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Kamal Suleiman Salibi (Arabic كمال سليمان الصليبي) (born in Beirutmarker, [1929]) is Emeritus Professor at the American University of Beirutmarker (AUB), Department of History and Archaeology, and Honorary President (formerly, founding Director) of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman, Jordanmarker.

A Protestant from the village of Bhamdoun (Lebanonmarker), he completed his secondary education at the Prep School in Beirut (now International College), and his BA in History and Political Science from the AUBmarker, before moving to the School of Oriental and African Studiesmarker, SOASmarker (University of London) where he earned his PhD under the supervision of Professor Bernard Lewis. His dissertation was subsequently published under the title Maronite Historians of Mediaeval Lebanon.

After his graduation from SOAS, Salibi joined AUB first as bibliographer of the Arab Studies Program and then as a professor in the department of History and Archaeology where he joined other famous historians such as Nicholas Ziadeh and Zein Zein. In 1965, he published The Modern History of Lebanon, which subsequently appeared in Arabic, Russian and French translations. Salibi eventually became one of the pillars of the history department, mentoring, training and supervising students such as Abdul-Rahim Abu-Husayn, a known expert in Ottoman history.

In the summer of 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Salibi was finalizing his book, The Bible Came from Arabia, which a German publisher brought out in German translation at the same time as the original English version was published in London. Salibi subsequently wrote other works on biblical subjects using the same etymological and geographic methodology. Meanwhile, he produced other books, notably A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered (1988) and The Modern History of Jordan (1993).

In 1994, Salibi helped found the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman, Jordan, of which he became full-time director from 1997 until 2004, following his retirement from AUB. Since then, he has been associated as a consultant with the Druze Heritage Foundation.

Arabian Judah theory

Kamal Salibi has written three books advocating the controversial "Israel in Arabia" theory. In this view, the placenames of the Hebrew Bible actually allude to places in southwest Arabia; many of them were later reinterpreted to refer to places in Palestine where the Hasmonean kingdom was established by Simon Maccabaeus in the second century BC.

The (literally) central identification of the theory is that the geographical feature referred to as הירדן, the “Jordan”, which is usually taken to refer to the Jordan Rivermarker, although never actually described as a “river” in the Hebrew text, actually means the great West Arabian Escarpment, the Sarawat Mountains. The area of ancient Israel is then identified with the land on either side of the southern section of the escarpment that is, the southern Hejaz and 'Asirmarker, from Ta’ifmarker down to the border with Yemenmarker.

The theory has not been widely accepted anywhere, and several academic reviewers (Beeston, Hammond, Parfitt) criticised Cape for having accepted “The Bible Came from Arabia” for publication. Salibi never disputes the general view, established by the epigraphic evidence, that Palestine was populated by speakers of Hebrew, or a language very like Hebrew, from an early date. According to Salibi, since there was cultural contact with West Arabia it is likely that many of these people were Jews, however that term is defined. He shares the view, however, of such scholars as Thomas L. Thompson that there is a severe mismatch between the Biblical narrative and the archaeological findings in Palestine. But whereas Thompson’s explanation is to discount the Bible as literal history, Salibi’s is to locate the centre of Jewish culture further south.

His theory has been both attacked and supported for its supposed implications for modern political affairs, although Salibi himself has made no such connection. For example Tudor Parfitt (cited below) wrote “It is dangerous because Salibi’s ideas have all sorts of implications, not least in terms of the legitimacy of the State of Israel”. Since the theory casts no doubt on the existence, location or legitimacy of the Hasmonean kingdom, nor rewrites in any way the history of Palestine in the last 2200 years or more, it can only have that implication for those who take literally the divine award of the Promised Land to Abraham and his successors.

The location of the Promised Land is discussed at length in chapter 15 of “The Bible Came from Arabia”. Salibi argues that the description in the Bible is of an extensive tract of land, substantially larger than Palestine which includes a very varied landscape, ranging from well-watered mountain-tops via fertile valleys and foothills to lowland deserts. In the southern part of Arabia there are recently-active volcanoes, near to which are, presumably, the buried remains of Sodom and Gomorrah.


  • Maronite Historians of Mediaeval Lebanon, Beirut, AUB Oriental Series 34, 1959
  • The Modern History of Lebanon, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1965
  • Crossroads to Civil War, Lebanon 1958-1976, Beirut, Caravan Books, 1976
  • Syria under Islam: Empire on Trial 634-1097, Beirut, Caravan Books, 1977
  • A History of Arabia, Beirut, Caravan Books, 1980
  • The Bible Came from Arabia, London, Jonathan Cape, 1985
  • Secrets of the Bible People, London, Saqi Books, 1988
  • Who Was Jesus?: Conspiracy in Jerusalem, London, I.B. Tauris, 1988
  • A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered, London, I.B. Tauris, 1988
  • The Historicity of Biblical Israel, London, NABU Publications, 1998
  • The Modern History of Jordan, London, I.B. Tauris, 1993
  • A Bird on an Oak Tree" (Arabic طائر على سنديانة), Amman, Ashshoroq Publishers, 2002

External links

  • more information and pictures of Asir.
  • Phillip C. Hammond's 1990 Review of The Bible Came from Arabia, in The International Journal of Middle East Studies (August, 1990)
  • gives lots of links.
  • Kamal Salibi's personal blog [55094].

References on his theory of Jewish history

Al-Ahram weekly, a major Egyptian publication, briefly alluded to it [55095]

Some critical reviews:

Supportive review:

  • Salamé-Sarkis, H., "Et si la Bible venait d'Arabie?", Berytus, Beirut 1985 XXXIII pp. 143-165

Books based on the “Bible from Arabia” theory:

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