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4203[XTalk] Re: The Miracle Maker

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    Apr 1, 2000
      Bob Schacht wrote:

      >
      > Oh, honestly! Being "geographically identifiable" is useless. New York is
      > geographically identifiable, but is not exactly the kind of place to look
      > for stable ethnic groups. As for being "stable," please remember that
      > Palestine sits at the juncture of two continents, and at the time of Jesus
      > this crossroads was ruled by people from a third continent (Europe.) This
      > is just about the worst possible place (other than New York city, maybe) to
      > expect any kind of stable physiognomic markers to develop.

      Not to quibble about being honest, Bob, but isn't your comparison just a
      bit too much of an anachronism for an anthropologist? As a historian I
      would hardly compare pre-1st c. Galilee with NYC as far as population
      stability is concerned unless I was trying to stress differences. Unlike
      NYC all interstate highways did not lead to or thru Galilee. In fact,
      there were only three readily traversable routes on Galilee's western,
      southern & eastern borders (the Phoenicia coastal route from Sidon to
      Ptolemaic (Akko), the Jordan Valley from Caesarea Philippi to
      Scythopolis (Beth Shean) & the east-west Plain of Esdraelon, most of
      which in NT times lay in the province of Samaria to the south of
      Galilee. Most of Galilee was as mountainous & as difficult to access as
      Appalachia & like Appalachia was topically designed to support a stable
      ethnically homogeneous indigenous population, which is one of the
      factors that led Horsley to suggest the survival of a native northern
      Israelite "small" oral tradition of local heroes like Elijah & Elisha in
      1st c. Galilee (independent of Judean scripture) more than 700 years
      after the fall of Samaria.

      But we've been thru that discussion before on the old Crosstalk & I
      don't care to rehash it in detail here. My point is simply to question
      your sweeping statement that Galilee "is just about the worst possible
      place (other than New York city, maybe) to expect any kind of stable
      physiognomic markers to develop." Where do you find historical evidence
      of invading armies other than the Israelites sweeping thru or settling
      in Galilee proper?

      True, there were substantial Greek colonies in the Decapolis, most of
      which was is in Transjordan, to the South & East of Galilee. And some
      ancient Semitic settlements in strategic places (e.g., Philoteria on the
      southern tip of the Sea of Galilee) had been Hellenized before the time
      of Jesus. From ancient times there was a regular stream of commerce on
      the so-called Via Maris that led from Damascus to the Mediterranean
      along the west side of the Sea of Galilee & passed just to the south of
      Nazareth. But most of the traffic on that route throughout history was
      probably regional trade between various Semitic peoples (Hebrews,
      Syrians, Phoenicians, Itureans, etc.).

      Most importantly for the question of mixing populations, however, is the
      fact that before the time of the Herods there was no major city in
      Galilee proper which could act as a magnet for attracting diverse ethnic
      groups. Before the time of Jesus, Sepphoris was at best a regional
      administrative center. It was Antipas who turned it into a Romanized
      city during Jesus' youth. Jesus may have already been an adult before
      Tiberias was built. And Tiberias is the only center in Galilee for which
      we have evidence of (forced!) settlement by a mixture of ethnic groups.
      Where is there any evidence of Romans or other non-Israelites in
      Galilee's rural hillside villages like Nazareth?

      Add to this the fact that early Xn tradition regularly represented Jesus
      as a "Jew" with Judean roots. Even if one questions his alleged Davidic
      lineage as legendary, where would you find any evidence that Jesus had
      non-Semitic genes apart from the rather late legend that he was sired by
      a Roman soldier? BTW even if the rabbinic designation of Jesus as "bern
      Pantera" is given credence, it would not prove Jesus had European genes.
      For the 1st c. Roman soldier Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera whose
      tombstone was found in Germany in 1859 is specifically identified as a
      Sidonian & therefore probably an ethnic Phoenician & a Semite.

      I conclude there are no good historical grounds for concluding that
      Jesus was anything but a full-blooded Semite & probably an ethnic Hebrew
      of Judean extraction.

      Shalom!

      Mahlon

      --

      *********************

      Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
      Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
      New Brunswick NJ

      Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

      A Synoptic Gospels Primer
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

      Jesus Seminar Forum
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
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