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Biblical Archaeology Review 27:3, May/June 2001

When Palestine Meant Israel

By David Jacobson

Most people assume that the name Palestine derives from “Land of the Philistines” (Peleshetin the Hebrew Bible; see Psalms 60:10; Isaiah 14:29, 31), via the Greek Palaistinêand the Latin Palaestina. But there is evidence, both philological and geographical, that questions this traditional attribution. The name Palestine, surprisingly, may have originated as a Greek pun on the translations of “Israel” and the “Land of the Philistines.”

Let us first consider the geographical problem. The Greek Palaistinê and the Latin Palaestina appear frequently in ancient literature, but for the most part, they appear to refer not to the Land of the Philistines, but to the Land of Israel!

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