Dating Genesis, Madai & Japheth

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Mon Dec 6 00:52:35 EST 1999

A rebuttal to some observations by Peter Kirk:

PK: This exception, with the Ludites listed as descendants of Mizraim,
doubtless reflects a tradition that the Lydians came from Egypt.

WRM: From Assyrian annals we know that Gyges of Lydia rebelled against
Asshurbanipal, and also sent Ionian and Carian Greek mercenaries to Saite
Egypt to aid them in their rebellion against the Assyrians. It could well be
that Genesis' Egyptian Lud/Lydia is alluding to this event, providing "a
marker" that Genesis is preserving an event from the 7th century BCE. This
would argue against Moses having written Genesis sometime in the 16th/15th
century BCE (unless one wants to posit a later redaction).

WM: ... We no longer need to fall back on the generality that all
northern mountain peoples must be Japhethic to account for Madai's
Japhethic descent.

PK: We now have an alternative theory, but no way of disproving the
old one.

WRM: Peter, I concede to you on this point. We do indeed have an alternate
theory now.

> Also the Greek myth could have been dependent on forms of Genesis or
> something similar to it, which could have made their way to Athens at
> this time.

WM: My research suggests that Genesis does indeed share certain motifs
with Homeric and Hesiodic myths (cf. my Smoking Guns paper, available
as an e-mail attachment). To say that the Greeks had to have had some
kind of knowledge of the bible, implying Genesis' influence on these
people is not a line of reasoning I can accept. I prefer to see Jews
in the Medo-Persian court, exposed to Greek ideas via Greek merchants,
physicians, mercenaries, Greek Satraps, ambassadors and spies,
introducing court Jews like Ezra and Nehemiah to Greek concepts.

PK: This "I prefer" sounds rather subjective. It is well known that
there was Canaanite/Phoenician influence on Greece at an early stage,
most notably with the alphabet, so surely Canaanite myths could have
made their way to Greece, or vice versa for that matter, long before
the Persian period. And surely one quite plausible source for a
tradition that developed around 590 BC in Athens would be Judean
refugees who fled westwards from the Babylonian invasion in 597/6 BC,
bringing with them, if not biblical texts at least some knowledge of
the traditions behind them.

WRM: It is undeniably true that Phoenicia had some influence on the Greeks,
and that history has taught us that ideas don't travel on a "one way
street," there is always to some degree a give and take flow "in both
directions". So, we could turn your observation around and say that Greek
ideas penetrated the Hebrew mindset in the pre-exilic period via the

All the best, Walter

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list