In "The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations" (1965), scholar Cyrus Gordon argued for a common cultural origin for the Greek and Hebrew peoples. Specifically, he argued that both pre-Monarchic Israelite and Mycenaean Greek (i.e. Homeric or "heroic" Greek) cultures sprang from the same cultural matrix.

Is there any support for this view within the present scholarly/academic community?


3 Answers 3


Mycenaean Greek is an Indo-European language. Hebrew is a Northwestern Semitic language. This by itself makes the notion a non-starter.

Gordon makes the case in the book that Minoan and Hebrew have the same roots, and Minoan culture preceded the adoption of Greek in Mycenaea in his speculative Eastern Mediterranean civilization, but this is unfounded in science - as Minoan remains untranslated and unclassified. If it were as closely related to Hebrew as he claims, it would be translated or at least classified into a language family by now by tracing back language features to Northwestern Semitic or its precursors in the Afroasiatic family.

In short, Gordon could not prove Minoan was related to Hebrew in any meaningful way. Without a shared language, it's unlikely the cultures developed from the same source.

More, he was invested in other questionable historical beliefs that receive regular debunking - such as precolumbian trade with the Americas by many of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations.


To me this sounds all a bit too contrived. I haven't read the book but there is a contemporary review by Marvin Pope. Pope points out many flaws in Gordon's arguments and concludes by saying that

[F]or all the intermingling and syncretism in the Amarna age, it appears likely that Gordon has overstated the case for cultural and linguistic uniformity.

That said, this is not a subject I am deeply familiar with so I might be missing something (e.g. I don't know what's the current scholarship on whether the Minoan language was "Northwest Semitic", as Gordon had claimed, or not).

On the other hand, if one is looking for interaction between Greek and "Oriental" cultures, the much latter Orientalizing Period is something more solid. Check out especially the Pyrgi tablets.


Going back that far (to Mycenaean Greeks) seems kind of unnecessary (and tenuous) to me. When Alexander invaded and conquered the Levant it ultimately resulted in a fusion of Greek and Hebrew culture under the Laomedon Satrapy. For example, a synagogue was originally a Macedonian town hall, but this custom became general under the Hebrews. Many other such institutions and cultural combination occurred.

  • What custom became common under the Hebrews? Aug 15, 2015 at 10:37

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