tend to exist in any age: however the strange thing about the 'Kingdoms of Israel' is that they aren't mentioned textually by anyone else. It is rather like the 'holocaust' in a sense in that it is all assumption and very little substance: yet 'everybody knows' it existed.

In essence then it is very difficult to reasonably argue that the jews are mentioned at all; even by inference, in Herodotus' 'Histories' without reasoning a priori.

Did the jews exist in Palestine at this point as some argue?

Quite possibly, but then at the same time convincing arguments have been put forward that they didn't.

However I tend to err on the cautious side here and suggest that the simplest possible solution is the likeliest in that the jews of antiquity were a tiny tribal conglomeration and not 'states' or 'kingdoms' per se, but rather rose to power later and then imposed their religion on other Semites for a time. Perhaps the closest we can get to the probable scenario in my view is the spread of Islam from Arabia that was accomplished by military means. So then that would place the spread of Judaism as a kind of failed attempt at spreading a barbaric tribal religion by the sword.

Rather different to the 'glorious' history of 'ancient Israel' isn't it?

References


(1) Herod. 1:105
(2) Ibid, 2:104
(3) Ibid, 3:91
(4) Ibid, 4:39
(5) Ibid, 7:89

---------------

This was originally published at the following address: http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot...-and-jews.html
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Last edited by Karl Radl; March 13th, 2012 at 04:19 AM.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #2
Jim Harting
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The ancient Jews ("haibiru" = "cut-throat, bandit" = modern "Hebrew") were originally polytheistic. The "Aphrodite" mentioned may have been the Semitic goddess best known as Ishtar. In the Old Testament she is called Asherah.

The Semites appropriated their polytheism from the Sumerians, and tweaked it to give it a Semitic overlay, in terms of the names of the gods, etc.

They create nothing, but steal everything.
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Old March 13th, 2012 #3
Thomas de Aynesworth
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Originally Posted by Jim Harting View Post
The ancient Jews ("haibiru" = "cut-throat, bandit" = modern "Hebrew") were originally polytheistic. The "Aphrodite" mentioned may have been the Semitic goddess best known as Ishtar. In the Old Testament she is called Asherah.
It is likely that Aphrodite was originally from the Middle East herself.

"Hard by is a sanctuary of the Heavenly Aphrodite; the first men to establish her cult were the Assyrians, after the Assyrians the Paphians of Cyprus and the Phoenicians who live at Ascalon in Palestine; the Phoenicians taught her worship to the people of Cythera."

-Pausanias: 1.14.7
Quote:
The Semites appropriated their polytheism from the Sumerians, and tweaked it to give it a Semitic overlay, in terms of the names of the gods, etc.
The Sumerians in question were also likely to be Semitic themselves, so said overlay would be already there. Likely the facade added would be from the autochthonous Jewish myths themselves, adding certain aspects to their "mother goddess" Asherah. There is also a possibility that Asherah came from the Indo-European Hittites, as Ashertu.
Quote:
They create nothing, but steal everything.
Well they may have appropriated the myths, but in that they created their justification for taking Palestine.

Karl makes the best case that these tribal Jews were engaged in the creation of a Greater Israel in a similar manner as the Arabs with their Islam, except in that Jews were failures in warfare to the point that not even the Levant in totality was achievable. Much of the classical material available on Jews indicates them as Syro-Phoenicians, not discernible as anything but an oddity.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #4
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It is likely that Aphrodite was originally from the Middle East herself.

"Hard by is a sanctuary of the Heavenly Aphrodite; the first men to establish her cult were the Assyrians, after the Assyrians the Paphians of Cyprus and the Phoenicians who live at Ascalon in Palestine; the Phoenicians taught her worship to the people of Cythera."

-Pausanias: 1.14.7

The Sumerians in question were also likely to be Semitic themselves, so said overlay would be already there. Likely the facade added would be from the autochthonous Jewish myths themselves, adding certain aspects to their "mother goddess" Asherah. There is also a possibility that Asherah came from the Indo-European Hittites, as Ashertu.
The Germans were supposed to have worshipped a fertility goddess known as Eostre, whose festival was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, and whose name is the origin of the word Easter. Her name is likely also connected to the same Indo-European root-word from which the word Estrogen is derived. Eostre may have been a European variant of Ishtar/Esther.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #5
Thomas de Aynesworth
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The Germans were supposed to have worshipped a fertility goddess known as Eostre, whose festival was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, and whose name is the origin of the word Easter. Her name is likely also connected to the same Indo-European root-word from which the word Estrogen is derived. Eostre may have been a European variant of Ishtar/Esther.
More likely, Eostre has the same root as the autochthonous Ashertu worshipped by the Hittites, given that their language was branched from the Indo-European (or Aryan as it was called up until the 1950s) language.

Thus given the linguistic connection between Eostre and Ashertu, that the Sumerians imported this deity from the Indo-Europeans, rather than the reverse as Semito-centrists often purport.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #6
Karl Radl
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Karl makes the best case that these tribal Jews were engaged in the creation of a Greater Israel in a similar manner as the Arabs with their Islam, except in that Jews were failures in warfare to the point that not even the Levant in totality was achievable. Much of the classical material available on Jews indicates them as Syro-Phoenicians, not discernible as anything but an oddity.
I think the key to understanding jewish history before the archaeological record of them begins is to see them as small, bandit tribes with various different religious strands (hence the fact that jews are still dualistic [Yahweh and the Shekhina] and even quasi-polytheistic at times) who basically; as you say, failed in war and sought to cover this up with myth. If you treat them as a smaller tribe then a lot of Genesis and Exodus in particular makes more sense in that they were in the Egyptian sphere of influence in particular and as such their mythos focuses on the Egyptians for its context as opposed to say the Hittites or the Arab peoples to the south-east.
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Old March 13th, 2012 #7
Karl Radl
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More likely, Eostre has the same root as the autochthonous Ashertu worshipped by the Hittites, given that their language was branched from the Indo-European (or Aryan as it was called up until the 1950s) language.

Thus given the linguistic connection between Eostre and Ashertu, that the Sumerians imported this deity from the Indo-Europeans, rather than the reverse as Semito-centrists often purport.
I should add that the latest research on the Hittites has concluded they weren't an Indo-European people, but did in fact borrow a lot of their language from one that lived in the same general area. I forget the name off hand, but it is discussed in detail in Trevor Bryce's fairly recent 'The Kingdom of the Hittites'.
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Old March 13th, 2012 #8
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More likely, Eostre has the same root as the autochthonous Ashertu worshipped by the Hittites, given that their language was branched from the Indo-European (or Aryan as it was called up until the 1950s) language.

Thus given the linguistic connection between Eostre and Ashertu, that the Sumerians imported this deity from the Indo-Europeans, rather than the reverse as Semito-centrists often purport.
Ēostre seems to be the Northumbrian Old English rendering of the goddess' name, which in West Saxon Old English was Ēastre, and in Old High German: Ôstara, derived from the Proto-Germanic Austrō.

Last edited by Steven L. Akins; March 13th, 2012 at 05:00 PM.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #9
Thomas de Aynesworth
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I should add that the latest research on the Hittites has concluded they weren't an Indo-European people, but did in fact borrow a lot of their language from one that lived in the same general area. I forget the name off hand, but it is discussed in detail in Trevor Bryce's fairly recent 'The Kingdom of the Hittites'.
I am aware that the Hittite language is markedly different from other Anatolian Aryan languages. This would render the Hittites an oddity themselves, given that rather decent swath of Indo-European languages that persisted in Anatolia at the time.

Perhaps given proper examination, the Hittites as they were known will turn out to be another pre-Indo-European tribe, similar to the Etruscans, given that they A) spoke a similar "mystery dialect" that does not conform to any descendants of the Aryan, and B) the speech soaked up much of the Aryan languages surrounding it in both vocabulary and style, which is exactly what happened to the Etruscans during their golden age. There is also a noted lack of gender in grammar, which is pretty much the rule for all Aryan languages, but also lacking in Etruscan.

I should probably point out that the jury is still out on the proper classification of the Hittite language. Given the rather isolated nature of the Van and Erzerum areas of Anatolia, it is not inconceivable that the Hittite ruling class was made up of a pre-Aryan indigenous people.

Last edited by Thomas de Aynesworth; March 13th, 2012 at 05:05 PM.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #10
Karl Radl
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I am aware that the Hittite language is markedly different from other Anatolian Aryan languages. This would render the Hittites an oddity themselves, given that rather decent swath of Indo-European languages that persisted in Anatolia at the time.

Perhaps given proper examination, the Hittites as they were known will turn out to be another pre-Indo-European tribe, similar to the Etruscans, given that they A) spoke a similar "mystery dialect" that does not conform to any descendants of the Aryan, and B) the speech soaked up much of the Aryan languages surrounding it in both vocabulary and style, which is exactly what happened to the Etruscans during their golden age. There is also a noted lack of gender in grammar, which is pretty much the rule for all Aryan languages, but also lacking in Etruscan.

I should probably point out that the jury is still out on the proper classification of the Hittite language. Given the rather isolated nature of the Van and Erzerum areas of Anatolia, it is not inconceivable that the Hittite ruling class was made up of a pre-Aryan indigenous people.
Well as I recall the understanding we have of the Proto-Indo-European language and culture differs markedly from the Hittites. I'd suggest comparing Mallory and Adams' work on Proto-Indo-European with the work on the Hittites as to my; admittedly limited, reading it suggests that the Hittites were not an Indo-European people. However you are essentially right: you could easily have had a racialised caste system as it wasn't uncommon then and we don't know enough about the Hittites to suggest otherwise.
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Old March 13th, 2012 #11
Thomas de Aynesworth
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Well as I recall the understanding we have of the Proto-Indo-European language and culture differs markedly from the Hittites. I'd suggest comparing Mallory and Adams' work on Proto-Indo-European with the work on the Hittites as to my; admittedly limited, reading it suggests that the Hittites were not an Indo-European people.
I have also seen the claim, first put forth by Warren Cowgill and can be found in Cowgill's Collected Writings (chapter 3). He puts forth that Hittite is actually a sister language to the Proto-Indo-European, that the reasoning behind the lack of gender in the language is due to the fact that Proto-Indo-European descends from an older, pre-historic language that lacks the gender as well, and that another language, Proto-Hittite is also evolved from this.

Personally I do not put much faith in this, as languages typically evolve from gender and grammar upwards.

But I still do not believe there is consensus, I'll look into Bryce's work.
Quote:
However you are essentially right: you could easily have had a racialised caste system as it wasn't uncommon then and we don't know enough about the Hittites to suggest otherwise.
I think the best evidence for this is that the Hittites wrote their religious scripture down in other Anatolian dialects, even when their own language seemed to be in its golden age.
 
Old March 13th, 2012 #12
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So from what I've gathered from Bryce's work, "The Kingdom of the Hittites" vol. 2, the Hittites were of a multi-cultural (in the truest sense) and multi-lingual empire, what we have come to expect from a countryside made up of essentially mountain folds and geographic isolation that persisted until longer-ranged draft animals were available. There was little inter-trading between cultures before the Bronze Age, and would only start in earnest when the Assyrians began constructing a suitable trade network alongside the eastern extremity of the Anatolian Plateau (Buzul mountains). Scholars cannot come to a consensus on where or when the Aryan peoples migrated into this area, (some even pointing to an indigenous hypothesis) but during the Hittite Empire's tenure, 4 major languages were present, of the former, Luwian *liwusa,* and Nesite, were Indo-European tongues, followed by Hattite, and Hurrian, being of a different group, which I'll get to.

Bryce states that Hittite comes from the simplified phrase "Land of the Hatti," ergo, the Hittites themselves came from a non-Indo-European speaking population of indigenous Anatolians, before any such Indo-European invasion.

Though the language was not of the Indo-Europeans, our ancestors, it was also not of Semitic origin, from what little evidence the primary sources indicate (never written in Hattic, but city and personal names attest to some kind of partial linguistic reconstruction). The language itself seems to be from the Northwest Caucasian family of languages, alongside Circassian, Kabardian, Abaza, and related to modern day Georgian and Abkhazian.

This can only lead me to conclude that the Hittite's original ethnicity spoke some kind of Caucasian, non-Indo-European language, called Hattic, before the introduction of the Indo-European Nesite language that became so popular (as Greek later would) and that most of the court and court officials, as well as the merchants used in everyday speech. And that they were of Alpinic and Mediterranean (to use the term loosely) stock. Nesite's slow transformation into prominence began in the early 2nd millennium BC, long before the Hittite Empire.

Bryce uses the names of Hittite kings, which seem to have their name etymologies rooted strictly in the Hattic as evidence. It may have been a case of native Nesite noble families intermarrying with Hattic chiefly families, or that the adoption was due to Nesite's preeminence as a trade language centuries beforehand that eventually led to the confederation we know as the Hittite Empire.

To get an ethnic sense of the Hattic peoples racially, here are some other Caucasians who speak a dialect in the same language group:

Circassians:




Kabardians:



Adyghe/Abkhazian:


Abazans:

Georgians:


I hope this will suffice as the best explanation and a summarization of this excellent work by Trevor Bryce on Hittite origins.

Last edited by Thomas de Aynesworth; March 13th, 2012 at 10:04 PM.
 
Old March 14th, 2012 #13
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Are those cigars?
 
Old March 14th, 2012 #14
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Are those cigars?
Cartridge loops.
 
Old March 14th, 2012 #15
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Cartridge loops.
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Old March 16th, 2012 #16
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The Sumerians in question were also likely to be Semitic themselves
The highly inventive, blue eyed (also dark haired) Sumerians could surely not have been Semites.

I was told some of their tablets have even warned against the Semites.

Semites came into the area later on.
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Old March 16th, 2012 #17
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When the Semite Sargon conquered the Indo-European Sumerians, he presided over the first multi-ethnic society - around 2,300BC. For the first time, a particularly alien ruling class forced its will on a degenerating white population. The Semites had already been infiltrating Sumerian living space for decades. The local democracy of princes and semi-independent towns - characteristic of all Aryan societies from ancient Greece to medieval Germany - was destroyed. Sargon declared himself a divine ruler - rebellion was punished mercilessly. His tyranny was short-lived and faded with his death. Subsequently the land was riven by uprisings and battles between the Indo-European and Semitic elements. As the populations blended, the proto-Germanic blood died out and, following Naramsin’s death, the Akkadian Empire decayed. In turn the remnant became dominated by a new wave from the north - the Gutians. This pattern continued dozens of times in the following millennia. The multi-ethnic rabbles being dominated repeatedly by tiny, ethnically homogeneous groups of Indo-Europeans from the northern valleys: Hurrians, Cimmerians and Medes, who in turn lost their purity and became dominated by other peoples with biological cohesion.
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Old March 16th, 2012 #18
Thomas de Aynesworth
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The highly inventive, blue eyed (also dark haired) Sumerians could surely not have been Semites.

I was told some of their tablets have even warned against the Semites.

Semites came into the area later on.
Likely you must be conflating Sumerians from 2700 BC and Jewish contact with those living in Babylon in the 6th c. BC. ie. their exile.
 
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