Friday, December 18, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Genesis 10

Now let’s look at some other things that fall out from setting Genesis 10 in Ebla’s times.
One of my favorite Torah commentators is Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitschaq of Troyes, France and Worms, Germany, mostly because we are both language geeks.  When Rashi glosses to other languages, it is mostly to Old French in his Torah commentary, to Old German in his commentary on the rest of Tannakh, and he throws in an occasional reference to Arabic or Greek.
But one thing Rashi wasn’t, is a scholar of Greek classics.
Rashi didn’t know anything about the Iliad.
His identification of Tiras (in Genesis 10) with Persia suited a lot of people. 
Those clergymen who read Greek were familiar with the Persians from histories like Thucydides and Herodotus, and familiar with the phrase “the laws of the Medes and the Persians,” and they knew that Cyrus (sponsor of the Second Temple) had Median origins, so they also tended to associate Madai with Media.
But Media and Persia were in Mesopotamia. 
The same people making this identification were also identifying Tuval, who like Tiras and Madai descended from Yefet, with the Anatolian Tibureni, famous through classical Greek and Roman times as iron workers.  They identified Gomer with the Cimmerians, another peri-Anatolian people.
With the results of 20th century archaeology, we find that in Ebla’s times, Tiras was in the same region as Wilusa, known as Troy to the Greeks from an eponymous ancestor Tros.  And Tiras’ relative Yavan is the eponymous ancestor of the Ionians.  And iron-working had been in progress in Anatolia for a couple of centuries – more  if you count the obvious signs of human work on meteoric iron as far back as 4000 BCE.
Those Greek-reading clergymen didn’t have the archaeological perspective available now, including the perspective of the material in Ebla.  They couldn’t see into the future and they would not have predicted discovery of the Linear B tablets about Ionian merchants (or mercenaries) in Crete, referred to in Mykenaean texts of the 1400s BCE.  (Linear B was identified as a language about 1900 and deciphered in the 1950s.)
The other names in Yefet’s descendants can be associated with Anatolia, so there’s no reason why Madai wasn’t also in Anatolia, not Mesopotamia, even if we don’t know what later people called it.
With the march of archaeology, I think all of Genesis 10 has to be re-evaluated.
But wait, there’s more.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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