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It has been suggested that Japhetic theory be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)

Japhetic is a term that refers to the supposed descendants of Japheth, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible. It corresponds to Semitic (descendants of Shem) and Hamitic (descendants of Ham). Variations of the term include Japhetite and Japhethitic.

Japhetic geography and race

T and O map Guntherus Ziner 1472

A stylised T and O map, depicting Europe as the home of the descendants of Japheth (bottom left). Africa is ascribed to Ham and Asia to Shem.

Traditionally, Japheth has been believed by some to be the progenitor of the peoples of Europe. Thus "Japhetic" came to be used as a synonym for Europeans, as well as Asians. In medieval Europe, the world was believed to have been divided into three large-scale racial groupings. In addition to the Japhetic peoples of Europe, the Semitic peoples were equated with all Middle-easterners, Arabs and Israelites, and Hamitic peoples with Africans.

The link between Japheth and the Europeans is reflected in Genesis 10:5, which states that the sons of Japheth moved to the "isles of the Gentiles" — commonly believed to be the Greek isles, while others claim them to be the British Isles.

In the Bible, Japheth is ascribed seven sons and seven grandsons:

The intended ethnic identity of these 'descendants of Japheth' is not certain; however, over history, they have been identified by Biblical scholars with various historical nations who were deemed to be descendants of Japheth and his sons — a practice dating back at least to the classical encounters of Jew with Hellene, for example in Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, I.VI.122 (Whiston). Josephus wrote:

Japhet, the son of Noah, had seven sons: they inhabited so, that, beginning at the mountains Taurus and Amanus, they proceeded along Asia, as far as the river Tanais (Don), and along Europe to Cadiz; and settling themselves on the lands which they light upon, which none had inhabited before, they called the nations by their own names.

Josephus subsequently detailed the nations supposed to have descended from the seven sons of Japheth.

Among the nations that various later writers (including Jerome and Isidore of Seville, as well as other traditional accounts) have attempted to assign to them, are as follows:

Extrabiblical genealogies


An ancient, relatively obscure text known as Pseudo-Philo and thought to have been originally written ca. 70 AD, contains an expanded genealogy that is seemingly garbled from that of Genesis, and also quite different from the much later one found in Jasher[1]:

  • Sons of Japheth: "Gomer, Magog, and Madai, Nidiazech, Tubal, Mocteras, Cenez, Riphath, and Thogorma, Elisa, Dessin, Cethin, Tudant."
    • Sons of Gomer: Thelez, Lud, Deberlet.
    • Sons of Magog: Cesse, Thipha, Pharuta, Ammiel, Phimei, Goloza, Samanach.
    • Sons of Duden: Sallus, Phelucta Phallita.
    • Sons of Tubal: Phanatonova, Eteva.
    • Sons of Tyras: Maac, Tabel, Ballana, Samplameac, Elaz.
    • Sons of Mellech: Amboradat, Urach, Bosara.
    • Sons of <<As>>cenez: Jubal, Zaraddana, Anac.
    • Sons of Heri: Phuddet, Doad, Dephadzeat, Enoc.
    • Sons of Togorma: Abiud, Saphath, Asapli, Zepthir.
    • Sons of Elisa: Etzaac, Zenez, Mastisa, Rira.
    • Sons of Zepti: Macziel, Temna, Aela, Phinon.
    • Sons of Tessis: Meccul, Loon, Zelataban.
    • Sons of Duodennin: Itheb, Beath, Phenech.


The "Book of Jasher", a midrash (elaboration of the biblical text) first published in 1625, provides some new names for Japheth's grandchildren. Additions, not seen in the Bible or any other source:

Gomer lineage

Gomer "complete" (sons were Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah[2]) - also Gamir, Gommer, Gomeri, Gomeria, Gomery, Goth, Guth, Gutar, Götar, Gadelas, Galic, Gallic, Galicia, Galica, Galatia, Gael, Getae, Galatae, Galatoi, Gaul, Galls, Goar, Celt, Celtae, Celticae, Kelt, Keltoi, Gimmer, Gimmerai, Gimirra, Gimirrai, Gimirraya, Kimmer, Kimmeroi, Kimirraa, Kumri, Umbri, Cimmer, Cimmeria, Cimbri, Cimbris, Crimea, Chomari, Cymric, Cymry, Cymru, Cymbry, Cumber

In Western tradition Gomer lineage is associated with Caledonians, Picts, Milesians, Umbrians, Helvetians, Celts, Galatians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Goths, Vandals, Scandinavians, Jutes, Teutons, Franks, Burgundians, Alemanni, Armenians, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, Luxembourgers, Liechtensteiners, Austrians, Swiss, Angles, Saxons, Britons, English, Cornish, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and other related groups);

In alternate Caucasian and Asiatic genealogies Gomer is also ancestor of Turks, Bulgars, Tartars, Cossacks, Circassians, Bashkirs, Chuvashes, Khazars, Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Phrygians, Bithynians, Carpathians, and Paphlagonians.

Magog lineage

Magog "land of God" (sons were Elichanaf and Lubal[3]) - also Gog, Gogh, Magug, Magogae, Mugogh, Mat Gugi, Gugu, Gyges, Bedwig, Moghef, Magogian, Massagetae, Dacae, Sacae, Scyth, Scythi, Scythia, Scythae, Sythia, Scythes, Skuthai, Skythai, Scythia, Skythia, Scynthia, Scynthius, Sclaveni, Samartian, Scoloti, Skodiai, Scotti, Skoloti, Skoth-ai, Skoth, Skuthes, Skuth-a, Askuza, Askuasa, Alani, Alans, Alanic, Ulan, Uhlan also Rasapu, Rashu, Rukhs, Rukhs-As, Rhos, Ros, Rosh, Rox, Roxolani, Rhoxolani, Ruskolan, Rosichi, Rhossi, Rusichi, Rus, Ruska, Rossiya, Russian (Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians); also Mas-ar, Mas-gar, Masgar, Mazar, Madj, Madjar, Makr-on, Makar, Makaroi, Merkar, Magor, Magar, Magyar, Mohgur (Hungarians - also Hungar, Hunugur, Hurri, Gurri, Onogur, Ugor, Ungar, Uhor, Venger); Siberians, Yugoslavians, Croatians, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Serbians, Slovenes, Slovakians, Bulgarians, Poles, Czechs, and other related groups);

Also Turks, Hungarians, Huns, Voguls, Finns, Lapps, Estonians, Mordvins, Karelians, Komi-Zyrians, Udmurts, Izhorians, Livonians, and Siberians.

Madai lineage

Madai "middle land" (sons were Achon, Zeelo, Chazoni and Lot) - Medes, Persians, Caspians, Achaemenians, Manneans, Iranians, Afghans, Hazaras.

Javan lineage

Javan "miry" (sons were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim[4]) - also Jevanim, Iewanim, Iawan, Iawon, Iamanu, Iones, Ionians, Ellas, Ellines, El-li-ness, Hellas, Hellenes, Yavan, Yavanas, Yawan, Yuban, Yauna, Uinivu, Xuthus (Greeks, Fomorians, Spartans, Dorians, Britons, Aeolians, Achaeans, Myceneans, Ancient Macedonians, Carthaginians, Cypriots, Cretans; Also Anatolians, Cilicians, Greeks, Ionians, Tartessians, Cypriots, Ancient Macedonians, and the aboriginal inhabitants of the British Isles such as the Irish Travellers.

Tubal lineage

Tubal "brought" (sons were Ariphi, Kesed and Taari[5]) - also Tabal, Tabali, Tubalu, T'bilisi, Tibarenoi, Tibareni, Tibar, Tibor, Sabir, Sapir, Sabarda, Subar, Subartu, Thobal, Thobel, Tobol, Tobolsk (Russians, Georgians, Dagestanis, Chechens, and other related groups);

Also Avars, Basques, Colchians.

Meshech lineage

Meshech "drawing out" (sons were Dedon, Zaron and Shebashni[6]) - Me'shech, Mes'ek, Meshekh, Meskhi, Mushch, Muschki, Mushki, Mishi, Muski, Mushku, Musku, Muskeva, Muska, Muskaa, Muskai, Maskali, Machar, Maskouci, Mazakha, Mazaca, Massagatae, Mtskhetos, Modar-es, Moskhi, Moshkhi, Mosher, Moshch, Moschis, Mosoch, Moschi, Moschian, Mo'skhoi, Moschoi, Mosochenu, Mosochean, Mossynes, Mosynoeci, Moskva, Moscovy, Moscow (Russians, Muscovites, Latvians, Lithuanians, Romanians, and other related groups);

Also Moschi, Sarmatians, Alans, Ossetians, Georgians, and Cappadocians.

Tiras lineage

Tiras "desire" (sons were Benib, Gera, Lupirion and Gilak[7]) - also Tiracian, Thracian, Thirasian, Thuras, Troas, Tros, Troia, Troi, Troy, Trajan, Trojan, Taunrus, Tyrsen, Tyrrhena, Rasenna, Tursha, Tusci, Tuscany, Etruscan, Eturscan (Thracians, Pelasgians, Phrygians, Leleges and Etruscans.

Japhetic and Caucasian

The term Caucasian as a racial label for Europeans derives in part from the assumption that the tribe of Japheth developed its distinctive racial characteristics in the Caucasus area, having migrated there from Mount Ararat before populating Europe. In the same vein, Georgian nationalist histories associated Japheth's sons with certain ancient tribes of the Caucasus area, called Tubals (Tabals, Tibarenoi in Greek) and Meshechs (Meshekhs/Mosokhs, Moschoi in Greek), who they claimed represented ancient pre-Indo-European and non-Semitic, possibly "Proto-Iberian", tribes of Asia Minor of the 3rd-1st millennias BC. This theory influenced the use of the term Japhetic in the linguistic theories of Nikolai Marr (see below).

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century the Biblical statement that "God shall enlarge Japheth" (Genesis 9:27) was used by some Christians as a justification for the "enlargement" of European territories through Imperialism, which was interpreted as part of God's plan for the world. The subjugation of Africans was likewise justified by the curse of Ham.


The term Japhetic was also applied by William Jones, Rasmus C. Rask and other pre-Darwinian linguists to what later became known as the Indo-European language group, on the assumption that the principal languages of Europe would have originated with the tribe of Japheth.

In a conflicting sense, it was also used by the Soviet linguist Nikolai Marr in his Japhetic theory, which was intended to demonstrate that the languages of the Caucasus formed part of a once-widespread pre-Indo-European language group, and also to apply Marxist notions of class consciousness and class struggle to language.


See also

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Japhetic. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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