The Term 'Palestine'
term 'Palestine' is derived from the Philistines. In the
fifth century BC the Greek historian Herodotus seems to have
used the term Palaistine Syria (= Philistine Syria) to refer
to the whole region between Phoenicia and the Lebanon
mountains in the north and Egypt in the south. (While the
exact meaning intended by Herodotus is debated, later Greek
writers certainly used 'Philistine Syria' in this very broad
the second century BC, under the Hasmonean priest-kings, the
name of the tribe of Judah became applied to a very wide
region, and when the Romans took control of that territory
in 63 BC they called it Provincia Judaea.
in AD 135, after putting down the second major Jewish revolt
against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to blot out the
name of the province to Provincia Syria Palaestina (ie the
Latin version of the Greek term). This was later shortened
to Palaestina, from which the modern 'Palestine' is
the term does not originate until the fifth century BC at
the earliest, it does not occur in the Old Testament. (in
the KJV we do find 'Palestine' in Joel 3:4 and 'Palestina'
in Exod 15:14 and Isa 14:29, but these are errors of
translation; both should be 'Philistia', as in the RSV.)
the name "Palestine" has political overtones which many find
objectionable, and for that reason some writers deliberately
avoid using it. However, the alternatives are either too
clumsy to be used repeatedly, or else they are inaccurate
when applied to certain periods, so "Palestine" remains a
useful term when kept free of political implications."
"The Compact Handbook of Old Testament Life"
(Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1988)