My dad, ever the brilliant man that he is, asked me these questions in connection with the Christmas celebration. And if they are his questions, I presume others ask the same questions too. I happen to know the answers because four years of theology and of a Master’s in Higher Religious Studies should not be for nothing.
First, the term Palestine: In Old Testament and New Testament times (and there were serious differences between geographies in these periods), Palestine referred to that entire swathe now going as far as Lebanon in the north, the Sinai in the South, Jordan on the East, and the Negev on the West.
So, Palestine was a region.
Second: The history and the geography
1500 B.C.: If we put the Exodus at around 1500 B.C. (whether it was a grand march into Canaan or a gradual occupation of the land), then the whole area West of the Dead Sea and of the Sea of Chinnereth (Sea of Galilee) and North of the Sea of Chinnereth was Canaan.
12th century B.C..: The Israelites arrived. A large part of what used to be Canaan was occupied by the Tribes of Israel: Ephraim, Judah, Gad Manasseh and Reuben virtually surrounded the Dead Sea. Still farther north was Zebulun, and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee was Naphtali. Northmost was Dan.
1000 B.C. (more or less): The Davidic Monarchy and the Davidic Dynasty. By this time, David had wrested control of all of Canaan 10th century B.C.: Sadly, two kingdoms arose instead of one: in the North, Israel, in the South, Judah with Jericho at the boundary.
721 B.C.: Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, fell to the Assyrians.
587 B.C.: Jerusalem, capital of the Southern Kingdom, fell to the Babylonians. The people (at least the leading families and most of the inhabitants) were carried of into exile.
In Graeco-Roman times: There were notably the following provinces:
Iturea in the North
Galilee south of Iturea
Samaria south of Galilee Judea south of Samaria Idumea south of Judea
Strictly then, NO ONE was a Palestinian. He was either Galilean, Samaritan, Iturean, Judean or Idumean ( BTW, Herod was not Judean but Idumean). In fact, nobody called it Palestine. The term is used like “Near East”, “Middle East” and “Far East” were used by Medieval writers referring to lands, places and peoples that were actually myriads of tribes and nations calling the lands they roamed whatever fancied them long before the Medieval Period.
Third: the Palestine of Jesus and Jerusalem
So the Palestine throughout which Jesus preached and ministered included:
Bethlehem which was in the province of Judea
Nazareth and Capernaum which were northwards, in the province of Galilee and finally, back to Judea—specifically in Jerusalem, where he died.
In between Galilee and Judea was Samaria—and the Samaritans were the remnants of the Northern Tribes who were disdained by the Judeans, considered heathen, in fact, hence the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and of course, the paradox of the Good Samaritan.
So, as far as Biblical history goes—backed by the archaeological and historical evidence available—Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and Samaria, of Israel.
In Roman times, it was the capital of the Jewish Province of Judea—which is why Pontius Pilate was Procurator there.
These are the facts as best we have them. email@example.com