Re: Culture's effect on Genetics

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 15 Feb 2006 - 10:08:53 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: Culture's effect on Genetics"

    Derek Gatherer wrote:
    > Okay, wearing my geneticist hat here.....
    > For a common ancestor of all the Ys within both Jewish and Palestinian
    > populations (which would be the "Y-chromosomal Abraham" by analogy with
    > the "Y-chromosomal Adam"), the date is probably something like
    > 8000-11000 BC (so the story in Genesis about Abraham cannot be true if
    > one goes with the historians who guess that Abraham was ~2000 BC. If a
    > historical figure, Abraham could have been the common ancestor of many
    > current Jews and Palestinians but nevertheless only a minority in both
    > populations as he is too recent)

    Responding with my RE teacher's hat on . . .

    I'm not intending to spark a debate about Biblical historicity, but it's interesting in the light of what you say to note that Abraham is first introduced (Genesis 11) against the background of a geneaological history that gives the Hebrews a place in the wider Semitic context
    ("the descendants of Shem"). Although this genealogical picture is apparently painted in terms of individuals, in fact the OT thinks of people as being so tightly bound up with their tribe that it's not always easy to se whether names refer to a person or his tribe (e.g. later references to Jacob/Israel).

    So although Abraham is revered as a patriarch, he of course did not spring from nowhere, and indeed the Bible specifically draws our attention to his ancestry. Talk of a Y-chromosomal Abraham may therefore be misguided - when talking about his genetic fathering of nations, the Bible places this in the context of his genetic ancestry. It is when talking about his theological fathering of nations, if you like, that the Bible emphasises his lack of memetic ancestry - that he was the first monotheist. (And there's a rather delightful Qur'anic story which makes the same point.)


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