Archaeologists claim they have discovered the remnants of the Jewish Khazar kingdom in southern Russia. The following is an excerpt from the news release:
The Khazars were known to be a semi-nomadic Turkic people who dominated the Pontic steppe and the North Caucasus regions from the 7th to the 10th century CE. The origin of the Khazars and their apparent conversion to Judaism is the subject of major dispute among modern historians.I do not know much about the Khazars and their kingdom. This new report has prompted me to read more about these people and their kingdom.
In the 7th century CE, the Khazars founded an independent khaganate, or kingdom, in the Northern Caucasus along the Caspian Sea. It is believed that during the 8th or 9th century, around the height of their kingdom, the state religion became Judaism at the order of the king. At this point, the Khazar khaganate and its tributaries controlled much of what is today southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the Caucasus (including Circassia, Dagestan, Chechnya, and parts of Georgia), and the Crimea.
The first Jewish Khazar king was named Bulan, which means "elk", though some sources give him the Hebrew name Sabriel. A later king, Obadiah, strengthened Judaism, inviting rabbis into the kingdom and building synagogues.
References to a Jewish kingdom of Khazars are numerous in rabbinic literature from the Middle Ages and later. Among them is the famous tale by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, related in his 12th-century work The Kuzari, which recounted the conversion of the Khazar king to Judaism resulting from a lengthy conversation with an unnamed Jewish "wise man."
Among other Jewish sources supporting the Jewish identity of the Khazars is a letter written by Avraham ibn Daud, a renowned writer, who reported meeting rabbinical students from Khazar in Toledo, Spain in the mid-12th century. The well-renowned Schechter Letter recounts a different version of the conversion of the Khazar king, and mentions Benjamin ben Menachem as a Khazar king. Saadia Gaon, considered by many to be the greatest rabbi of his generation in the 10th century, also spoke favorably of Khazars in his writings.
The belief in a Jewish Khazar kingdom enjoyed wide belief in non-Jewish literature as well, including classical Muslim sources cited in modern times to demonstrate that the homeland of the Jews is in Khazar and not Israel.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Kazars