Israel? Palestine? Canaan? Syria-Palestine? Levant? Cisjordan?
Posted by NT Wrong on September 20, 2008
What is the name that I should use to refer to the historical culture of the area south of Syria, north of the Sinai, and west of the Jordan, in the general time period 1200 – 600 BC? Sure, this has been endlessly debated before. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve still got to use one term or another in order to refer to it. Although, maybe I’m already assuming some level of cultural discreteness in the area which did not exist? Passing over that disturbing thought for the moment (while keeping it in mind), here’s the options:
‘Canaan’? Either anachronistic or too literary-ideological.
‘Israel’? Too literary-ideological, and way too ambiguous.
‘Palestine’? A bit anachronistic, and confusing given its predominant twenty-first century meaning.
‘Syria-Palestine’? I probably don’t want to get that far north – or is there not such a difference in historical culture and politics (eg Damascus and Samaria were allied against Judah)?
‘The Levant’? That’s a bit big (Egypt to Anatolia), although some of the more recent usage seems to exclude Egypt and Anatolia, thus making it equivalent to Syria-Palestine (still too big), yet oddly making the term ‘Levantine’ less applicable to the area. It’s too Western-orientated, too.
‘South-central Levant’? That probably fixes it geographically, more or less. It’s still loaded with an Occidental viewpoint, however. And lets face it, it’s an ugly term.
‘The Cisjordan’? This is probably the same area, geographically, as the ‘South-central Levant’. And we’ve got rid of the Occidental bias. By defining things solely in geographically terms, the politics is largely excluded (although, never completely eradicated, because the boundaries are still political). This may be a problem if the political entity or cultural ties are closer to the Transjordan (was Judah closer to Moab than Samaria?), or extend northwards or southwards. One problem is that it doesn’t have very much common usage. But that shouldn’t stop academic usage.
I think ‘the Cisjordan’ wins.
But please suggest others for my consideration!
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