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Emet m'Tsiyon

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What Did the Jews Call the Land of Israel ארץ ישראל AFTER the Bar Kokhba Revolt?

Judea [IVDAEA] was the official name of the Land of Israel during the heyday of the Roman Empire, as it had been the usual Greek name of the country after Alexander's conquest [approx. 322 BCE] of the Levant [in the form Ioudaia, in Greek letters of course] . Emperor Hadrian changed the name Provincia Iudaea to Provincia Syria Palaestina as a sign of victory over the Jews in the Bar Kokhba revolt, and as a punishment for the Jews who had destroyed at least one Roman legion in the war. Note that Hadrian's new name signified that the country was merely a part of Syria. This name change was a humiliation for the Jews, an attempt to eliminate the Jewish national identity of the country. The war lasted for four years, from 132-135 CE, and was closely followed by the name change, according to most authorities.

What did the Jews call the country after this name change? Did they accept the new name or continue to use their own name for their land? Yoram Tsafrir writes:
The Jewish sources seldom call the Land of Israel by the name "Palaestina" -- without a doubt for the very same reason that had led Hadrian to choose that name-- and they [the Jewish sources] prefer the name "Land of Israel ארץ ישראל" to it [Palaestina]. [Yoram Tsafrir, "The Provinces in the Land ofIsrael," Ts Baras, S Safrai, Y Tsafrir, M Stern, eds., The Land of Israel from the Destruction of the Second Temple until the Muslim Conquest (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi, 1982), p 353]
Tsafrir adds in a footnote to this comment:
Sometimes, when the name Palaestina is found in the [Jewish] writings, its context is clearly technical-administrative in such a way that it is impossible to change it [that is, to replace it with "Land of Israel"]. See for example, Lamentations Rabba [איכה רבה the midrash of Lamentations] 1:32.
In this example, the midrash uses the title of a Roman commander Dux Palaestinae [דוכס דפלסטיני בארמית],
which the author considered official and thus not to be changed.

Tsafrir adds further on:
The attitude of the Jews toward the Land of Israel was an attitude of holiness and settlement in the Land of Israel was considered, as we know, equivalent to all the other commandments. [p 381]

In other words, the Jews living in the Land and in the Exile after the Bar Kokhba Revolt continued to call the country the Land of Israel and to view it as their national homeland which was invested with a holy quality. The Land of Israel, moreover, is one of the names for the country used in the New Testament [see Matthew chap. 2]. The New Testament also uses Judea as a name for the country as a whole in Luke and Acts. This may confuse some readers since, when the NT uses the term "Judea and Samaria," it is clearly referring to Judea as only the southern part of the country, the former Kingdom of Judah. In other words, Judea has two meanings in the NT.

Judea as a name for the whole country is found in a quote attributed to Aristotle by his disciple, the Peripatetic philosopher Clearchos of Soli. The quote goes back to a time before Alexander's conquest. The name probably comes from the Aramaic word Yehudaya meaning "the Jews."
This is the conclusion of the late Felix Abel, the historian belonging to the Dominican order based at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.

For further study see:
F-M Abel, Geographie de la Palestine
F-M Abel, Histoire de la Palestine
Michael Avi-Yonah, see his Historical Geography revised and translated by Anson Rainey.
Y Tsafrir, Leah di Segni, Judith Green, IUDAEA/PALAESTINA, Maps and Gazetteer (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994). Part of the Tabula Imperii Romani series of the Union Academique Internationale.
The title of the last named work indicates the official name change which the country underwent while part of the Roman Empire.

These two links to earlier posts deal with the Bar Kokhba revolt and some of its results.
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Coming: The Jewish experience as dhimmis in Jerusalem, Poems of Zion, etc.

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