Saturday, January 27, 2018

Farewell, Palestine

The Lockman Foundation has decided to drop the word “Palestine” from their New American Standard Bible translation.[i] See Well-liked Bible translation drops controversial phrase and Why Would a Bible Translation Use the Word ‘Palestine’?

I suppose I fall into the “big deal?-who cares?” crowd. The Kaplan contributor writes, “…there was no land known as Palestine for 1,500 years after Joshua’s time” and Michael Brown writes, “…that ‘Palestine’ did not exist at that time.” But aren’t they talking about Palestine as we know it as a country today and not the long-time historic use of the word in English to refer to the land of the Philistines?

I don’t know exactly when the word “Palestine” entered into the English language, but it was around by the time Wycliffe translated the Bible in 1382. The Jewish Virtual Library says, “A derivative of the name Palestine first appears in Greek literature in the 5th Century BCE when the historian Herodotus called the area Palaistinē (Greek - Παλαιστινη)” and English dictionaries give its etymology sometimes like this: “From Greek Palaistinē (used in early Christian writing), from Latin (Syria) Palaestina (the name of a Roman province), from Philistia ‘land of the Philistines’.”

According to the modernized printing of Wycliffe’s Bible available at Bible Gateway, Palestine is used 15 times in his Old Testament.
  • Genesis            (5)
  • Exodus             (1)
  • Jeremiah          (2)
  • Ezekiel            (4)
  • Joel                  (1)
  • Amos               (2)
The earliest use I found was in Genesis 21:32 – “the land of Palestines.” This is translated “the land of the Philistines” in most every other English Bible. So, to me, it seems that saying “…there was no land known as Palestine for 1,500 years after Joshua’s time” is the same as saying “…there was no  land of the Philistines for 1,500 years after Joshua’s time.” And yet the NASB itself says there was a land of Philistia even in the book of Genesis.

Nevertheless I have no objection to dropping “Palestine” from this Bible that I don’t use anyway!

[i] Not used in the text, but in the in subheads of Joshua 10:29 and Joshua 11:1 – “Joshua’s Conquest of Southern Palestine” and “Northern Palestine Taken.”

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