While most of the major names of states and cities mentioned in the Bible (such as Jerusalem, Athens, Damascus, Alexandria, and Rome) have been used for centuries, others have changed over the years.
Even today, some of the names of the territories of the Holy Land are Arabized forms of ancient Hebrew and Canaanite place names used during biblical times or of later Aramaic or Greek formations. Most of these names have been handed down for thousands of years, and since the founding of Israel, in some parts of Palestine, many of the original names have been restored to Hebrew and referred to by their revised biblical names.
Nations of the past
A list of modern names compared to ancient territories given in the Bible:
- Iraq – ancient Assyria (northern Iraq) and Babylon (southern Iraq). Assyria conquered the ten northern tribes, and Babylon conquered Judah and Jerusalem.
- Iran – ancient Persia. Scene of the family stories of Daniel in the lion’s den and Esther.
- Syria – ancient Aram. Rarely united in ancient times, leading to multiple Aramean countries. The most important one in the Bible had Damascus as its center.
- Lebanon – home of the biblical cities of Tyre and Sidon and the ancient Phoenicians.
- Jordan – colonized in biblical times, from north to south, by Israel (tribes of Manasseh, Reuben and Gad), Ammon, Moab and Edom.
- West Bank – the modern name for the biblical lands of Judah (Judea), Ephraim and Manasseh (Samaria). Oddly enough, Israelis today do not live in most of the land that was the heart of ancient Israel.
- Gaza Strip – once part of the land of the Philistines (no relation to today’s Palestinians except in name). Most of the Philistine land is inhabited by Israeli Jews today, including the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
- Golan Heights – Biblical Bashan. Known for its cattle and oaks, but sparsely inhabited in the Biblical period.
- Turkey – in the Old Testament period this was home to a variety of peoples who are less directly related to the Bible (including the Hittites). In the New Testament period, Paul founded and worked with many churches, including those in Galatia, Ephesus, and Colossae.
- Greece – Paul of Tarsus’ second missionary journey focused on Macedonia (northern Greece) and Achaia (southern Greece). Macedonia includes the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica, while Achaia includes Athens and Corinth.
List of modern names for Biblical place names
Old Testament names
New Testament names