The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Mar 31, 2023

Is China in the Bible? R. Eichler's forthcoming article on מארץ סינים in Isaiah 49:12.

 Once in a while you run across an article that is just too interesting to pass up, regardless of whether or not its thesis will prove true in the long run. Such is the case with Raanan Eichler, "China Is in the Bible," Vetus Testamentum, forthcoming in 2023. The pre-print version of the article can be accessed from Brill here, for free.

And no, this is not some tribulation-eschatology article in the theological sense (though Isaiah 49 certainly deals with eschatology). The author's argument is strictly lexical and geographical. Here is the abstract:

"Isaiah 49:12 mentions 'the land of Sinim.' Gesenius and most nineteenth-century scholars identified this place with China, but virtually all scholars today identify it instead with Aswan (Syene) in southern Egypt. It is argued here, based on the literary context, the wording 'the land of [plural gentilic],' and the phonetics of Sinim, that the term means China."

It is worth repeating Eichler's point here that arguments for the phrase מארץ סינים meaning "from the land of China" existed over 100 years ago (so this article is not advancing a brand-new thesis). The article contains a helpful survey of scholarship on the issue. Also, Eichler devotes a significant portion of the paper to discussing ancient references to China and nearby places, suggesting that "It seems likely that knowledge of China would have spread westward north of the Tibetan Plateau along what would later become the Silk Road, and perhaps by other routes." Naturally, Eichler spends a lot of time raising objections to the predominant interpretation of "Aswan."

All-in-all an interesting read! I am not a Hebrew specialist, sadly, so I cannot even begin to offer a critical analysis. Yet I am requiring my Hebrew Syntax students to read it (yes, as proof that the Lord has a sense of humor, or at least irony, as a NT specialist I teach two semesters of Hebrew every other year 😀).

It is worth pointing out that Vetus Testamentum is in the top-10 of journals that publish material on the Jewish Scriptures. So kudos to Dr. Eichler on proving that quality scholarship does not have to be boring! 

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