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orion-list Kittim in Dan 11:30?
Dear Orion list members,
I have recently been working on the background and origins of the term
'Kittim' in the Hebrew bible and other literature, especially as
background for the term in the pesharim, and in particular the whole
Greeks or Romans debate. Much of the literary evidence perhaps points to
an identification with the Seleucid Greeks, esp I Macc 1:1, 8:5, Jub.
24, 37 and, thanks to Russell Gmirkin's recent articles, the War Scroll
as well. Nevertheless, the Roman identification is often cited with
reference to the allusion to 'ships of Kittim' in Dan. 11:30 (and the
versions) and the clear parallel to Popilius Laenas's intervention
described in several classical sources, incl. Livy, Poybius and Diodorus
Siculus. I wonder whether this is necessarily the case?
While I do not disagree with the overall impression of the text
referring to Popilius I do question whether Kittim in this context
refers to Rome herself. The text on which Dan 11:30 is based, Num 24:24,
states that 'ships came from the land of Kittim' and while the Daniel
reference is itself difficult (a simple plural 'ships' followed by
'Kittim'), if we explore the classical sources, and esp. Livy, it
emerges that Popilius's ships were diverted to Delos to protect
Macedonian shipping before carrying out the task in Egypt (persuading
Antiochus Epiphanes to depart). Thus 'ships from the land of Kittim'
might refer to the fact that the Roman ships came from Delos, one of the
Greek islands. On this interpretation, Kittim fits into the Old
Testament model of Kittim as referring to the coastline of ancient
Greece and Macedonia (I Macc 1:1). In other words, Roman ships came from
It is easy to see how the LXX and Vulgate translators might have
misunderstood the reference in Daniel and thus the translation 'Romans'
slipping in to these texts, but is this an accurate reflection of the
meaning of Kittim in Dan. 11:30?
I invite thoughts and comments on this topic. Is there mileage in
pursuing this reading?
Department of Theology
University of Durham
For private reply, e-mail to Marcus Wood <M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk>
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