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Where Did Israel Come From?

Yesterday I indicated that my post on the Conquest narratives would be my last for a while on the Hebrew Bible. I lied. Several people pointed out that I finished the post with a cliff-hanger:

Where then did Israel come from?

In other words, if the Israelites did not conquer the Promised Land as narrated in Joshua, but Israel did at some point appear in the land of Canaan – where did they come from? The following is my very brief summation of the options


Explanations for the Beginnings of Israel in the Land

Modern scholars have come up with a number of explanations for how the nation of Israel emerged within the land known as Canaan. The following are the four most popular.

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Was Matthew a Jew?
Historical Problems with the Hebrew Bible: The Conquest of Canaan



  1. Avatar
    TomTerrific  June 11, 2013

    Thanks for an enlightening series. It reiterates the notion that inerrancy is in error.

  2. Avatar
    SelfAwarePatterns  June 12, 2013

    I actually doubt that the Israelites originally worshipped Yahweh. The name Israel (Isra-El) seems related to El, the chief god of the old Canaanite pantheon. I’ve read some material that says scholars think the cult of Yahweh may have originated in Edom, or even northwestern Arabia, before spreading among the Canaanite countryside, but it was on wikipedia so I’m unsure of how accurate it is.

    • Avatar
      FocusMyView  September 15, 2014

      I think the same. But as El was more the name of God later on, when the narrative was probably written, then perhaps it was still referring to yahweh, a name that was prohibited as the cult reached some form of Judaism.

  3. Avatar
    rhsondag  June 12, 2013

    With recent advances in DNA analysis it would be interesting for someone to study the genetic differences, if any, between Jews and Palestinians. Might be a good doctoral thesis for some young UNC scholar! Might encourage tolerance if the genetic profiles are virtually the same.
    Geneticists have recently determined that certain groups of homo sapiens, but not all, show interbreeding with Nienderthals. In addition, while I can’t vouch for its accuracy, I heard that a study was done comparing Jewish DNA to American Indian DNA to see if there was any genetic evidence of interbreeding between the large number of Israelites that came to the United States long ago as claimed in the book of Mormon and the native population.

    • Avatar
      mdt4302  May 17, 2014

      I’m not sure how much evidence could be gleaned by DNA analysis. According to Genesis and Exodus, Jacob’s descendents originally emigrated from Canaan in the first place then settled in Egypt before returning to Canaan where at least some intermarriage with Canaanites surely took place. All of this in the span of a few hundred years. Calling the Hebrews “ethnically distinct” from the Canaanites is a bit of a stretch.

    • mini1071
      mini1071  September 15, 2014

      To be meaningful I think you would have to try to find Israeli Jews whose known lineage is Sabra (on both sides) back as far as possible – at least to the late Ottoman period. Otherwise the analysis may be masked or biased by Ashkenazi markers.Perhaps Sephardic Jews could be analyzed but they too may be masked by Iranian markers from the Babylonian Diaspora after which the Persians overran Babylon. A Jew whose heritage was in the Levant all the way back on all sides might be pretty rare.

    • Avatar
      FocusMyView  September 15, 2014

      curiously if the common picture of ancinet Libyans, Nubians, Egyptians and Canaanites is to be believed, the Canaanites were quite pale. that they could have come from the same invasion source as the Indo Aryans and Dorians is tempting, and would geographically be the same place as the Khazars came from 2100 years later anyway. So it could quite possibly be that:
      1. The European Jews were not the descendants of the diaspora, except through a limited intermarriage of those who moved north from Rome and the large contingent of Khazars and
      2. they might still match the Palestinian Jews quite extensively if the “Israelites” originated from that same area 2100 years earlier.

  4. Avatar
    bobnaumann  June 12, 2013

    It is my understanding that many of these cities, Jerico in particular, were in decline or abandoned as the Bronze Age was winding down or may already been pillaged by the marauding “sea people”.

  5. Avatar
    Nick  June 12, 2013

    So the Israelites were the people that Joshua and Yahweh killed in Canaan….

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 12, 2013

    I think that last theory makes the most sense. But I’ve seen a claim that some people must have come from Egypt, because the Bible account has a correct description of the way Egyptians made bricks. Could there have been a lot of small-scale migration over the centuries, in all directions, as people fled famine conditions?

    Is it known whether “Israel” was from the start an alternate name for the supposed patriarch Jacob? I don’t believe the “patriarchs” really existed. One thing I recall from a long-ago viewing of Amy-Jill Levine’s lectures on the Old Testament is her saying Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have been the tribal gods of three tribes, which coalesced.

    And I’m sure there were never “twelve tribes” descended from the twelve sons of one man. Do scholars believe the “twelve tribes” claim was related to there being twelve signs in the Zodiac? Some lay people say there’s a biblical listing of “Jacob’s sons” that can be interpreted as relating them to the signs of the Zodiac, in the correct order. That is, based on two or three of the names having some relation to the Zodiac Signs. The only one I can think of is the “lion of Judah”(?) corresponding to Leo.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 13, 2013

      Actually, the Bible doesn’t say how they the bricks, other than the fact that they needed straw. I’d say that’s not much to go on. And yes, there could have been numerous migrations…. No, there’s probably not a direct connection between the twelve tribes and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Lots of “twelve” options (months, eggs, and so on 🙂 )

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  September 4, 2014

      “a correct description of the way Egyptians made bricks” could mean the writer had traveled there or had been told how the bricks were made.

  7. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 12, 2013

    Once again, the best evidence suggests that an ounce of Biblical history got exaggerated and amplified into pounds and pounds of fictional stories, sometimes with a worthwhile message, and, other times, with the description of a jealous god who kills and orders the killing of humans. I guess that this is the way it is, but I sometimes find it discouraging and disappointing. It’s also discouraging and disappointing that fundamentalists somehow always have a way of “spinning” this evidence to fit their views.

  8. Avatar
    SJB  June 12, 2013

    Frankly I’ve always found it a relief that the stories of rapine and slaughter in the Book of Joshua weren’t historical. It doesn’t speak well of the author(s) that he felt it necessary to present the origin of Israel in such awful stories. Of course Fundamentalists are required to accept it all at face value and it’s a rich source of amusement to hear them rationalize God’s behavior.

  9. Avatar
    jonney38  June 13, 2013

    Thanks so much for this post. I had always wondered, if not Moses and Joshua, what?? Certainly, the last explanation makes the most sense. The faith had to have come from something else.

  10. Avatar
    tcc  June 13, 2013

    Gonna get off topic here for a second:

    Professor Ehrman, has anybody talked with you about doing a Historicity Of Jesus debate with somebody like Robert Price or Richard Carrier? Would you do it, if asked?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 13, 2013

      I might consider a debate with Price — he seems like a good guy. But I will not share a stage with Carrier.

      • Avatar
        ben.holman  June 14, 2013

        Dr. Ehrman,

        Would you consider a debate with Carrier if he apologized for the tone/language he used in his reviews of you? I personally would love to see a live exchange between the two of you. I think Price is definitely a more jovial fellow, and a hoot to listen to, but it seems to me he (Price) delves down into more improbable rabbit holes (e.g. Paul didn’t exist) that Carrier stays clear from. It seems like Carrier is doing his best to present the most realistic, respectable case for the Christ Myth Theory that could possibly be made, even if he gets a bit cocky sometimes.

        At the very least, can we expect a review from you of his upcoming book ‘On the Historicity of Jesus Christ’?

        Keep up the great work! Love the blog!

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  June 14, 2013

          No, I don’t want to give Carrier the attention he is craving. And I doubt if I’ll review any more mythicist books. Some of them are not the most pleasant persons who have ever walked the earth.

          • Avatar
            qaelith2112  June 15, 2013

            Carrier spent some time on Joseph Hoffman’s blog a while back writing some really unpleasant things that were rather unprofessional — not the kind of behavior that I would have liked to see from a scholar, or a grown man for that matter. Really, I can’t say that I disagree with you at all for excluding him from the list of candidates for debate. As for Price — while I fundamentally disagree with a substantial assortment of his scholarly views, as he has more or less gone off the rails with respect to a great many things (owing to the methodologies that he has adopted, it would seem, and his penchant for conspiratorial thinking), I continue listening to his “Bible Geek” podcast now and then for whatever reason. To his credit, he is consistently respectful / professional toward other scholars regardless of his level of agreement. He occasionally refers to one of your books with which he agrees, praises your work on it, moves on. When he mentions you in any other context, even if disagreement, he doesn’t seem nasty about it. I’ve even heard Price offer praise to a conservative scholar or theologian with which he fundamentally disagrees — admiring their knowledge and intellect and work in their field, while acknowledging his disagreement with their conclusions. For this, I can point to Price as being a rather obvious contrast to Carrier.

      • Avatar
        donmax  June 15, 2013

        Maybe you know it already, but Robert Price is an advocate for the books and beliefs of Bob Eisenman. 🙂

  11. Avatar
    hwl  June 14, 2013

    I’m sure many of your readers would be interested in reading a post on “Did God have a wife?” (Answer: yes he did, and her name is Asherah).

  12. Avatar
    qaelith2112  June 15, 2013

    For those interested in the origins of ancient Israel, here are some books/authors that I’ve enjoyed that address this:

    William Dever — Who Were the Ancient Israelites and Where Did they Come From? (and a few of his other books)
    Frank Moore Cross, Jr — Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (tough read — scholarly work — and read his sequel, From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel)
    Richard Elliott Friedman — Who Wrote the Bible? and “The Hidden Book in the Bible” : These are textual books but spend valuable time addressing early history as well
    Frank Moore Cross, Jr, and David Noel Freedman — Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (not a must read, but interesting hypothesis on the literary roots of the “crossing of the ‘Reed Sea'” story
    Baruch Halpern — The First Historians: The Hebrew Bible and History
    Ziony Zevit — The Religions of Ancient Israel

    And if you’re interested in the polytheistic / Canaanite roots of Israel and some textual evidence of Israel’s emergence from Canaanite background, also see some of Mark Smith’s books such as “The Early History of God”.

    • Avatar
      donmax  June 15, 2013

      You can’t go wrong with Dever or Friedman. Both men are Grade A Four Star History-making Superheroes!

  13. Avatar
    donmax  June 15, 2013

    I know you “moderate” responses to your blog, so I thought it would be okay to include this communication here. To be honest up front, it’s a bit of a plug for me and the archeological dig going on at Biblical Tamar Park.
    I think I mentioned the uniqueness of the place to you last November when I was working there with Drs. DeWayne Coxon, James Tabor and Yigal Israel. I even suggested you might want to stop by on your most recent visit to the Holy Land. (Given the number of emails you must receive, I can only hope you remember.)
    Since then, we are on the threshold of promoting the wonders of the park as a tourist destination for Israeli citizens and Americans. (It’s already been designated a historic landmark by the IAA and a “must see” for Israeli school children.)
    I thought you and your fellow bloggers would like to hear about it, so I’m attaching the text of a brochure for your/their consideration. As yet it has not been released, which means you will be getting in on the ground floor. It’s about 2500 words and has been pieced together much like the site itself, in separate segments.
    If you decide to use the material, you have my gratitude and my permission to share it whenever and wherever you can, with whomever you like — all at once, in pieces, or not at all. Just remember, it’s not a scholarly treatise, but a historical enticement to visitors and potential tourists. 

    All best,
    D.C. Smith


    Wide Angle Photo of the Park
    Close up of Dr. DeWayne Coxon and Blossoming Rose Volunteers

    Welcome to Biblical Tamar Park! On behalf of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Sapir Regional Council and many hard-working friends, we invite you to take a short walk through time into a desert oasis called “the Jewel of the Arava.” Without a doubt, it is the oldest and most unique place in southern Israel, a towering fortress of such importance to world trade that it still remains as a showpiece of Hebraic heritage.
    The Tamar pathway stretches back across 4,000 years from Abraham, to Moses, to Kings David and Solomon, on down through many centuries of foreign conquests, into more recent times with Israel’s rebirth as a sovereign nation. It is one of the few ancient cities that have had a Jewish presence for such an extended period of history.
    Excavations began in 1986 by Blossoming Rose, a non-profit philanthropic group from Michigan (USA), functioning as the Park’s lease holder and curator. These dedicated men and women not only coordinate archeological restorations and related educational programs, but they also provide the staff who help beautify and maintain this important site.
    Digs sponsored by Blossoming Rose and supervised by the IAA have been taking place for over twenty-five years, the most recent occurring in May 2013. Rare and priceless treasures were unearthed from several layers of occupation, and are now being stored for future display.
    People from all walks of life, and from all parts of the world, volunteer their time and talents at Tamar. Within the Park’s 55 acres, there are rustic accommodations, including air-conditioned caravans with 50 beds, a dining hall, the tel itself, a sukkah, and an attractive kiosk. These facilities are available for tour groups, conferences, and any number of other activities.
    Please feel free to join us in this worthwhile enterprise. Shalom!

    “If only these rocks could speak” is a phrase often heard in Israel. But the rocks do speak at Tamar, and they tell us about the place and the people who lived there, only faintly remembered and recorded in biblical writings. They are a visible reminder of what happened when nomads first wandered across the region, followed by Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs and other Semitic tribes who settled the land, and who left behind distinct layers of sediment and stone to form the Seven Periods of archeological history we see today.
    What we find in this desert oasis are ancient roadways converging near the tip of the Dead Sea at Ein Hazeva (or “strong spring”), located at the base of a giant Jujube tree where its cool waters quenched the thirst of weary travelers as the demands of commerce gave employment to local residents and taxes to kings, princes and emperors. Whether by design or accident, it was a convenient stopover for camel caravans carting trade goods along the now famous “Spice Road,” a commercial enterprise reaching from the Far East, on down to the port city of Gaza and beyond. But it was much more important than that. Major figures of the Hebrew Bible were also part of the picture.
    Now, of course, new highways run beside the old ones, but Biblical Tamar Park stands as a monument to the past and a resting place for modern travelers. It is an active tel designed as an educational center for Israeli students and tourists.
    Our goal has always been to use interactive displays to show who was there, what actually happened and when. You will see the oldest Israelite four-room house ever found, dating to the days of Abraham, huge openings where Solomonic gates once stood, Roman baths, aqueducts and fortress walls, as well as evidence of earthquakes and the all-too-frequent foreign military conquests. Reconstructions reveal information about people living at Tamar during the critical Seven Periods. As the site is analyzed and slowly rebuilt the truth slowly emerges. We begin to see what life was like at Tamar, from the times when early Hebrews first arrived, to present-day Israelis now living in the Land of Israel.

    As you walk from site to site, think of yourself as one who belongs in this ancient place, and then decide which period of history you feel most connected to.

    The Abrahamic Period
    About four thousand years ago Biblical Tarmar Park could have been an Amorite village. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as one of the places conquered by invading armies just as Abram had ended his sojourn in Egypt and returned to the Land of Canaan. After reentering the land and making a sacred covenant with the Lord of Creation, he received a new name, Abraham, after which he sired two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, both of whom begat children of their own.
    Stories about Abraham and his offspring include descriptions of desert places in the wilderness of Paran and Beersheva, located just slightly to the north and to the south of Tamar. For a period of time their descendents lived together as friends and neighbors, planting palm groves for shade, sharing food and family ties, or sipping water from the nearby spring at Ein Hazeva.
    These and other Genesis stories provide the basis for the core monotheistic beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    The Mosaic Period
    Whether or not they were escaped slaves led by a Jewish/Egyptian prince named Moses, or Habiru nomads wandering in the wilderness seeking some place safe to live, these wanderers were said to have settled in what they saw as the Promised Land. According to the Book of Numbers, they camped on the outskirts of Tamar (biblical “Oboth”) before entering Canaan.
    Legend has it that Moses received “words from heaven,” saying, “I will give you the Land as a heritage” (Ex. 6:8). This proclamation and similar commandments became priestly teachings for the new inhabitants, instructions informing them how to build God’s Tabernacle and how to live.
    Rather than conquering the land by force of arms, Joshua may have led his people in settling less populated areas where pitched battles and wars of extermination were unnecessary. Contrary to biased narrations, it was a gradual settlement with only intermittent conflict and considerable exchanges of religious practices. Over the next ten generations they had no kings, but were governed by a motley collection of tribal chieftains called Judges.

    The Israelite Period
    As always, Tamar remained a perennial source of water to be enjoyed by everyone, including Edomites and Moabites, as well as the “Children of Abraham,” known to their neighbors as Israelites, because Jacob’s name had been changed to Israel centuries beforehand.
    But in the south it was the tribe of Judah who became “Jews” to the rest of the world and heirs to the most memorable of all Jewish kingdoms, ruled, it seems, by none other than David and Solomon. Under their leadership, within the boundaries of a newly unified nation, Tamar became much more than a desert oasis. It was now an outpost, fortified for defensive purposes, and strategically positioned, not only to monitor caravans traveling to and from distant cities, but to protect copper mines at Faynan, near Eilat or Elath.
    Archeological remains confirm that “Solomon…built Tamar (Tadmor) in the wilderness, within the land…of his dominion” (I Kings 9:19) and that three hundred years later King Josiah destroyed the pagan altar being used there at the time. “Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out” (I Kings 13:3).

    The Roman/Christian Period
    With the demise of Solomon came the division of a united kingdom into two separate halves, neither of which had the strength to continue as an independent conquering nation. Both were consumed by animus toward one another, and therefore victims of external conquest.
    The Egyptians were first to arrive, followed by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, each of which made an indelible mark on the landscape and the people.
    In Tamar, the fortress of Solomon may have been destroyed, at least partially, when Pharoah Sheshonq I (Shishak in the Bible) plundered several southern cities, stripping the First Temple of its sacred vessels and its gold. Otherwise, the Arava was hardly affected by these foreign occupations until Pompey and his legions marched in. Palestine then became part of the Greco-Roman world, subject to the enforced Hellenization already taking root in the Jewish Homeland because of the arrival of Alexander.
    Unlike Greece, Rome was always concerned with the procurement of taxes and trade to support an expanding empire. With that in mind Roman soldiers secured the spice routes through southern Israel and reestablished Tamar as a fortified city complex of longstanding duration. They protected the caravans and kept a tight hold on merchandise and money. Yet they could not control religion or the fanaticism of true believers.
    Over time, as the empire weakened, and as its warriors were no longer Romans by blood, pagan polytheism was traded in for the monotheism of a new faith that grew out of the older Abrahamic roots of Judaism. It happened slowly, of course, even as Roman converts guarded Tamar and the nearby copper mines where Christian slaves labored for the emperor.

    The Islamic Period
    Rome’s control of Syria Palaestina was interrupted in 221 CE during what has been called “The Imperial Crisis,” a fifty-year period when everyone suffered from the impact of foreign invasions, civil strife, plagues and economic depression. Not only did the empire survive, but so did Tamar. The site was chosen as one of the main military establishments to be rebuilt by the Romans, bigger and better than ever, alongside the much traveled highway leading into and out of “occupied territory.”
    But in 363 CE the Roman presence ended abruptly as the town and its impressive structures were destroyed in a massive earthquake. Tamar, or Ein Hazeva, however, was still an oasis where people could refresh themselves beside the cool waters, and sometimes discuss or even convert to new religions. After primeval polytheism came monotheism, then Judaism and Christianity, followed by Islam.
    Muhammad arrived on the scene in the sixth century and seems to have considered himself a “restorer” of the monotheistic faith started by Adam, handed down to Noah, through Abraham, to Moses, Jesus, and the other prophets. His followers believed him to be “the Last Prophet of God,” much like Christians thought of Jesus as “the Son of God.” He got his inspiration from the angel Gabriel and taught that “the people of the Book” (Christians and Jews) were to be respected, but not necessarily treated as equals. Pagans, on the other hand, would be forced to convert or die.
    Subsequent years of Muslim control did not prove to be good ones for most Jews, Christians, pagans, or the newly conquered territories. There was little interest on the part of Islamic invaders to protect the land or the historic places, except for the Temple Mount and the burial place of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
    Tamar thus became a lonely outpost serving Arab soldiers, Ottoman Turks, and Bedouin tribesmen as they traversed ancient pathways between Mecca and Jerusalem.

    The British Period
    The game changer in Palestine was “the war to end all wars,” but the foundation for world conflict had been well established beforehand by the British and Ottoman empires. In part this was due to the discovery of oil throughout the Middle East.
    Britain was a Christian nation, Turkey a Muslim one, and the Jews had no country, as of yet, to call their own. The British people, however, were sympathetic to the Jewish longings for a homeland and supported their Zionist goals.
    The Turks entered World War I when they signed a secret pact called The Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914. And because the British feared that the Ottomans might attack and capture Mid East oil fields, they launched the Sinai-Palestine Campaigns which ultimately proved successful when the Armistice was signed four years later. That left Britain and France in charge of carving up the boundaries of new nation-states like Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
    British occupation of Palestine may have been the shortest in history, but in many ways it was the most significant. There were no oil fields to be had, just growing numbers of Jewish refugees and displaced Arabs competing for control of cities, towns and large tracts of acreage. Then, too, the Brits had an all important Mandate with defined borders from the League of Nations for what would become the State of Israel.
    When all was said and done, despite good and less benevolent intentions, neither Britain nor Turkey contributed much to the immediate restoration of the Promised Land. It was always Jewish immigrants who made the greatest strides toward independence during this last period of foreign dominance, except perhaps for the fact that English expeditionary forces built a jail and an office building at the peak of Biblical Tamar. From that vantage point they could see in all directions and take advantage of the oasis as a respite for British soldiers marching to and from Eilat. It is said Lawrence of Arabia led the way by mapping the area years earlier when it was a forgotten Arab outpost.

    The Israeli Period
    The events of the late 1940s were quick, decisive, and historic. Britain withdrew from Palestine as Arabs declared war on the Jews, the end result being victory for the people and the State of Israel.
    Tamar became the first military garrison on the southern border of Jordan using Israeli soldiers to protect desert settlers. The newly formed national guard built housing for themselves and others who were willing to defend the boundaries of their new nation. Later, they would be reassigned to another larger base to the south as a local family of patriotic Israelis were encouraged to take up residence in the vacated buildings. During the conflict, because of its strategic location, a kitchen and a bomb shelter were hastily constructed and the place was given a new name, Kibbutz Ir Ovot, meaning “the Community of Oboth.”
    Like many messianic Jews, the new settlers were deeply religious and soon started a commune dedicated to rediscovering Biblical Tamar as it once was. Through their efforts, and with the help of countless volunteers, the dream is beginning to flower. As the Bible says, and as archeology is persistently proving, “The wilderness and this solitary place shall make them glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

    Thanks for visiting this special place.
    Remember us to your family and friends.
    And if at all possible,
    come again!

  14. Avatar
    FocusMyView  September 15, 2014

    Is it really necessary to call the ancient kingdom in the north Israel? Is that what they called themselves? Or was it a name created by the Jewish historians centuries later?
    I see a lot of conclusions where people say “Israel has been mentioned” but it seems to always be by another name or because a king of Samaria was mentioned.
    Do we know if the kingdom that David (if he lived) ruled over in the north was called Israel at that time? Or the kingdom that surrendered to the Assyrians as they pursued trade routes to the sea, was this called Israel by anyone?
    If not, then calling this place Israel is like calling the god of the Persians Zeus simply because the Greeks equated it thus.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 15, 2014

      Yes, this was what the kingdom was called — even in an early inscription by an outsider referring to it.

  15. Avatar
    Mark  October 24, 2014

    When I see what ISIS is doing, it reminds me of the Biblical account of the conquest of the Promised Land, which I find extremely disturbing. Why does this tale not seem to upset most Christians and Jews?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 24, 2014

      I think some do find it disturbing, once they realize what it actually entailed (the slaughter not just of men but of women and children).

  16. Lef
    Lef  October 3, 2015

    DNA studies bring a lot of valid objective answers.
    There are 2 jewish family names – Cohen and Levi – that are particularly interesting to study because they have not changed in several thousand years.
    I cite here the DNA results concerning these very specific groups.

    “DNA analysis further determined that modern Jews of the priesthood tribe — “Cohanim” — share a common ancestor dating back about 3,000 years.[21] This result is consistent for all Jewish populations around the world.[21] The researchers estimated that the most recent common ancestor of modern Cohanim lived between 1000 BCE (roughly the time of the Biblical Exodus) and 586 BCE, when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple.[22] They found similar results analyzing DNA from Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews.[22] The scientists estimated the date of the original priest based on genetic mutations, which indicated that the priest lived roughly 106 generations ago, between 2,650 and 3,180 years ago depending whether one counts a generation as 25 or 30 years.”

    These 2 links are the most comprehensive reports I have found on the subject.



    It is a long read with tons of figures and scientific information but it is well worth it for those who want to learn a minimum before discussing their favorite theories.

  17. Avatar
    biomystic  May 20, 2016

    I am Ashkenazi and Sephardic in my Jewish ancestry and when confirming this ancestry with DNA testing of my mother’s genetic history I found that I had Ashkenazim ancestors and relatives from all over Europe, from Netherlands to Germany to Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovakia, Austria-Hungary but it stopped in the direct of Palestine at Uzbekistan which was centered in the old Khazar Kingdom said to have converted to Judaism in the 8th century to avoid wars with Christian and Muslim armies at their borders. I have now become aware that there is a Zionist push to promote ridiculous genetic ancestry of us Ashkenazim by trying to say we have Palestinian Jewish genes in us making us “Jews” in order to claim the Zionist “Right of Return” to Palestine. Well, I now warn people who are being taken in by Jewish geneticists fudging Mendelian genetic rules in order to promote a historical lie. I challenge fellow Ashkenazim to have their DNA analyzed in non-Jewish genetic research labs to see for themselves that the Khazar Jewish convert theory is not just theory but true.

    People not knowing Mendelian genetic rules are being made fools of as one can find out for yourself by doing the math of genetic transmission. Let’s give Ashkenazim in Central Asia/Europe “Four Jewish mothers from Palestine” or even 70 rabbis from Palestine and they mate with Khazar Kingdom pagans who have been ordered to convert. What happens when these Palestinian genes from four Palestinian Jewish mothers or 70 Palestinian rabbis meet with the Central Asia/European populations? The first generations are 50/50 Palestinian/European. The second generations are 25%/75% Palestinian/European. The third generation are 12.5% Palestinian/87.5% European. The fourth generation is 6.25% Palestinian/93.75% European, and so by the fifth or six generation, or in 120 years given 20 years to a generation, the Palestinian genetic contribution is practically nil. It’s been over 1200 years since the Khazar Kingdom converted and thus all that Zionist “We are Semites” claim is pure Zionist propaganda being used as a weapon by Israeli Zionists to remove Palestinians from Palestine. You can no longer trust Jewish genetics and that Cohen business needs Gentile genetic peer review as it seems highly suspicious to this Ashkenazim/Sephardic Jew.

  18. Avatar
    Malik  January 5, 2018

    Hi Dr. Ehrman,
    Could you please do a post as to why the name of Israel, is Isra-el and not Isra-yahu?
    I found this on the net:

    “Indeed, the name Israel seems to point to EL as its original deity, notYahweh (hence Israe-el rather than Isra-yahu or the like….”

    The Memoirs of God: History, Memory and the Experience of the Divine in Ancient Israel  By Mark S. Smith

    “The first tutelary deity they were worshipping was El, otherwise their name would have been Israyahu.”

    Romer, Thomas. The Invention of God. Harvard University Press, 2015

    The original God of Israel was El, not Yahweh, as is evident in the patriarchal narratives: the name Isra-el means “El rules,” not “Yahweh rules” – that would be Isra-yahu.”

    Bellah, R. N. (2011). Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 7, 2018

      It is a name rooted in the word for “God” (El/Elohim) rather than on the actual *name* of God (Yahweh).

      • Avatar
        Malik  January 7, 2018

        Ty for your reply,

        Sort of related, hopefully I am not detracting too much from the post, but does Joseph mean “Yahweh will Add” OR “He will Add”? Because we know from Exodus 6 that the name Yahweh was first revealed to Moses (correct me if I am wrong). So how can we say Joseph is a theophoric name of Yahweh?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 8, 2018

          The Hebrew word for YOSEPH just means “he adds”

          • Avatar
            Malik  January 8, 2018

            Ty for your reply,

            One last question regarding this, what are your thoughts on this Wiki Link


          • Bart
            Bart  January 9, 2018

            I don’t know what it says.

          • Avatar
            Malik  January 9, 2018

            Not saying Wiki is authoritative , I would never cite it is a source in any paper, lol. But this is what they say:

            “The name of the Israelite deity YHWH (usually shortened to Yah or Yahu, and Yeho or Yo) appears as a prefix or suffix in many theophoric names …..”

            Joseph: “YHWH shall increase”

          • Avatar
            Malik  January 15, 2018

            Dr. Ehrman,

            I was reading this book “Who were the Phoenicians ?” by Dr Nissim Raphael Ganor , and he mentions the following regarding Yahweh/Yehovah derived theophoric names (page 203-210):

            -” It must be noted here that the name Yehovah never occurs as a composite in “theophoric” names3 Many contrasting views exist regarding this dimminutive. Some argue that it is impossible to have a sacred name such as the deity’s abbreviated, and we never find any other semitic nation that uses a diminutive form for the names of his deities.4 Despite these arguments, “Ya” is generally accepted today as the diminutive form of “Yehovah”. Here we should mention the peculiar fact that the name “Yehovah” appears in the Bible either alone, or in conjunction with the word”Adonai” i. e.”Adonai – Yehovah”5 The Jews when reading the Bible avoid pronouncing the name “Yehovah” and substitute the name “Adonai”, but when the text reads “Adonai Yehovah” they read instead “Adonai Elohim” (=Adonai the God; Adonai is the God). ”

            What do you think, do Yahweh/Yehovah derived theophoric names actually exist?

          • Bart
            Bart  January 16, 2018

            He’s not talking about the name Yahweh, but about the name Yehovah. Different words.

          • Avatar
            Malik  January 17, 2018

            I’m a little confused, because later-on he equates Yehovah with the Tetragrammaton,is that different from Yahweh ?

            “Herewith we will see why it is impossible to accept the conjecture that the names assumed theophoric derive from the name ‘Yehova’ (the Tetragrammaton) and then we will discuss the meaning of the names themselves. “

          • Bart
            Bart  January 18, 2018

            I’m not sure how to interpret what he says. Yehova is not the tetragrammaton. YHWH is.

      • Avatar
        Malik  January 8, 2018

        Also, sorry one more comment. I asked a Jewish professor the same question a day ago, and this is what he said:

        “Well, the basic premise of the Documentary Hypothesis is that the earliest strata of the Torah consisted of two basic texts that originally used different names for God. E (which used El and Elohim) originated from the northern tribes, and J (that used the Tetragrammaton) was from Judea. I suppose that the same applies to personal theophoric names, that the choice of El or Yahu, etc. began as a regional variation.”

        • Bart
          Bart  January 8, 2018

          Yes, that’s right. It was this alternation between divine names that contributed originally to the idea that the Torah was made up of multiple independent sources.

  19. Avatar
    robbeasley  November 19, 2019

    “The names Land of Israel and Children of Israel have historically been used to refer to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish people respectively.[72] The name “Israel” (Hebrew: Yisraʾel, Isrāʾīl; Septuagint Greek: Ἰσραήλ Israēl; ‘El (God) persists/rules’, though after Hosea 12:4 often interpreted as “struggle with God”)[73][74][75][76] in these phrases refers to the patriarch Jacob who, according to the Hebrew Bible, was given the name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord.[77] ”

    There’s that pattern of naming people and now places as Godly. I refer to Judas Scariot and Isaiah as two person examples.

  20. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  April 16, 2020

    Well, in the Jewish mystic tradition which they claim originate from Abraham,,,,,,,,,,,,and before,,,,,,,,,,,(well,,,,,,,hmmm) the origion of the Jews, their culture and religion, and even their language Hebrew,,,,,this concept about their devine heritage,,and where they/we all descend from one soul (Adam Ha RIshon), are destined to return. Israel in that context is Y asha r El,,or Yashar El,,or Ysreal,,,or Israel,,,or our still devine gene called Israel,,(straight to God).

    In in this context,,the land of Israel would be, Eretz (derived from Ratzon),,which is desire,,,,so Eretz Yashar El (Land of Israel) would then mean something like a “Desire to get Straight to God). At least it fits quite will in their devine cosmology

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