Europeans Are Descendants of the Ancient Hebrews: Linguistic and Archaeological Evidence
By Reed Benson
For quite some time, it has been generally assumed that the Western Christian nations of Europe and North America have little connection to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. Religiously, these Caucasian Christian peoples were assumed to have simply adopted the Scriptures of the ancient Israelites and were "grafted in" to a spiritual Church Body during and subsequent to the New Testament era.
The greater truth is gradually being revealed by linguistics, archaeology, and historic records. More and more solid evidence is proving that there is a genetic link between ancient Hebrews and the Caucasian peoples of Western Europe. Exploration, trade, and colonization with the Western nations of Europe and even further afield are being clearly revealed. The evidence shows that Hebrew colonists left the Middle East during the Israelite captivity in Egypt and settled in various parts of Europe including Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and England. Much later, during the heady days of glory and power under David and Solomon, extensive trade routes were established to these aforementioned and other regions which grew into prosperous colonies. A close investigation of these links will prove fascinating.
One of the most durable connecting links indicating genetic descent is language. Languages are constantly changing and shifting, yet these numerous incremental alterations do not erase certain recognizable bases, roots, suffixes, etc. of common words. The modern languages of Western Europe are descended from the ancient Hebrew tongue. This is the expert opinion of a number of linguistic scholars who have reached this conclusion independent of one another.
The founder of modern anthropology, Dr. James Prichard published a study in 1857 entitled Eastern Origin of Celtic Nations. He determined that the Celtic language "forms an intermediate link between [the Indo-European] and the Semitic, or perhaps indicates a state of transition" (p. 349). He further states that "…even cautious investigators have not only given a list of Semitic elements in the Keltic, but have made the Keltic specially Semitic." That genetic descent in thus probable is verified by Prichard when he comments: "A common language is prima facie evidence in favor of a common lineage" (p. 380).
Dr. William Worrell, a professor of Semitics at University of Michigan, stated in his 1927 book A Study of Races in the Ancient Near East, that, "In the British Isles certain syntactic phenomena of insular Celtic speech have led to the inference that in this region languages were spoken which had some relation, however remote, to the Hamitic-Semitic family" (p. 46). He then goes to great length to show how ancient Egyptian and Hebrew are connected to the Celtic tongue.
A Danish scholar, Dr. Louis Hjelmslev, comments in 1970 in his book Language: An Introduction, referring to the work of a colleague: "A genetic relationship between Indo-European and Hamito-Semitic [i.e., Egyptian-Hebrew] was demonstrated in detail…" (p.79). Since that time, Danish scholars have proposed eliminating the separate language categories of Semitic and Indo-European, combining them in a new category called Nostratic, meaning "our own countryman."
In 1982, Dr. Terry Blodgett, an American linguist, received considerable attention for his doctoral dissertation Similarities in Germanic and Hebrew. He declares his research "has traced various tribes of Israel into Europe." A newspaper review of his work states, "Recent discoveries concerning the Germanic languages suggest there must have been extensive Hebrew influence in Europe, especially in England, Holland, Scandinavia, and Germany during the last seven centuries of the pre-Christian era [700 B.C. to Christ]." This influence would be a result of the dispersion of the Northern ten tribes of Israel after they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.
Dr. Isaac Mozeson, a Hebrew language scholar at Yeshiva University, published in 1989 a massive volume entitled, The Word, The Dictionary that Reveals the Hebrew Source of English. He demonstrates that over 5,000 common English words are of Semitic origin. He concludes by declaring "that English and Hebrew are profoundly connected."
It is a reasonable and safe assumption that linguistics prove that there is a clear and definite genetic link between the ancient Hebrews and the peoples of modern European extraction. How did this occur? What are the historical events that made such profound connections? Why is it not more well-known?
The Maritime Influence of David and Solomon
The sea travels and trading influences of the ancient Phoenicians have been documented. What has not been documented is the fact that the Israelites and the Phoenicians were inextricable partners in these adventures, much like the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes were a trio of seafaring adventurers during their own Viking era.
In The Bible Handbook Dr. Joseph Angus states, "That the Hebrew language was the common tongue of Canaan and Phoenicia is generally admitted." The well known archaeologist George Rawlinson had this to say regarding the their alphabet: "…This alphabet is that which has been commonly called Phoenecian, because the Greeks ascribed its invention to that people. It is, like the Hebrew, an alphabet of twenty-two letters."
In addition to sharing an alphabet and language that differed only in dialect, the Hebrews and Phoenecians shared a common racial origin, both claiming descent from Shem. The Phoenicians and Hebrews had a common enemy, the Philistines. The fact that Elijah stayed at length with a Phoenecian widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-16) indicates a close and comfortable relationship between the two peoples. The alliance between King David of Israel and King Hiram of Tyre is well known. Hiram supplied David with lumber and skilled craftsman to build his palace, while David provided grain. The military land forces of David and Solomon were without challengers in the Middle East, and the commercial and naval power of Tyre, the leading Phoenecian city-state, created a formidable alliance. During this period, Assyria and Egypt were quiescent, and Israel dominated the entire Middle East, holding many nations as vassals—Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Syria.
Solomon was determined to execise maritime power as well, Working with the Phoenicians, he built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, at the north tip of Red Sea. Hiram sent special naval experts to train Solomon’s own sailors (1 Kings 9:26-27). It was here, at this southern port of Israel, that massive copper smelters have been excavated by archaeologists and ascribed to the reign of Solomon. To this port, huge quantities of copper ore were shipped for smelting before being brought overland to Jerusalem. From where did this ore come? One intriguing possibility is that it was mined in North America and then brought across the Atlantic, then the Mediterranean, and finally through an ancient canal where the modern Suez Canal is now. This may seem far-fetched to an initiate of ancient history, but certain facts make it a reasonable possibility.
It is now known by archeologists that ships as heavy as 600 tons regularly plyed the waters of the Indian and Atlantic oceans in ancient times. This is far larger than Columbus’ largest ship in 1492. The naval technology existed for trans-Atlantic voyages. One of Solomon’s wives was the daughter of the Egyptian Pharoah, meaning he would likely have had access to the canal connecting the Red and Mediterranean Sea. Sesostris III of Egypt is credited as the first to open and maintain a Nile-Red Sea waterway, thus linking it to the Mediterranean, probably around 1400 B.C. Parts of the channel of this canal were still visible in the Wadi Tumilat, and was followed by the engineers as they laid out the modern Suez Canal. And most remarkable, several sites have been discovered in the Lake Superior region of North America where considerable copper mining occurred. The dates associated with these sites are about B.C. 1000. Dr. Barry Fell, a professor emeritus of Harvard University cites evidence that indicates the Phoenicians had regular ports of call on the Maine coast. He states in his book America B.C.: "these inscriptions, therefore, suggest that organized international maritime commerce was well established in the late Bronze Age, that North American ports were listed on the sailing timetables of the overseas vessels of the principal Phoenician shipping companies, and that the same information was circulated to customers in America." Further evidence that the Phoenicians were in America in ancient times was found in a site known as Mystery Hill in New Hampshire. Here are found ruins of shrines dedicated to the Phoenician and Canaanite god Baal.
Is it possible that ancient Hebrews were present in North America during this same period? It is more than possible—it is likely. Near Albequerque, New Mexico, a set of ancient Hebrew inscriptions have been found of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. Additionally, inscriptions in the Hebrew/Phoenician language have been found in various locations all across North America referring to the "ships of Tarshish." These discoveries in West Virginia, Rhode Island, Ohio, and elsewhere are plainly talking about one of two places called Tarshish in ancient times, both of Hebrew origin. The most likely location of ancient Tarshish is Spain. Long associated with the Phoenician trading empire, we know that Israelites were also present in Spain. It was from Spain (Tarshish) that Solomon sent fleets down the coast of Africa and brought back gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks (1 Kings 10:22).
A remarkable stone stele was found near Davenport, Iowa in 1874. It languished in obscurity for nearly a century because imbedded on it were inscriptions in three languages, all thought to be of Mediterranean origin, and thus an enigma for historians and archaeologists. The three languages were Egyptian, Iberian-Punic, and Libyan. The latter two are definitely Semitic and connect this monument to the ancient Hebrews. Iberian-Punic was a Semitic language spoken in Spain and the northern coast of Africa around Carthage. On this topic Dr. Barry Fell stated: "The Punic language can be read without difficulty, as it is similar to ancient Hebrew." Both Carthage and the coast of ancient Libya were colonized by Hebrew/Phoenician settlers beginning during the reign of Solomon and continuing subsequent to the breakup of Israel after Solomon’s death. After the revolt of the northern ten tribes, the maritime empire that was allied with the Phoenicians was dominated by the wealthier and more populous Northern Kingdom of Israel. In particular, the tribes of Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan continued to prosper due to their proximity adjacent to the Phoenician city-states and the Mediterranean coastline. As the population of the Northern Kingdom grew, colonizers set out to the west. It was during this period that Carthage was founded on the north coast of Africa, Cadiz in Spain, as well as other settlements along the shores of the Mediterranean. Interestingly, the ancient name of Cadiz is Gades, indicating a probable link to the northern tribe of Gad.
Very Early Links to Europe
There is clear evidence linking ancient Israelites to the British Isles and other locations in Western Europe. For example, the sixteenth English historian William Camden wrote: "The merchants of Asher worked the tin mines of Cornwall, not as slaves, but as masters and exporters." Another British historian, Edmund Creasy, wrote in the nineteenth century: "The British mines mainly supplied the glorious adornment of Solomon’s Temple."
There are clues that indicate that a portion of the tribe of Dan separated politically from the rest of the thirteen tribes of Israel very early in their history, no later than the period under the judges. Judges 5:17 states that Dan did "remain in ships" and Ezekiel 27, in listing various the nations that did business with Tyre, gave Dan its own identity separate from Israel and Judah. It is known that the Greeks had considerable contact with a Mediterranean seafaring people known as Danaans, or Danuana as early as B.C. 1200. Were these from the Hebrew tribe of Dan? It seems they were. Archaeologist Yigael Yadin made the following comment in Biblical Archaeology Review: "…The Danites were originally not members of the Israelite confederation…They seem, rather, to have been connected with a group of the Sea Peoples called Danuna or Denyen in Egyptian sources, and known to the Greeks as the Danaoi." The Danaans are known to have sailed and settled in a number of far flung locations throughout western Europe including Spain, Ireland, Britain, and, not surprisingly, Denmark. Their trade included tin from Cornwall, amber from the Baltic Sea coasts, and furs from Scandinavia.
Britain had long been a regular port of call for Phoenicians and Hebrews. Thus, it comes as no surprise when we discover that Israelite settlers migrated to Britain during this period of Israelite expansion overseas. Concerning the Welsh connection to ancient Israel, J.H. Allen wrote: "…the people of Wales call themselves, in ancient Welsh, ‘Bryth y Brithan’, or ‘Briths of Briton,’ which means ‘The Covenanters’ of the ‘land of Covenant.’ The first form of this phrase is almost vernacular Hebrew."
When the Northern kingdom of Israel began to collapse in the face of the growing Assyrian behemoth, many Israelites chose to emigrate to these already established overseas colonies. A series of invasions over a span of thirty years, culminating in B.C. 721 and the capture of Samaria after a three year siege, sent thousands of Israelites scattering to Carthage, Spain, Ireland, and Wales. Those that settled in the British Isles and the west coast of France formed the nucleus of Celtic culture and society that preceded later Israelite migrations into Europe by several hundred years.
What this article has outlined is only the merest sketch of the documentation connecting the Caucasian people of Western European descent to the ancient Israelites. We have briefly focused on the time period prior to the dissolution of the Northern Kingdom in B.C. 721. Large quantities of material also exist that discuss the mass migration of the Ten Tribes subsequent to the dispersion of B.C. 721, but that is another story. The facts of history, archaeology, and linguistics speak for themselves to those who are open-minded enough to consider them. The Caucasians of Western Europe are the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews.