Dating Genesis, Madai & Japheth

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Sun Dec 5 04:30:06 EST 1999

I have been following with great interest the current discussion about
Genesis and note that not much has been said about establishing its
historicity.  As is well known to many viewers of this list, various
theories exist about just when this book was created. Theories extend from
the days of Moses in the 16th/15th century BCE to the Hellenistic era and
Hasmonean times, that is, the 3rd through 2nd centuries BCE.

The problem all are wrestling with is the finding of markers within the text
that would help in its dating. I am of the persuasion that Genesis as we
currently have it in its present form, cannot be any earlier than the 6th or
5th century BCE, preferring the latter century.  The "marker" for me is
Genesis' statement that Madai, the eponymous ancestor of the Medes, is a son
of Japheth (Ge. 10:2). This statement has baffled scholars for nigh on to
two thousand years. Various scholars have noted that Japheth is also the
father of Javan, identified with Ionia, and they have deduced that the
Ionian Greeks have legends of their descent from a mythical Titan called
Iapetos who has been tentatively identified with Genesis' Japheth.  The
problem has been how did Indo-European Medes come to be identified as sons
of  the Greek Titan Iapetos ?

My research suggests that Madai's descent from Japheth/Iapetos is based on
an Athenian Greek myth about Medus (son of a Greek king of Athens called
Aegeus), who travels to Asia and becomes the founder of the Median nation
and empire. I have determined that this Athenian myth is not any earlier
than the 6th century BCE. The Medo-Persian royal court took this "silly
myth" and transfromed it into devastating political propaganda. Darius I's
(522-486 BCE) Median general Datis, claims he is invading Greece (490 BCE)
to take what is rightfully his ancestor's patrimony, citing the Medus myth,
that has Medus expelled as an heir to the throne of Athens. This story is
preserved in Diodorous Siculus' History (ca. 55 BCE).  I suspect that Jews
in the Medo-Persian court of Darius I, hearing the Persian claims to Athens
and Greece via Madai/Medus, incorporated Madai's descent from
Japheth/Iapetos accordingly. So, a Greek myth, used as political propaganda,
circa 499-490 BCE, and accepted by the Jews serving in the Persian court
(all the Persian kings tracing their descent from Madai/Medus via Cyrus I,
the grandson of Astages, last king of Media) of Darius I lies behind
Genesis' account and dates that book to this period.  Cyrus I's Median
ancestry also makes all the kings of Persia descendants of Japheth/Iapetos
according to Genesis, and I thus identify Noah's blessing of Japheth to
co-rule Canaan with Shem, as alluding to Yehud/Judaea, a part of Canaan
co-ruled by Post-exilic Jews and their Medo-Persian overlords.

Of course, one can take various positions if the above suppositions prove to
be acceptable. Fundamentalists could argue this is only proof of a later
editing of Genesis in the Persian Period, while those favoring a Hellenistic
creation would say, this is only a relic of an earlier editing, and the work
is later for other cited reasons.

The above brief summary is available as a 12 page paper titled "Dating the
Pentateuch, Unraveling the Japheth Mystery" as an e-mail attachment, zipped
or un-zipped in RTF or ASCII.

Please do not send your requests to this list. Send your request to

mattfeld at

All the best,
Walter Reinhold Warrtig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg
Baden Wurttemburg

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