We (And) the Philistines Migrating Ethnic Group? Neoliberal Entrepreneurs? Settler-Colonialists? or Good Pirates?

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Raz Kletter


In 1998, Neil Silberman showed how early scholarly portrayals of the Philistines reflected the values of the Victorians. The Philistines were presented by the Victorians either as good colonialists who brought an enlightened Indo-European civilization to the East, or as barbaric destroyers who ruined the supposedly decadent Canaanite culture. The time has come to reflect on more recent images of the Philistines. In the 1970–1980s, they went through a great transformation from a Bible-centered model or image of cruel invaders and enemies to that of an advanced, cultural people. Several other images have appeared since, competing for hegemony. I review them here, focusing especially on the most recent image of them as “merry pirates,” which has not yet been studied critically. My aim here is not to support any particular “image” of the Philistines but to study these scholarly constructions and their relations to our time. Based on the results, it seems that the future of the Philistines may be as unpredictable as their past.

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