Can it be that modern day Jews, descendants of the Biblical Israelites, are also the last of ancient Aegeans – the Minoans and the Mycenaeans of modern day Greece? Sounds crazy because we think of the Middle East and the Aegean as two different worlds – studied by two different departments in universities. But once you realize that in ancient times the cultures of the Aegean and the Middle East overlapped, many mysteries are solved. For example, the island of Crete, the center of Minoan civilization, is mentioned many times in the Bible. In scripture, Crete is called “Caphtor” as in Genesis 10:13-14, where a connection is made between Caphtor and the Philistines.
Speaking of the Philistines, it is widely acknowledged that they came from the Aegean and settled on the coast of modern day Israel and Gaza. The Book of Exodus refers to “the way of the Philistines” (Exodus 13:17) i.e., the coastline between Egypt and Israel. This reference to Philistines is often taken as evidence that the Torah i.e., the Five Books of Moses, must have been written after the Philistines arrived on the scene in 1200 BCE. But I believe that the archaeological evidence points to a date for the Exodus around 1500 BCE. So what do we do about the Philistines? How could the Bible be mentioning a people that did not arrive in the area until 300 years after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt? Well, the Philistines may have arrived in 1200 BCE but their predecessors, the Minoans, may have been in the Middle East since long before. The latest archaeology suggests that there was an Aegean presence in Israel as early as 1600 BCE! For example, the latest excavations at Tel Kabri on the Mediterranean coast, just north of Haifa, have revealed Aegean wall paintings from that period. In fact, Minoan wall paintings have been found all along the coast from the Egyptian Delta to Kabri to Qatna in Syria, to Alalakh in Turkey. Meaning, there were Minoans in the area and they seem to have had a “road” or “way” that ran along the coast. This is perfect synchronicity with the Biblical text.
Once we realize that we can look in the Aegean for Biblical archaeology, previously unnoticed evidence for the Biblical tale suddenly comes to life. For example, a Minoan wall painting was found in Santorini that depicts a magical city on a kind of man made island in the Nile. This image perfectly fits with ancient Avaris – I think, the city of the Ivri i.e., the Hebrews – in the Egyptian Delta. The evidence keeps mounting and it throws new light on the Book of Exodus. For example, when the Bible says that a “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) followed Moses out of Egypt, into the desert and eventually into Canaan, some of this “multitude” must have been Aegean, specifically Minoans.
Right after the Exodus, the Mycenaeans show up in the Aegean. Who are these people? They call themselves Danoi. Many years ago, the legendary Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin suggested a connection between the Danoi and the Israelite tribe of Dan. Both were sea-farers (see “The Song of Deborah”, Judges 5:17), both lived along the coast of the Mediterranean and the only place other than Mycenae that Aegean shaft graves were found is Tel Dan in northern Israel. In other words, Minoans might have joined the Israelites on the Biblical Exodus while Danites might have settled Greece right after that same event.
Once you realize the intimate contact between the Aegean and the Middle East at the time of the Biblical Exodus, you also realize that the great competitors to the Israelites in terms of religion were not the Egyptians but the Aegeans. For example, the golden calf may have been part of a “bull jumping” ceremony depicted on Minoan wall paintings. As another example, the Egyptians wore holy fringes that had a red thread among them, representing the blood of the goddess Isis. In contrast, the Minoans wore blue fringes just as religious Jews wear to this day!
So, to sum up, it may be that the Danites and the Danoi, the Philistines and the Minoans, the mixed multitude and the Israelites inhabited the same Bronze Age world. The Danoi of Greece come across through time as the most Israelite of the pagans, and the Danites of Israel come across as the most pagan of the Israelites. In the Book of Maccabees, it states that the Spartans were related to the Jews (1 Maccabees 12:1-23). A king of Sparta wrote to the High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem. Ancient Sparta is no more, but Jerusalem stands. Can it be that the last of the Minoans and the Mycenaeans are the Jews of today? Do they still carry ancient Aegean traditions embedded in the Torah? Can Israel reclaim the memory of its Danite past?