[XTalk] Re: The Miracle Maker
- I wrote:
> >Not to quibble about being honest, Bob, but isn't your comparison just aTo which Bob Schacht replied:
> 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.
> Well, of course, NYC is not the best parallel. But if you'll go back andSince NYC was "of course" not the best parallel, I only meant to
> read what I wrote, I was writing not about Galilee, but about Palestine.
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
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:
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
> And as for invading armies, is not Megiddo (from which we deriveThe obvious answer to both questions is "of course." But note four
> 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?
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.
> On onePrecisely my point about the temporal gap between non-Semitic invaders
> 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.
of this region & HJ. Did your "probable" path take you to Nazareth?
> > But most of the traffic on that route [the Via Maris] throughout history wasTo which you replied:
> >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 inYou're right, I over-generalized. To be accurate I should have qualified
> history, but your sweeping statement that this applies "throughtout"
> history can hardly be sustained.
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
> Besides, some historians consider theWhat has that do with the ethnic homogeneity of Galilee in the 1st c.
> overland traffic from Egypt to Damascus historically significant since
> the time of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt?
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
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.
> And doesn't Crossan argue thatAs I wrote, Sepphoris & Tiberias are evidence only of what happened
> the lesson of Sepphoris and Tiberias argue for outside interest in
> exporing the resources of Galilee?
*after* the birth of HJ. They prove nothing about his probable genetic
> Just as my field experience at TellI beg your pardon. But my personal experience of Galilee also includes
> 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.
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
> >Most importantly for the question of mixing populations,however, is the
> >fact that before the time of the Herods there was no majorcity in
> >Galilee proper which could act as a magnet for attractingdiverse ethnic
> >groups.To which you replied:
>proper). Let's keep
> Acco? (well, of course, you'll say that's not Galilee
> scale in mind here. Even in ancient times, it didn't takethat long to
> travel from Damascus to Acco.The question is not travel but residency of local populations, unless
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.
> >Where is there any evidence of Romans or othernon-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 fromAbsolutely! Both genetically & culturally. My hometown of Paramus lies
> Sepphoris? Is that distance genetically significant?
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
> >Add to this the fact that early Xn tradition regularlyrepresented Jesus
> >as a "Jew" with Judean roots.To which you replied:
> I thought you were arguing for *Galilean* isolation of Jesus. Now you'reIf you'll read my post, I did not claim "isolation of Jesus" but merely
> saying that he's regularly represented as a Jew with Judean roots. Well,
> so much for Galilean isolation, I guess.
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?
>To which you replied:
> >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 arguingUnless you were referring to some other post than I got in my in-box,
> 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.
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.
> The reason for this requires anI would agree that some degree of geographical/cultural isolation was
> 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
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.
>But Bob, that's not what Mark G., Jim Crutchfield or I have have been
> There is absolutely no way, given my training in population biology, that
> I can see that a distinctive "jewish" physical type could 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
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
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
Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
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
A Synoptic Gospels Primer
Jesus Seminar Forum