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4206[XTalk] Re: The Miracle Maker

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  • Robert M. Schacht
    Apr 1, 2000
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      At 07:32 AM 04/01/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
      >Bob Schacht wrote:
      >> Oh, honestly! Being "geographically identifiable" is useless. New
      York is
      >> geographically identifiable, but is not exactly the kind of place to
      >> for stable ethnic groups. As for being "stable," please remember that
      >> Palestine sits at the juncture of two continents, and at the time of
      >> this crossroads was ruled by people from a third continent (Europe.)
      >> is just about the worst possible place (other than New York city,
      maybe) to
      >> expect any kind of stable physiognomic markers to develop.

      Mahlon replied,
      >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?

      Well, of course, NYC is not the best parallel. But if you'll go back and
      read what I wrote, I was writing not about Galilee, but about Palestine.
      And as for invading armies, is not Megiddo (from which we derive
      Armeggidon) located on the threshhold between Galilee and Samaria? Is not
      the Plain of Esdraelon the historical battle ground of numerous campaigns
      by Egyptian vs. Assyrian or Bablylonian armies? When I was with the
      archaeological team excavating at Tell Ta'anach, 5 miles down the road
      from Megiddo, there were anti-tank trenches carved into the summit of the
      Tell (not that they did any good in the war of 1967, when Israel went by
      so fast that the Palestinians didn't have time to man their guns). On one
      of my holidays, I got out the topomaps and tried to retrace on foot the
      path one of the Egyptian armies probably took thousands of years ago.

      >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.).

      Um, well, maybe so at *some* (to borrow some of your asterisks) times in
      history, but your sweeping statement that this applies "throughtout"
      history can hardly be sustained. Besides, some historians consider the
      overland traffic from Egypt to Damascus historically significant since
      the time of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt? And doesn't Crossan argue that
      the lesson of Sepphoris and Tiberias argue for outside interest in
      exporing the resources of Galilee? Just as my field experience at Tell
      Ta'anach influenced me, so yours in the rugged hills of northern Galilee
      has influenced you into thinking of Galilee as a kind of boondocks place.

      >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

      Acco? (well, of course, you'll say that's not Galilee proper). Let's keep
      scale in mind here. Even in ancient times, it didn't take that long to
      travel from Damascus to Acco.

      > 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?

      So? Why make so much of Nazareth, when it was only 4 miles from
      Sepphoris? Is that distance genetically significant?

      >Add to this the fact that early Xn tradition regularly represented Jesus
      >as a "Jew" with Judean roots.

      I thought you were arguing for *Galilean* isolation of Jesus. Now you're
      saying that he's regularly represented as a Jew with Judean roots. Well,
      so much for Galilean isolation, I guess.

      > 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? ...

      >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.

      I quite agree with your conclusion. However, what Crutchfield was arguing
      went beyond this to make the claim that Jews (including Jesus) had a
      known physiognomic type that was readily distinguishable from other
      peoples, which is simply a racist absurdity. (I'm sorry for the strong
      language, but I think it is appropriate.) The reason for this requires an
      understanding of what it takes for a genetically isolated population
      (assuming one existed in this case) to develop distinctive and
      recognizable phenotypic characteristics (e.g., facial features, hair
      color, eye color) different from those of surrounding populations.

      Jack Kilmon raised the issue that social and religiously-motivated sexual
      isolation could accomplish the same thing as geographical isolation. This
      is true, but I doubt that the necessary degree of isolation can be
      demonstrated, even if Jesus' Davidic lineage that you referred to was
      historical. For then David would only be one ancestor out of... well,
      let's see now. Matthew lists something like 25 generations from David to
      Jesus, so besides David, Jesus had about 2 to the 25th power ancestors
      contemporary with David, which is more than 33 million ancestors, I
      believe. And this lineage includes the Babylonian exile.

      Didn't MIchener write a novel about Palestine? Ah, yes; The Source, I
      believe it was called. I think the theme of the whole book is how many
      people have laid a claim to Palestine at one time or another. You
      yourself mentioned the Hellenistic cities--- representing a prior
      conquest of this link between Asia and Africa by a European power.

      There is absolutely no way, given my training in population biology, that
      I can see that a distinctive "jewish" physical type could have been

      Yes, Jesus was a Jew. But does that really tell us anything about how he

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