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[XTalk] Re: The Miracle Maker

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  • Nichael Cramer
    ... Actually, though, New York (I assume you mean NYC) is nothing of the sort. You d be darn hardpressed to find anyone who lives there who has a single
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 1, 2000
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      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. [...]

      Actually, though, New York (I assume you mean NYC) is nothing of the sort.
      You'd be darn hardpressed to find anyone who lives there who has a single
      ancestor has been in North America for more the three centuries.

      The difference here is that in Palestine, during the time being discussed,
      the major cultural group(s) had roots that reached back millenia. And
      while it's true, as you say, there may well have been passers-through (e.g.
      on trade-routes, etc) it's quite probable that the vast majority of the
      population never traveled more than a hundred --if not a dozen-- miles from
      their birthplace through their entire lives.

      N
      --
      Nichael Cramer Gather the folks, tell the stories
      nichael@... break the bread. -- John Shea
      http://www.sover.net/~nichael/
    • Robert M. Schacht
      ... York is ... look ... Jesus ... This ... maybe) to ... Mahlon replied, ... Mahlon, Well, of course, NYC is not the best parallel. But if you ll go back and
      Message 2 of 8 , 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
        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.

        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?
        >

        Mahlon,
        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.

        Q.E.D.

        > 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
        >groups.

        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
        maintained.

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

        Bob
      • Mahlon H. Smith
        ... Since NYC was of course not the best parallel, I only meant to question your emphatic use of it (twice in the same paragraph) to contest the stability --
        Message 3 of 8 , Apr 2, 2000
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          I wrote:

          > >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.

          To which Bob Schacht replied:

          > 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.

          Since NYC was "of course" not the best parallel, I only meant to
          question your emphatic use of it (twice in the same paragraph) to
          contest the stability -- and therefore identifiable physiognomic
          features -- of the population of 1st c. Palestine. I realized that you
          were writing with broad strokes from the vantage point of a sweeping
          historical panorama over thousands of years.

          My point in focusing on Galilee should be evident from the title of this
          thread, which began with Mark Goodacre's quite innocent observation that
          the Jesus in this movie "looked Jewish," which Jim Crutchfield wrote to
          support. I take it that the point of this discussion on XTalk has
          something to do with an accurate conception of HJ rather than the
          history of Palestine or the Near East in general. So the purpose of my
          post was (a) to refocus that discussion on the probable region from
          which HJ came and (b) to point out that as far as we have evidence
          *that* particular region was *not* quite the "crossroads" that you were
          describing.

          No matter how many armies in history marched through Palestine in
          general, where is there evidence of a people other than the Israelites
          *settling* in the hilly region that was identified by ancient Semites as
          *haGalil*? The only candidate I can think of is the Semitic Itureans,
          from whom Josephus claims Aristobulus I wrested control of Galilee in
          104 BCE (Ant 13.318), but (note!) does not claim were actual residents
          of that region. Cf. my *Into His Own* URL:


          http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/hasmon.html#Aristobulus

          I thought you were meaning to assert that the population from which HJ
          probably came was exposed to such a mixture of ethnic groups resident in
          the same area that it was impossible to narrow down what genes &
          physical features he probably had. If you weren't, I apologize for
          misinterpreting you. But if that *was* your point, then pardon me for
          suggesting that you were probably wrong & asking you to supply evidence
          to support your denial of a relatively stable gene pool for native
          Galileans.

          You continued:

          > 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?

          The obvious answer to both questions is "of course." But note four
          points: (a) the last of the invasions you referred to occurred almost 6
          centuries before HJ; (b) there is no historical record of these armies
          settling among the population in the area north of Megiddo (which is
          Galilee proper); (c) aside from the Egyptians who last *controlled* that
          area ca. 1200 BCE, the armies you mention were also composed of Semites;
          (d) no matter how many Israelite women these armies raped during their
          conquest, there are no historical grounds for suggesting that their
          off-spring settled the region from which HJ himself came.

          You wrote:

          > 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.
          >

          Precisely my point about the temporal gap between non-Semitic invaders
          of this region & HJ. Did your "probable" path take you to Nazareth?

          I wrote:


          > > But most of the traffic on that route [the Via Maris] throughout history was
          > >probably regional trade between various Semitic peoples (Hebrews,
          > >Syrians, Phoenicians, Itureans, etc.).

          To which you replied:

          > 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.

          You're right, I over-generalized. To be accurate I should have qualified
          that to read "throughout the period of *ancient* history relevant to
          population studies of Jesus' native region *prior* to his birth." Or do
          you have evidence of an Egyptian tradepost or Greek or Roman settlement
          in the Galilean segment of the Via Maris in the millennium prior to HJ's
          birth?

          You continued:

          > Besides, some historians consider the
          > overland traffic from Egypt to Damascus historically significant since
          > the time of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt?

          What has that do with the ethnic homogeneity of Galilee in the 1st c.
          BCE? I grew up in rural Bergen County NJ in the shadow of NYC where the
          interstate traffic was so dense that old time local residents literally
          had to head to the hills to escape the noise & pollution. But settlement
          of out-of-staters in my native region was rare before the 1950s. In
          fact, one of the major highways that bisected my home borough of Paramus
          (Route 17) became a major artery for cosmopolitan development only in my
          college years. Further up toward the NY state border Route 17 cut thru
          Mahwah which remained less developed than areas of the Catskills until
          the 1980s. Less than two decades ago Mahwah was still home to a
          physically distinct ethnic group known locally as "Jackson whites."
          These were descendents of the old Dutch population in the area & freed
          Negro slaves who settled in the hills of NJ during the 1850s. Jackson
          whites were readily identifiable by inbred
          physical traits: a light brown complexion, reddish brown hair, blue
          eyes, &
          freckles. I went thru high school with several of them, who lived right
          off Route 17. Thus, the mere fact that an interstate highway passed
          through a given region is *not* admissable evidence against the survival
          of a genetically stable rural ethnic population, even in modern times.

          You wrote:

          > And doesn't Crossan argue that
          > the lesson of Sepphoris and Tiberias argue for outside interest in
          > exporing the resources of Galilee?

          As I wrote, Sepphoris & Tiberias are evidence only of what happened
          *after* the birth of HJ. They prove nothing about his probable genetic
          roots.

          > 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.
          >

          I beg your pardon. But my personal experience of Galilee also includes
          the
          region around the Lake Gennesaret & the southern tier from Tabor to
          Sepphoris. So I am well aware of the differences between upper & lower
          Galilee. I also know that in the 1st c. CE Tell Ta'anach was not located
          in the province of Galilee. So what might have been true there cannot be
          generalized with regard to the region from which HJ came. Moreover,
          social historians of Galilee like Horsley & those scholars dependent on
          them like Crossan & myself, stress that the urbanization & thus the
          cosmopolitanization of Galilee proper was begun by Herod Antipas as I
          wrote below:

          > >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.

          To which you replied:

          >
          > 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.
          >

          The question is not travel but residency of local populations, unless
          one
          thinks that every travelling salesman in antiquity sowed his seed along
          the path. Where in the gospels do you find any evidence that either the
          family or followers of HJ gravitated towards the Hellenized *Phoenician*
          city of Akko (Ptolemais)? At any rate, Damascus & Akko were centers of
          Semitic populations who were genetically related to the Israelites &
          therefore shared similar Semitic physical traits.

          I wrote:

          > >Where is there any evidence of Romans or other
          non-Israelites in
          > >Galilee's rural hillside villages like Nazareth?

          To which you replied:

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

          Absolutely! Both genetically & culturally. My hometown of Paramus lies
          only 4 miles from the George Washington bridge. But until my teenage
          years practically all the native population of the area was of
          Dutch/English/Scottish/German extraction -- quintessential WASPS. The
          influx of Irish, Italians, Poles, etc. began only after WW2 & really
          became noticeable only in my teenage years. Where do you find historical
          evidence of such urban cultural sprawl in Galilee even during the reign
          of that deliberate Romanizer, Herod Antipas? And where do you find *any*
          reason to think that such cosmopolitan development affected HJ's own
          family roots?

          I wrote:

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

          To which you replied:

          > 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.
          >

          If you'll read my post, I did not claim "isolation of Jesus" but merely
          that Galilee was "topically designed to support a stable ethnically
          homogeneous indigenous population." We have historical evidence of the
          Judean conquest & Judaization of at least some of Galilee a century
          before HJ. Where are there records of similar campaigns by Greeks,
          Romans or anyone else in this area?


          >
          > >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.
          > >
          To which you replied:

          > 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.

          Unless you were referring to some other post than I got in my in-box,
          all Jim Crutchfield wrote was that "Jesus must certainly have shared the
          *general physical features* common to most of the peoples of the Eastern
          Mediterranean." I don't know how you can get out of that that he meant
          that Jews could be "readily distinguished from other peoples." The
          features he listed are *general* Semitic traits.

          As far as this being "racist absurdity": are you inferring that races
          and ethnic groups cannot be distinguished by readily distinguishable
          physical traits? Then how is it that ethnologists can track the path of
          Norman conquests by noting the occurrence of red hair & blue eyes in
          populations from Scotland & Ireland to Sicily? Or how could my wife,
          whose family was of Germanic extraction but lived in Hungary for more
          than 500 years, be told by a Hungarian she had just met: "Your ancestors
          obviously weren't Magyar"? Recognition of distinguishing physical traits
          does not make one a racist. But to pretend that there are no typical
          physical features of different ethnic groups is unscientific nonsense.

          You wrote:

          > 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...

          I would agree that some degree of geographical/cultural isolation was
          necessary in primitive populations for differences in physical features
          to develop & become inbred in particular groups. But once those
          differences have developed all one needs is the human animal's tendency
          towards tribalism to keep those features inbred. Throughout history all
          over the world tribes have coexisted in relative geographic proximity
          without significant inter-breeding (e.g., the Serbs & Albanians of
          Kosovo, the Watusi & pygmies of Africa, various castes in India,
          Mongolians & Koreans -- all of whom have physical features that make
          them readily distinguishable from each other). Tribal solidarity is what
          Israelite history was all about. Without it Jews would have disappeared
          as a distinct people a long time ago. One of the things that made HJ &
          the movement he spawned seem so socially radical to other contemporary
          Jews is that he & they challenged the whole ancient practice of basing
          social relations on tribalism.

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

          But Bob, that's not what Mark G., Jim Crutchfield or I have have been
          trying to say. When a WASP says that "Jesus looked Jewish" he simply
          means that HJ probably had physical features that Jews in general share
          with other Semitic peoples in general rather than features common among
          those of European extraction. If anyone had said that you could tell
          Jesus was a Jew (rather than Lebanese or Syrian or Samaritan) just by
          looking at him, I would have been the first to protest.

          This whole mountain of correspondence has been generated by a simple
          celebration on the part of two very WASPy scholars that *finally* there
          is an artistic work in which we have a Jesus who doesn't look like an
          Anglo-Saxon or some other European ethnic type -- a Jesus who looks more
          like his own people than us. Isn't that something to celebrate rather
          than protest?

          It may be a minor thing, but it could help make western Xns more aware
          of what that self-styled "Hebrew of Hebrews" Paul tried to get the
          gentile Xns at Rome to accept about his non-Xn "brothers by common
          genes" (TWN ADELFWN TWN SUGGENWN):

          "To *them* belong the fathers, and from *them* is the Messiah according
          to the *flesh*. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen!" (Rom
          9:5).

          Should Paul be accused of "racist absurdity" for insisting that Jesus'
          flesh was genetically akin to that of the Hebrew patriarchs & non-Xn 1st
          c. Jews? If not, then what's wrong with saying that he probably looked
          Semitic rather than European? More Jewish than Greek? That his skin was
          probably swarthy rather than pasty white, that his hair was probably
          black rather than having golden highlights (like so many "portraits" of
          Jesus), that his eyes were probably brown rather than blue, that his
          nose was probably more hooked than straight, that his face was probably
          more elongated than square-jawed, etc.? I don't care what Semitic
          physical traits one imagines; isn't it high time that we western Xns
          *stop* representing Jesus as looking like *us* rather than his fellow
          Jews?

          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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