History of the Term Palestine
Where did the term Palestine originate from? How did the world and the church get into the habit of calling the land of Israel “Palestine”? One of the guides we use in our tours to Israel is Zvi Rivai, an Israeli Messianic believer, who has done considerable research on this subject. Zvi informs us that before 135 A.D., the Romans used the terms Judea and Galilee to refer to the Land of Israel. When Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Roman government struck a coin with the phrase “Judea Capta,” meaning Judea has been captured. The term Palestine was never used in the early Roman designations.
It was not until the Romans crushed the second Jewish revolt against Rome in 135 A.D. under Bar Kochba that Emperor Hadrian applied the term Palestine to the Land of Israel. Hadrian, like many dictators since his time realized the propaganda power of terms and symbols. He replaced the shrines of the Jewish Temple and the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem with temples to pagan deities. He changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitalina, and changed the name of Israel and Judea to Palestine. Hadrian’s selection of Palestine was purposeful, not accidental. He took the name of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Philistines, Latinized it to Palestine, and applied it to the Land of Israel. He hoped to erase the name Israel from all memory. Thus, the term Palestine as applied to the Land of Israel was invented by the inveterate enemy of the Bible and the Jewish people, Emperor Hadrian.
It is interesting to note that the original Philistines were not Middle Eastern at all. They were European peoples from the Adriatic sea next to Greece. It may have pleased Hadrian to utilize this Hellenistic term for the Jewish land. In any case, the original “Palestinians” had nothing to do, whatsoever, with any Arabs.