Japhetic races are said to be descended from Japheth, one of three sons of Noah in the Bible.

Japheth (in Hebrew, Yaphet) is a transliteration of the Greek Iapetos, the ancestor of the Hellenic peoples. His sons and grandsons associate him with the geographic area of the eastern Mediterranean and Asia - Ionia/Javan, Rhodes/Rodanim, Cyprus/Kittim, and other points in the region of Greece and Asia Minor - approximating to one of the three kingdoms into which the generals of Alexander the Great divided his empire on his death (the descendants of Shem and Ham respectively correspond to the other two, those of the Ptolemies and Seleucids). As the point of the "blessing of Japheth" seems to be that Japheth (a Greek-descended people) and Shem (the Israelites) would rule jointly over Canaan (Palestine).

Some theologians increasingly see the Japhetic descendants to produce the Achaemenid Empire (probably 450-350 BCE), although some would place its production in the Hellenistic period (333-164 BCE) or even the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE).