“India” in Early Jewish Literature

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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Several Jewish sources from late antiquity use the name India for what is patently not the country on the Asian subcontinent we call India today. In the light of Graeco-Roman usage in sources of the same period it becomes clear that the country meant is either Ethiopia or (a part of) Arabia.

Journal for the Study of Judaism

In the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period



See L. H. Feldman, Flavius Josephus, vol. 3: Judean Antiquities 1-4 (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 14-15. For a map showing the interconnectedness of the four rivers of Paradise see Alexander, “Early Jewish Geography,” 979. On the Nile-Ganges-Indus connection in Greco-Roman literature see also Schneider, L’Éthiopie et l’Inde, 35-40.


For more references see M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2002), 380-81.


Fischel, “India,” 1350.


See, e.g., G. D. Newby, A History of the Jews of Arabia from Ancient Times to Their Eclipse under Islam (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), 57-59.


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