So I'm reading a new book that's been on my shelf for about a year when Amber had her last giveaway. The title Abraham's Children sounded rather interesting when I selected it, but it's about 400 pages and I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest a lot of time in something that talks about, well, the subtitle is Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People so...? But in my quest to read books on my own bookshelf before submerging myself in library book bliss, I picked it up the other night. And found for the most part that I liked it. Now there are bits in it that, eh, I really don't care about, but since I find the Jewish question (for me that is race or religion?) of interest, it's been a good read.
Some highlights for me thus far. (I'm on page 242.)
According to the author, Jon Entine, a "bar mitzvahed and confirmed" Reform Jew who lost his faith when his mother died of ovarian cancer in his teen years ...
1. For most Europeans of Jewish ancestry, "lineage trumped faith" or as Hannah Arendt put it, "'Believing in his own chosenness without believing in Him who chooses.'" (pg. 17)
2. The Bible is probably an account written by the religious Judeans (of the southern kingdom which includes Jerusalem) looking down on the "infidel" north, Israel where those ten tribes were "lost" (pg. 103ff); "In writing their history, the surviving pastoral nomads of Judea combined fragments of the truth with liberal doses of political propaganda." (pg. 105)
3. The Hasmonean campaign "resulted in the absorption of more gentiles into Judaism than any Jewish government or social movement in history" (pg. 116); Gentiles were killed or forced to convert.
4. Re: Jesus -- "While the imprint of Judaism could still be found in the genes, Christianity came to be centered in the soul. It is a momentous fracturing of the tradition of tribal ancestry as the defining component of Jewishness. For the followers of Jesus, henceforth faith would take precedence over scripture and ancestry." (pg. 119)
5. Re: The Lost Tribes -- The fact that "some Christians believe that almost all Asians are of Semitic ancestry" traces back to a 19th century Scottish missionary who said Shem's ancestors "escaped to the east during the Assyrian debacle" wandering all the way to Korea, China and Japan. This part made me laugh: "What was his proof? The sheep he came across in Asia looked eerily like the breed of sheep from Palestine and sold in Smithfield market in London!" (pg. 162)
I enjoyed some of the stories of groups such as the Lemba in Great Zimbabwe and even Hispanics in North America and their connections to the Jews. Sometimes DNA was used to prove or disprove a supposed connection. Some Mexican-American Catholics found their historical ties to Judaism compelling enough that they formally converted to Judaism. (Many of these had ancestors who most likely fled Spain during the Inquisition.) On the other hand some with newly-found ancestral Jewish ties chose to keep Jesus as the Messiah, but also observe some Jewish religious practices such as a Sabbath day service because of "'all the Sephardim went through.'" (pg. 193)
I also liked the story of the LDS church trying to prove the Native Americans as Lamanites, those cursed by God with dark skin due to their rebellion. Apparently DNA didn't work in their favor on that project and one Mormon anthropologist had the integrity to say their insistence on trying to prove this is "tantamount 'to claiming the earth is flat'" and that "'Many people would like to see the LDS Church publicly acknowledge that it is no longer appropriate to label Native Americans as Lamanites or heathen Israelites.'" (pg. 147)
There is more, but this post is too long! Perhaps I'll share a few more notes later.
Did you learn anything new from this? Anything highly suspect as not true? Please share your thoughts!