John R. Salverda Claims Europeans Are a Lost Tribe of Israel, Cites Greek Mythology as Proof
Regular readers know that I like myths and legends, and I’m interested in tracing their origins and connections across time and space. That’s one reason I was excited last night to discover as I was doing some more reading in the Akhbar al-zaman, an early medieval collection of legends about Egypt known to Arabic writers, that a section in Murtada ibn al-‘Afif’s Prodigies of Egypt describing the antediluvian construction of fortresses in Chaldea inscribed with scientific knowledge appears in that book as well, word for word. Murtada had attributed the legend—a close parallel to the myth of Surid and the pyramids—to an ancient, partially destroyed manuscript he had found. I was quite surprised to learn that the Akhbar was either this manuscript or shared a common source with it. Interestingly, since this material appears in the Akhbar in association with Christian chronographic material that appears to be a corrupt version of Anianus’ chronography, it suggests that the Surid pyramid story was modeled on this one.
That kind of question is interesting to me because it doesn’t require us to believe that the Great Flood ever happened, or that any of the myths of Noah, Surid, or the Chaldean king Darmashil had any basis in reality. On the other hand, the kind of question that is much less interesting can be found in a two-part article (here and here) running this week on Ancient Origins, from an author who is a part of an apparently very active subculture attempting to resurrect the nineteenth century Genesis-first philosophy whereby Greek mythology was merely a corruption of the Bible.
John R. Salverda, an apologist for British Israelism, a Tea Party Nation member, and a user of casually racist language about “the Blacks” and “the Negroes,” denies the well-known belief that Europe was named for the Greek myth of the Phoenician maiden Europa, the sister of Cadmus, whom Zeus carried away in the form of a bull. His reason for it is that he thinks that there was an actual historical event that led to the naming of Europe. (“Europe” only became the name of a continent in the Hellenistic period, gradually expanding from limited use for the lands below the Balkans.) Oh, and just for laughs, it turns out that Europe was named by some of the Lost Tribes of Israel so God is the best! Seriously: The author laments that the public knows pagan myths better than the Jewish myth of the Lost Tribes.
Salverda’s warrant for this is a rationalizing account of the Europa myth offered by Herodotus in Histories 1.2 whereby the Greek author reported his belief that the bull form of Zeus represented a raiding party of Cretans, who were long famous for their use of bulls in ritual. Salverda feels that he can rationalize the story in a different way, taking the maiden Europa to be allegorical. He claims that one particular Semitic people, the Jews, symbolized nations as virgins, giving the examples of the virgin daughter of Sidon for Phoenicia (Isaiah 23:12), the virgin daughter of Babylon for Chaldea (Isaiah 47:1), and the virgin daughter of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:11). He might also have mentioned the inverse of this, the whores that represent Israel and Judah in Ezekiel 23:4, clearly playing off of this trope.
From this, our author notes that the northernmost leader of the Jews was Jeroboam, and thus claims that the Greeks feminized and transliterated Jeroboam into Europa, and the golden calves he set up in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12-26-30) into the taurine Zeus. This is problematic as an assertion since the Greek translators of the Septuagint transliterated it as Hieroboam, which is unlike Europa; I can find no plausible philological path from Jeroboam to Europa, even given the Greeks’ notoriously bad transliteration skills. Worse, Jeroboam reigned in the late tenth century BCE, more than three centuries after the fall of the Mycenaeans, who had had regular contact with the Levant. Europa is already firmly entrenched in Greek mythology by the time of Homer (Iliad 14.321) around 750 BCE, giving a scant 150 years for Jeroboam to be transformed into a Phoenician maiden. We can cut that time significantly if we accept that eight glass plaques depicting a woman riding a bull that were found in a beehive tomb at Midea and date to Mycenaean times were meant to represent Europa. If this is correct, as Martin Nilsson argued in Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, then the story of Europa predates that of Jeroboam. The identification of this and other Mycenaean depictions of women on bulls is not undisputed.
Salverda would like us to parallel Biblical accounts of the scattering of the Lost Tribes to Greek myths of various Mediterranean cultures tracing their lineage to the sons and brothers of Europa. “Considering the Scriptural narrative concerning the scattering of Israel’s Ten Tribes, the Greek myth of Europa and, the ensuing accounts, describing the western migrations by her Levantine kinsmen, display remarkable historic accuracy.” This need not be due to Biblical influence. The Greeks could see where the Phoenicians established colonies, and it takes no great imagination to attribute them to an ancient diaspora. The Greeks also attributed the Persians to Perseus and the Medians to Medea, so any such “connections” reflect more Greek socio-political considerations in the Classical and Hellenistic periods than they do Iron Age events. A key aspect of Greek historiography is that all people are connected through a few elite families that grew up after the Flood.
Salverda then identifies Jeroboam’s enemy Asa as the continent of Asia. This is prima facie false since the name Asia can be found on the Linear B tablets of Pylos as aswiai more than 300 years earlier. The Mycenaean digamma (w) drops out in later Greek, so aswiai > asiai > Ἀσία > Asia. He goes on to identify Minos as Manasseh, though recognizing that Manasseh reigned a bit late. He proposes a conflation, with the Greeks in error. Unfortunately, Minos is widely acknowledged to be a royal title of the Bronze Age kings of Crete, likely one of the few words deciphered in Linear A, and well established by the time of the Iliad (13.450), composed in all likelihood before Manasseh was even born around 709 BCE. Based on the false comparison, Salverda links the Minotaur (“bull of Minos”) to Moloch, the Phoenician god associated with child sacrifice, later identified with Kronos/Saturn. Salverda sees the infant sacrifice offered to Moloch as the same as the annual tribute of fourteen Athenian youths fed to the Minotaur. Cadmus, for Salverda, is David, though for no discernable reason other than an obscure mention in Isaiah 11:10-12 of assembling outcasts, likened here to Cadmus retrieving his sister.
Salverda concludes by saying that he won’t make the argument that Europeans are really the true Jews from the Lost Tribes, but, he says, there’s good reason to believe so. It’s British Israelism with a slightly more Continental flair, but no less circular an argument: Assume the Bible is true and that everything else is a corruption of it, and then conclude the same.
8/4/2015 08:51:04 am
A simple DNA comparison would disintegrate the British Israelite and the Ten Lost Tribes in Europe (as well as white men reaching the Americas first and leaving physical traces to be discovered hundreds of years later by white men) nonsense. Jews have remained a fairly homogeneous group through the last 2500 years, which allows them to be traced back to the Middle East. Likewise, different European populations can be traced back thousands of years to specific regions in Europe as well, even taking intermarriage between groups into account. While some groups of Jews may have fled to southern and eastern Europe (as well as Africa and Asia) following the Neo-Assyrian conquest, their numbers would not have, by any means, displaced native Europeans. There is also evidence that the legends of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were developed, and didn't appear, until after Christianity had established itself in Europe, making it easier for the kingdoms within and without the Holy Roman Empire to wriggle themselves into biblical history. The Irish annals written by monks are famous for it. The similarities between Greek and Semitic/Hittite myths--which include biblical myth--cannot be denied due to trade, war and diplomatic ties, but history can't be woven out of whole cloth to fit religious sentiment.
8/4/2015 09:48:34 am
8/5/2015 01:42:00 am
What lost tribes? According to Hebrew lore the Septaguent version of the OT was produced around 300 BCE by representatives of all 12 tribes - if they weren't lost then they were never lost or just legends.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
8/5/2015 05:43:11 am
A large portion of the population of Israel, which was supposed to be made up of ten of the 12 tribes, was exiled when Assyria conquered the country in the late 8th century BC. Individual members of the tribes must have fled to Judah (2 Chronicles even mentions several of them), but it is clear that a lot of the people of Israel were deported and replaced with exiles from Mesopotamia. Later folklore presumed that the Israelite exiles made up most of Israel's population, but that's almost certainly not the case. So the tribes didn't exactly go extinct, but there were a lot of "lost" people from those tribes. In reality, those people were just moved to Mesopotamia and lost their identity, but European tradition tried to find the lost tribes in every obscure corner of the planet for centuries.
Duke of URL
8/5/2015 05:02:41 am
Jason, you insult not only me, but a huge number of Americans, many many of them Black, when you imply that being "a Tea Party Nation member" means you're racist.
8/5/2015 05:38:18 am
Tea Party Nation is a specific Tea Party group, and the only one to be listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fact that Salverdo is a member is relevant, but not an indictment on the Tea Party movement at large.
8/5/2015 06:27:40 am
Tell the hillbillies in backwood America that are beneath dire poverty that politics is not the worst form of bullshit
8/5/2015 12:57:28 pm
The sad part is that the backwoods folk are in better shape than the abjectly poor in urban areas. At least the backwoods have building materials and game animals.
8/5/2015 10:06:05 pm
But the fact remains that politics is bullshit. Of whatever persuasion.
8/5/2015 12:38:06 pm
I have a very different kind of take on the Lost Tribes
8/5/2015 09:49:53 pm
But the fact remains that politics is bullshit. Of whatever persuasion.
11/19/2016 11:53:18 pm
In all honesty based on what Jason is saying, being mostly false. It seems he is the one with a racist mindset... Very sad.
7/30/2022 02:00:08 pm
Not only do I find Salverda's theory accurate, interesting and more realistic due to its biblicial connections and the great similarities amoungts mythology, greek and roman. I have found several scholars which agree. I am curios to know if you were up to debating this with him. If there is a link to the debate Please forward or publish I would enjoy to read how the two of ou navigated the conversation and differences in theory. I am also nauseated by your clear beta behavior by posting your opinionated hit piece where you defame Salverda, as a racist how you determine this is his use of the term "blacks" and tea party association. several people in the party are black. Also several people in the republican party are black. when you point out publicly that you do not understand the variety of interest and political beliefs that black people hold you insinuate as biden did that black people do not have a variety of beliefs, opinions and associations which is clearly a racist belief you hold and publish. Also black is not a derogatory term. Black is beautiful, I do not believe that its appropriate as a white man to hold and publish your racist belief that black is in any way derogatory. Also I do not think any black person needs your help as you try in a misguided uneducated way to stand up or point out what you think racism is. Black people fyi have a variety of opinions. They are educated and well spoken and can and do speak for themselves I hope you understand. ITS PLENTY FINE TO DISAGREE WITH SALVERDA IF YOU SO CHOOSE. However using defamatory personal attacks as the first point you make shows your weak beta opinion. further more I am certain you could not argue your theory competantly which is why you start with personal attacks as you first point because your theory is weaker than your beta approach to publish your argument on a personal blog where you censor and choose comments that fit your narrative. This is why I would have to lean into theory by Salverda it makes sense he clearly explains why and how he came to his conclusion. the bible is one of the very first books. He is not afraid to be questioned, or debated. He is kind and I have never interpreted him to be a racist of any kind.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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